Exercising empathy through humor therapy

Article category: SCOME

Authors information: 

  1. Elisa Bosquiroli Brandalize, IFMSA Brazil, Faculdade de Medicina FACERES, [email protected]
  2. Thaísa Bosquiroli Brandalize, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná.
  3. Camila Maria Malnarcic, Faculdade de Medicina FACERES.
  4. Jessica Terribele, Faculdade de Medicina FACERES.
  5. Myka Paloma Antunes Ferreira Mascarenhas, Faculdade de Medicina FACERES.

Exercising empathy through humour therapy

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world. The prevalence of the pathology and the way it reveals itself changes according to the circumstances that the person is included. The disease does not have an exclusive cause and can be triggered due a combination of factors, including aging(1). The break in family ties, loss of social function and limitations caused by physical illnesses increase vulnerability to depression(2) . Faced with this, humor therapy has been used as a way of entertainment for the hospitalized patients in order to reduce the impacts caused by the disease since the laughter eases the mind, defuses tension among people, and has positive physiologic effects.

Medical students went through a preparation period with expository and dynamic group classes to improve their interpersonal relationships and understand the importance of comprehensive care for patients. The students put the learnings into practice by using humor therapy while visiting a long-term institution for handicapped people and the elderly in a city in the interior of the state of São Paulo in Brazil. During the visit, the students dressed as clowns and with music, distributed flowers and played games with the institutionalized patients, who responded with great gratitude. The moment considered most emotional was when a woman who was abandoned by her family hugged an academic and, with tears in her eyes, thanked her for her patience and attention (figure 1).

Assuming that the medical field in contemporary times is focused on the curative method, there is a need to sensitize the doctor towards the patient through a more holistic and humanized look. It is possible to say that humanization is a process that is constantly changing and that is influenced by the context in which it occurs (3). Inserted in the context of health, lately, humanization is being even more required than the clinical quality of professionals (4,5).

In conclusion it proves necessary that health professionals and those involved in the healing process acquire a humanized look since their first years of university (6,7,8). Projects such as humor therapy provide this view and aim for a better quality of life for the elderly and should therefore be stimulated through social projects among medical students who make a difference.


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  7. Nascimento, Hugo César Filardi, Ferreira Júnior, Wander Alves, Silva, Antonio Márcio Teodoro Cordeiro, Carvalho, Iracema Gonzaga Moura de, Bastos, Gabriela Cunha Fialho Cantarelli, & Almeida, Rogério José de. (2018). Análise dos Níveis de Empatia de Estudantes de Medicina. Revista Brasileira de Educação Médica42(1), 152-160.
  8. Zargani A, Nasiri M, Hekmat K, Abbaspour Z, Vahabi S. (2018). A Survey on the Relationship between Religiosity and Quality of Life in Patients with Breast Cancer: A Study in Iranian Muslims. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs, 5(2), 217-222.

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