Humor in Gestalt & Psychotherapy: Two Article Reviews

Topics: Gestalt therapy, Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy Pages: 8 (2707 words) Published: April 4, 2012
The two journal articles which I critique have in common the construct of humor (spelled in both international journals as humour). I will examine humor in the first article as a construct. It is utilized as a tool, as a component of therapy but I will examine the very basic underlying nature of humor as a construct and as a phenomenon that can be appropriately and adequately utilized in a gestalt modality (particularly tied to existing gestalt therapy tools). In the second article I will examine the actual use of humor – the specific functioning of humor as a therapeutic tool or therapeutic mechanism within the psychoanalytical modality. In brief, in the first article I critique the use of humor as a construct suitable for the gestalt therapy paradigm and in the second I critique the use of humor as a tool, actually used as a portion of the psychoanalytic therapeutic modality. Humor in gestalt therapy – curative force and catalyst for change: a case study (Jacobs, 2009) This article is the description of research by gestalt psychologist Susanne Jacobs, centered on the case study of a 13-year-old girl who had endured significant condition of worth losses (including family unit, parental involvement, physical contact, trust, identity structure, etc.). She was placed in a therapeutic setting where the gestalt therapist made the concerted efforts to evoke a therapeutic methodology that incorporated humor as a mechanism for the girl to modify and correct boundary disturbances, and develop adaptive and useful deflective mechanisms rather than the maladaptive deflection mechanisms that she was currently exhibiting. The two goals of correcting boundary disturbances and development of appropriate deflection mechanisms were specifically articulated in the article. I believe that the holistic nature of gestalt therapy has often led to what behaviorists or cognitists or even psychoanalysts might describe as a less structured methodology of operational definitions and instantiation. Such is the case in the current article. One of the problems inherent in the research effort is the fact that the author attempted to tie humor to awareness, i.e. equating an increased sense of humor with the concept of increased conscious awareness. The tacit but unspoken implication is that development of a sense of humor is tantamount to the development of a more sophisticated sense of self-awareness leading to the potential for a more sophisticated deflection mechanism and the potential for a better sense of self, and a better integrated sense of self. Within the context of this research, the author cites the holistic approach of Perls, Hefferline, and Goodman and states, in the context section of this article that, "gestalt therapy consists, in part, of introducing a process of heightened awareness so that the person's natural functioning can reinstate itself," (Yontef, 1989; cited by Jacobs). A significant portion of the article then attempts to relate the actions of the therapist during the course of therapy to the outcome of the therapy, with particular regard to the therapist's use of humor within the therapy. Several references are made in the article to the historicity of therapists being more interested in crying then laughing, and also to the lack of interest, orientation, or research into humor as either construct or tool. Within the literature survey portion of the article a beginning point is made by referencing gestalt play therapy. The gestalt play therapy includes use of games fantasy and imagery in order to provide the subject with tools to modify their perception of self and the connection of self to the environment. The author herself notes that even with something as simple as gestalt play therapy and its use of games fantasy and imagery, the literature fails to connect humor to the concept of play therapy to be used either as a deflection coping mechanism or a defining mechanism for contact boundary...
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