Clinical Training and Practice: The Fun Factor Thomas J. Nardi
Key words: REBT, humor, training
Clinical Training Abstract
The use of humor has always been a distinctive aspect of REBT. Albert Ellis viewed and advocated humor as an effective tool to help clients dispute their irrational beliefs. The article presents ways inwhich humor can be used in the training of REBT practitioners. It also suggests applications of the same methods to clinical practice.
Clinical Training Clinical Training and Practice: The Fun Factor From its origins as in the mid 1950s, there were many features of Albert Ellis’s approach to psychotherapy that set it apart from other systems. The emphasis on
“rational” thinking and theimportance of cognitions in the creation of emotions are often considered the defining features that distinguished Ellis’s approach from other therapies. While one cannot dispute the belief that the now ubiquitous B-C connection has become the hallmark of all cognitive-behavioral systems, a distinctive and unique aspect of REBT may be found elsewhere. I would argue that there is another aspect ofEllis’s approach which set, and still sets, it apart from other systems. REBT’s use of humor set it apart from other systems when first introduced in the 1950’s as Rational Therapy and to this day distinguishes it from many other contemporary cognitive behavioral approaches. While Freud may have analyzed wit and its relationship to the unconscious, Ellis was consciously using wit to help clientschange their irrational thoughts and self-defeating behavior. He even appeared as a superhero of sorts in a comic book (Merrifield, 1979). As “RET-Man”, Ellis is arrested by the police but not before helping a depressed jilted lover give up his thoughts of suicide in favor of more rational thinking. Ellis (1977) wrote about “fun” as a part of effective psychotherapy. He cited examples of hishumorous comments and witty (and sometimes slightly off color!) challenges to client’s irrational beliefs. His Friday night workshops in the late 1970’s often included community-style sing alongs of his rational-lyrics set to familiar tunes. Ellis (1987) enjoyed composing these rational dities and viewed them as a useful tool in psychotherapy. Ellis’s “greatest hits” included such classics as “Perfect,Perfect”, sung to
Clinical Training the tune of “Funiculi, Funicula”; and ”I Wish I Were Not Crazy” sung to the tune of ”I
Wish I Were in Dixie”. His ode to procrastinators, sung to the tune of “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning” included the memorable lines: “and so I’ll just procrastinate and always get my ass in late” The contribution of humor to one’s overall emotionalhealth was noted by Borcherdt (2002). Ellis and Dryden (1997) noted humor’s usefulness to specific presenting problems. Their book included the case of Jane, who suffered from a panic disorder and was treated by Ellis. Ellis noted “as one of its main techniques [emphasis mine] to combat this kind of exaggerated, or “awfulizing”, thinking, REBT employs a good deal of humor” (p. 78). The application ofhumor to combat morbid jealousy (Ellis, 1996a) also has been documented. Regarding the “difficult client”, Ellis (2007) observed that “many resistant clients, like many regular clients, lose their sense of humor when they neuroticize themselves. They not only take things seriously, but too seriously, giving exaggerated significance to the events of their and others people’s lives” (p. 76). In aninterview (Heery, 2001), Ellis elaborated on the idea of assisting the client to not take one’s self so seriously, He observed that “we have many cognitive, thinking techniques, many experiential emotive, feeling techniques, many behavioral techniques, but one of the ones that overlap is humor because it’s a thinking technique…it’s a feeling technique and it’s also behavioral. It pushes you on.”...