Article review: “Therapeutic Use of Humor: Occupational Therapy Clinicians’ Perceptions and Practices” by Leber & Vanoli (2001)

Article review: “Therapeutic Use of Humor: Occupational Therapy Clinicians’ Perceptions and Practices” by Leber & Vanoli (2001)

This study aimed to see how OTs in America used humour, according to Vergeer & MacRae (1993)’s sixteen uses of humour they found in their study. These uses are things like as an equalizer, as assessment/treatment tool, coping strategy. Leber & Vanoli say there is a lack of information about how health professionals use humour (there is some, but with regards to OT there isn’t a lot at all).
 Leber & Vanoli did this by sending out surveys to OTs who are registered with AOTA. They found that generally OTs thought humour was important to use but that there was no training on it. The more experienced an OT was (longer years in practice) the more likely they were to use humour, suggesting confidence increased its use.
OT is uniquely placed to use humour in a planned way as it is concerned with client-centred, individual and holistic care (not just physical care with humour is an adjunct in order to provide good bedside manner), and it is concerned with everyday occupations of which humour is part of everyday life and very personal. Humour can be used to make interventions which involve pre-skills more meaningful and client centred- it is assumed the total skills themselves will be meaningful as they are ADLs.
Limitations were that only OTs who were register with AOTA were contacted, not others or retired OTs. It also lacked an investigation of cultural impacts.
Possible areas to investigate further are whether training  helps increase use of humour or make interventions more client centred?
Leber D and Vanoli E (2001) Therapeutic Use of Humor: Occupational Therapy Clinicians’ Perceptions and Practices. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 55(2): 221-226.
History of the Therapeutic Use of Self

History of the Therapeutic Use of Self

How has the therapeutic use of self been used over time throughout Occupational Therapy’s history?

Therapeutic use of Occupation

Therapeutic use of Occupation

Interventions in occupational therapy use occupation (that is, any activity which is meaningful to an individual person) in order to achieve a particular therapeutic outcome. The same activity could be used by different therapists but in different ways to achieve different therapy goals. The same activity could be carried out by the SAME therapist with different clients in order to achieve different goals!  To illustrate this point, consider gardening; an occupation which many people find meaningful.

The activity of planting seeds in a greenhouse. For one therapist, this could be creating repetitive upper limb and grasp movements in the low-tone limb of a stroke patient, to therapeutically restore neural connections for motor movement via neuroplasticity theory. For another therapist this could be teaching a learning disabled patient new skills in communicating with others and managing frustrations appropriately, in order to make successful socialising in the community and gaining employment more likely, via behavioural theory.

The same activity, but carried out with different end goals that the therapist wants the patients to achieve, and therefore different clinical reasoning behind it.


In this sense, it is not what you do, but why you do it.


Interventions can be grouped according to the type of goal they’re achieving:

  • Preparatory
  • Purposeful
  • Occupation-based


Therapeutic use of self

Therapeutic use of self

You may have come across the term before, you may not, but if you’re an OT you’ve probably utilised it without realising already. Therapeutic use of self  is a useful technique employed by occupational therapists in order to engage clients and therefore illicit a better outcome during the OT process. Essentially it’s being aware of yourself (your verbal language, body language, which personal information you choose to share…) when you’re interacting with a client, and using your own personality  & interpersonal skills in order to build rapport and ultimately make the client feel at ease, motivated, and  that they can trust you.

otter friend making a connection
Making a connection

In order to use yourself therapeutically, you must first be aware of your interactions with a client to then be able to adapt them to suit the style of the client. It can be useful to consider some models in order to structure your thoughts, and provide guidance for an occupational therapy student who is just beginning to reflect on their own therapeutic style.

Taylor (2008) has recently proposed the Intentional Relationship model, which categorises the six therapeutic modes -or types of client-therapist interactions- into six categories.

The modes in the  Intentional Relationship model (IRM) are: Read more