Tag Archives: Ellis

The Healing Power of Humour

9 Dec

Oscar Wilde once famously wrote that life was far too important to be taken seriously, whilst one of the most often used sayings ever is that laughter is the best medicine.


Studies have shown that laughter can have a positive effect on the immune system, blood pressure and cholesterol; that it can massage vital organs, aid digestion and release those happy hormones called endorphins.


A good bout of laughter has been likened to a 20-minute cardiovascular workout and has been shown to help people deal with a vast range of emotional problems including anxiety, stress, depression, confidence and self-esteem issues, guilt, obsessive thinking and more.


In India, they have laughter clubs, where people report a wide variety of positive effects from the use of repeated daily laughter.


There are even organizations, such as the American Association for Therapeutic Humour (AATH) and the International Society for Humour Studies (ISHS) that actively promote its healing power.


The notion of humour and its effects on our mental and physical health come to us from out of antiquity, and is even mentioned in The Bible, where it says, “a merry heart hath a cheerful countenance, but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 King James version, if you really want to know).


However, Plato considered humour a form of malice, whilst the 15th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes called it hostile and aggressive.


That said, the Ancient Greeks thought that laughter made their crops grow and were famous for two types of drama: tragedy and comedy. The former provided catharsis whilst the latter provide relief.


Until the 19th century, the body was said to be composed of four basic substances or “humours”, namely (and somewhat disgustingly), blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm, that were responsible for your health and disposition.


A balance of these fluids made for good humour, whilst an imbalance made for bad. Black bile, for instance, was seen as the cause of black moods or depressions.


In psychology, one man who devoted a lot of thought to the subject of humour was Freud, who considered it a release from repression and regarded it as a form of healing.


Albert Ellis, who was the founder of a branch of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) known as Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), took this view a lot further.


Perhaps in a nod to Oscar Wilde, he believed that people disturbed themselves not just by taking themselves seriously, but by taking themselves too seriously.


To that end, Ellis used every kind of humour possible, including taking things to extremes, reducing them to absurdity, paradoxical intention, puns, rational songs, witticisms, irony, whimsy, evocative language, slang, swearing, obscenities and more.


Many therapists today believe that humour can help you laugh at your problems, accept yourself more readily, clarify self-defeating behaviours in a way that is non-threatening, offer insight, distance yourselves from your problems, interrupt dysfunctional thought processes, show you the fun, absurdity and enjoy-ability of life and even help relieve the monotony of therapy itself!


Over the years, there have been many, many advocates of its use and very few detractors. The question is, would you want your therapist to use it with you and, do you think it would help?


After all as the saying goes, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; but weep, and you weep alone.”



Daniel Fryer is a practising Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist. He has an MSc in RECBT from Goldsmith’s College, University of London and runs private practices in Southwest London. He also works as a specialist for Medicentre and The Royal Brompton Hospital. He presented the use of humour in psychotherapy at this year’s Association for Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (AREBT) conference.


The Evolution of CBT

22 Oct

We thought we would pose the question, what is CBT and how did it get to be what it is today?

Well, let’s start with expanding the acronym CBT. We can see straightaway, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, is a treatment but what for? Best to start at the beginning….

The evolution of CBT took places in three stages. The first stage was back in the 1950s, when behaviour therapy emerged in both the UK and America. The second stage, the growth of cognitive therapy, took place in the US in the mid 1960s onwards. The third stage, the merging of behaviour and cognitive therapy into cognitive behaviour therapy, gathered momentum in the late 1980s and is now well advanced in Europe and in North America.

Behaviour therapy was very successful in the treatment of anxieties like phobias. However, as is still the case, most adults complain of both anxiety and depression. Whilst behaviour therapy was successful in treating the anxieties, it was not very successful in treating depression. This opened the door for cognitive therapy that provided education, explanation, rationality, common sense and showed that beliefs such as ‘I’m worthless’ were untrue and distorted. Two of the most productive and influential pioneers of cognitive therapy, Ellis and Beck, shared the view that most disturbances arose from faulty thinking or faulty cognitions. The remedy was to be found in correcting such attitudes, beliefs and thoughts.

Beck’s form of cognitive therapy was based on the rationale that an individual’s feelings and behaviour was largely determined by the way in which he viewed and structured the world. Ellis believed emotional or psychological disturbances were largely a result of thinking illogically or irrationally. It may be easier to understand these ideas, if you view problems and symptoms as stemming from unhealthy beliefs and thoughts. With the cognitive approach, you take on the role of a detective and examine the problematic beliefs and thoughts, which you are holding on to so tightly.

Beck’s early work was on understanding and treating depression, a clinical problem that remained essentially unsolved by behaviour therapists. Depressed people are subject, to what Beck described as the ‘cognitive triad’ in which they have feelings of pessimistic helplessness about themselves, the world, and their future. Understandably, clinicians turned to the work of Beck for guidance in trying to help people overcome their depression. Ellis, provided a scientific as well as a philosophical theory that could be applied to the treatment of anxiety, depression, guilt and other emotional, symptomatic and behavioural problems.

Both Ellis and Beck showed that in addition to proving the connection between cognitions and feelings, challenging erroneous and unhealthy attitudes and beliefs and replacing them with their healthy realistic alternatives, people need to take corrective actions and behave in accordance with their new healthy cognitions. Homework assignments and behavioural changes form a vital part of the therapy and hence the name Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy.

Development of other CBT influenced therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy
CBT has continued to develop and there are other schools that come under its umbrella. There are such therapies like Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that advocate meditation and being in the present. There is also valuable research that demonstrates the effectiveness of CBT and Hypnosis.

Even though cognitive therapy was developed during a time in which psychology was rapidly moving towards cognitive explanations, there was a gap between CBT and cognitive psychology. One main difference was that both Ellis and Beck’s therapies are concerned with conscious processes (thoughts and images). However, in cognitive science, it is assumed that the majority of cognitive processing is not experienced as consciously accessible thoughts or images. This is the area that cognitive behaviour hypnotherapy can bridge. Many of our beliefs outside of our conscious awareness and hypnosis is used to access deeper held beliefs. Hypnosis can also lend itself to strengthening healthy beliefs and attitudes and weakening their unhealthy versions.
CBT is now widely accepted and practiced all over the world, and enhanced by developments such as Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy. If this post, has piqued your interest, check out some of our other blogs on the applications of CBT and CBH.