Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Renee Hepperlen


Social Work


Like oil and water, humor and trauma would seem to be as opposite as can be. This systematic narrative review set out to discover if and how humor interacts with the therapeutic treatment of trauma. Peer reviewed data was collected, analyzed, and organized in four levels; humor in trauma therapy, humor in therapy promoting behavior for the client, humor in therapy sustaining behavior for the clinician, and humor in trauma work outside of a therapeutic setting. Using conceptual models of Trauma-Informed Care and Resiliency Theory, each level of articles were analyzed for similarities and differences through identifying; the use of humor, physiological, cognitive and psychological, behavioral and relational effects of humor, connections of humor and trauma, connections of humor and culture, limitations of humor, and implications for the use of humor. Findings indicated that humor is an integral and unique part of the whole-person approach to health and well-being and was identified as a key element in promoting healing for individuals that have experienced trauma. Effects were shown to be most beneficial when the level of humor used and the bond and depth of the therapeutic relationship were aligned and were intentionally focused on helpful, not hurtful, interactions. Future empirical studies should focus on assessing specific types of humor interventions and/or longevity studies focusing on a specific population or shared experience. In a therapeutic capacity, focus should be given to initiating and maintaining an open dialogue about individual humor styles and how to incorporate them into a therapeutic setting as well as utilizing humor for on-going assessment of levels of psychological distress. Additionally, the use of humor should not be overlooked in its ability to offer a status assessment of the clinician and for its value in supporting healthy coping skills and resilience.

Included in

Social Work Commons