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Humour in Speech and Language Therapy in Romania Highlights Benefits and Challenges

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A recent study published in the journal Revista Românească pentru Educaţie Multidimensională explores the use of humour in speech and language therapy (SLT) in Romania. This study by Carolina Bodea-Haţegan and colleagues explores the opinions of SLT experts on incorporating humour into therapy sessions. The study’s findings underscore the potential benefits and limitations of using humour in therapeutic settings, providing valuable insights for practitioners in the field.

Humour is increasingly recognised as a valuable tool in various professional settings, including speech and language therapy. It serves as an engaging modality that can facilitate therapy sessions, making them more enjoyable and effective for both children and adults. In the context of SLT, humour is not just a means of entertainment but a strategic element that can enhance communication, alleviate stress, and improve overall psychological well-being.

The study utilised a qualitative research design with a phenomenological approach to capture the experiences and opinions of SLT specialists regarding humour use in therapy. A non-random sampling technique was employed, recruiting 210 participants through the Association of Specialists in Speech and Language Therapy in Romania (ASTTLR) via an online questionnaire. This method ensured a diverse sample of professionals from various urban and rural areas across Romania.

The results revealed that a significant majority (94.3%) of SLT professionals incorporate humour into their therapy sessions. Specifically, 39.5% of respondents reported using humour in every session, while 33.8% used it several times a week, and 20% employed it weekly. Only a small fraction of therapists indicated rare or non-existent use of humour in their practice.

According to the study, therapists used verbal humour the most (68.6%). Nonverbal and paraverbal humour, such as facial expressions and voice modulation, were also commonly utilised. Techniques included funny facial expressions, body gestures, jokes, puns, and role-playing, highlighting the creative ways therapists engage their clients.

The specialists highlighted numerous benefits of incorporating humour into therapy. These include triggering positive emotions, fostering creative problem-solving, improving memory, capturing attention, stimulating motivation, and enhancing communication skills. Additionally, humour was noted to contribute positively to psychological well-being and social relationships, making it a powerful tool in therapeutic settings.

Despite the advantages, the study also identified potential negative effects of humour in therapy. These include the risk of humiliation, discrimination, inappropriate masking of emotions, and the possibility of creating conflicts or tensions. A notable percentage of respondents expressed uncertainty about these negative impacts, indicating a need for further education and awareness among professionals.

The study explored the accessibility of humour for individuals with various language and communication disorders. The findings suggest that humour can be effectively used with clients who have developmental language disorders, Down syndrome, and other conditions, though its use with individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains challenging. Barriers to humour comprehension included difficulty understanding abstract concepts, limited vocabulary, and impaired executive functions.

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