The European Journal of Humour Research

Vol 6, No 3 (2018)

The use of humor by therapists and clients in cognitive therapy

Alberto Dionigi,Carla Canestrari


The purpose of this study was to investigate several aspects of humour in cognitive therapy. Eight first therapy sessions were examined and seven examples of humour originating from the therapists or the clients are reported: three represent examples of humour initiated by the client, while four are representative of humour initiated by the therapist. This research focuses on the use of humour in psychotherapy and provides evidence that when the clients initiated humour, the therapists responded in three different ways, namely, by aligning themselves with the client, disaligning themselves, or by using a strategy comprising both alignment and disalignment. Diversely, in cases in which the therapist initiated humour, four different forms of humour were identified (i.e. rhetorical humour, humour relating to a surrealistic meaning, role shifting and humour relating to register). In these cases, the clients always laughed, thereby signaling their support. An analysis of these cases demonstrates that humour is an easily integrated therapeutic tool which may be used to favour positive changes.


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