Susana Nascimento, Norway : I am a 33 year old mother and wife. I didn’t have an easy life, but my ability to keep smiling made me stronger. I graduated in clinical psychology in 2001 in Portugal and in 2009 took my laughter leader training. Initially, I worked more with older people in institutions, but also did some laughter sessions with children. A year later, in 2010, I did my master's degree in quality of life and received an offer to work for a psychiatric service in a district hospital in Norway. I work primarily with patients with depression and anxiety, but there are some with psychosis and trauma also. It has been a challenge to set up a structure for the session and the exercises to make everyone feel comfortable, but the weekly laughter sessions with these inpatients have been an extremely gratifying experience.
The most surprising result of working with these patients is the fact that with laughter they are able to speak about symptoms that otherwise is very difficult to talk about. For example, there was a patient who showed no improvement after years of different treatments, but after some months of laughter sessions, she was able to tell for the first time that she hears voices and that there were people who wanted to kill her. With laughter she felt the security to express such negative experiences and we were able to set the right diagnosis and treatment. Seeing the positive results, my colleagues are very appreciative and supportive of my endeavors. In fact, I also have fantastic help from a music therapist who makes music and also brings instruments to the sessions that helps to relax and enhance the laughter.
Every year my service organizes a seminar and in December 2011 I was invited to talk about laughter as a complementary therapy. My theme was to present laughter as the natural balance in emotions and why it is important to laugh for mental health. There is even a proposed project for integration of psychiatric patients in the community with the help of Laughter Yoga sessions. We are studying ways to gather patients and family and friends and very soon I will also begin sessions with the out-patients.
Psykolog i Senegepost, Dalane DPS i Egersund