Advances in medical research, the consumer empowerment, and rising cost of health care have demonstrated the need to treatment models that are holistic and client driven. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) offers consumers choices. It includes traditional healing practices, medical systems that are thousands of years old and new or innovative treatments that may be consider unconventional. Well known examples of CAM include herbal remedies, mindfulness, meditation, manipulative/movement therapies, and Chinese Medicine. Knowledge of CAM offers social workers in all settings the opportunity to provide education and advocacy in seeking client centered and culturally competent treatment options.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What so funny?

Berk, Felten, Tan, Bittmann and Westengard (2001), in their article titled “Modulation of Neuroimmune Parameters During the Eustress of Humor-Associated Mirthful Laughter”, explore how humor therapy and mirthful laughter enhances immune function and offers healing effects.  The authors note that there has been an increasing interest in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by both medical providers and patients.  They had investigated the impact of humor on specific neuroendocrine components of the human stress response in prior studies.  Multiple studies in which the benefits of humor and laughter have yielded positive outcomes include cardiac rehabilitation, pain management, coping and immune enhancement.   The researchers designed a study that would assess the effects of laughter on neuroendocrine/neuroimmune modulation by reviewing specific neuroimmune parameters.  The researchers hypothesized that humor could affect the immune system in a variety of ways.  Laughter can lead to relaxation and positive imagery.  Use of relaxation and positive imagery can assist in increasing coping skills which can be employed to deflect stressful situations.  This can distract individuals from illness and pain, a strategy that is also used in other psychotherapeutic interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy.  Laughter can also lead to positive affect which can potentially alter the mood of the individual and potentially assist in affect regulation.  Since laughter is also contagious, anyone exposed to someone with a vivid display of mirthful laughter will often smile and experience the benefits of distraction and relaxation.  The study to be conducted on fifty-two males consisted of five separate smaller studies based on a multivariate repeated measures design, with post hoc simple contrast analysis.  Due to the complex relationship between the signaling of hormones in the "stress hormone" profile and their independent regulation and separate signaling mechanisms, it is difficult to establish a causal relationship between the laughter and the immune response.  However, the study results NK cells (P < .01), immunoglobulins G (P < .02), A (P < .01), and M (P < .09), complement C3, functional phenotypic markers for leukocytes (P < .01), and levels of the cytokine interferon-gamma in plasma (P = .02) and total leukocytes (P < .05)] are significant to promoting the theory.  This study is important because it adds to a growing body of research on the impact of CAM, but it does give rise to more important questions such as how the researchers quantify “humor”.  How did the researchers select the specific video that the participants watched?  Was there a humor or laughter scale used.  Did the participants who laughed the hardiest gain the most immunological benefits?  If laughter is the actual cause of improved immunity, would something like tickling yield greater improvement in immunofuction?  And is there a point at which too much laughter could have a negative impact on the immune system?  The effect of humor on the mind, in turn, on the health of the rest of the body is merely one key to an entire room of new unanswered questions.
Berk, L., Felten, D., Tan, S., Bittman, B., & Westengard, J. (2001). Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter. Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine, 7(2), 62.


  1. I have always thought laughter was a cure all,because in my family laughter and love was a given. I can remember as a child when my family of 100 plus would get together, all we did was laugh, and make light of a bad situation. Over the years the family has grown into 500 plus and the laughter and love is still there. Personally, I always feel better after good laugh.

    A good laugh is always awaiting,even with hardship,challenges and disappointments, you just have to laugh deep.

    Deirdre Coleman, MSW

  2. At work, I lead a chair exercise class for my seniors every Monday morning. Towards the end of class, I ask a resident to lead our laughter exercises. Regardless of the language barrier, laughter definitely build's connections amongst the group. The domino affect that triggers the laughter lightens their moods and you can feel their positive presence fill the room.

    Personally, laughter has helped me cope with difficult situations. Humor allows me to view situations in a more realistic and less threatening light.


    Katrina Bill, MSW student

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  4. I woke up this morning and did the usual before going to my internship. I went to my car, placed my backpack in the back seat and sat down. The funny thing I sat in the passenger's seat and closed the down. Funny thing, no one was driving me to my destination. I sat there and laughed at myself, before I went to the driver's side.

    Lighten up and laugh at yourself.

    Deirdre Coleman, MSW Student