Humor 101: A Psychologist Explains How to Get the Most Out of Therapy

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Every single person on earth needs therapy, but few know how to make it the most curative process since ham. Simple guidelines can help you turn pedestrian treatment into a top-of-the-line analysis with all the associated hyphens. These steps will have you on the yellow brick road to the emerald city of common unhappiness as fast as straw drops from an effete scarecrow.

First and foremost, choose wisely. Anyone who has reduced people’s problems to a forty-second sound bite on radio, or preferably TV, should be your first choice as a clinician. Think of someone sharp and swift as the tin man’s axe. If you can’t get a celebrity, at least get someone who sees celebrities. Nobody knows quality like a misbehaving wealthy legend. Stalk your favorite rock stars, cage fighters, or senators. Their therapists must be as busy as The Lollipop Guild. And always remember: you get what you pay for.  Fork over as much moolah as possible. Don’t be afraid to shell out the clams. Your treatment provider will be happy, because slapping down the simoleans keeps clients motivated.

An ideal therapist will be warm but not too warm. If you’re tired of Wizard of Oz references, think Goldilocks picking porridge. A superb clinician would also be as much like you as possible. No one understands a failed thirty-something standup comic like a failed thirty-something standup comic with a Ph.D in Psychology. And speaking of degrees, be sure to focus on those who have as many letters after their names as possible. Find someone verified, licensed, certified, folded, spindled, and mutilated by the American Board of Professional Psychologists (ABPP), especially those with Supremely Unique Clinical Knowledge (SUCK). These qualifications are their own Lullaby League. They mean that the therapists have not only passed an extensive multiple-choice exam, but also dealt with the appropriate agency in cash. And regardless of warmth or experience, a doctorate always trumps a masters. An Ivy-league MSW could never touch a PhD from The Professional Program in Psychology at Nashville University of Diesel.

Physicians, especially psychiatrists, are always a plus.  They’re the ones who helped us realize that garden variety shyness was really Social Anxiety Disorder.  They helped us discover that routine moodiness was a sign of Cyclothymic Disorder, which previously had been confused with a bike. Most of them know exactly which neurotransmitter to boost in order to help you date an ideal mate or find fulfilling work. With the right medication, you’ll never need to discuss those messy feelings you have about love, fear, and the time your cousin did that thing with the cotton candy.

A first interview can reveal all that you need. The assessment process should be lickety-split, like weight loss. As Einstein said, time is money. A good clinician, like a good psychic, should know all about you within a few seconds. Try to hold something important back to test the waters. Feel free to elaborate on all your ups and downs, from the three-days spent cleaning the countertop to the following three days in bed. But then leave out the crack use. An experienced counselor will know to ask. Anybody who misses it should be cut from your insurance anyway.

Try not to show any emotion. You’ve got work to do here; there’s no time for cracking jokes and singing about rainbows. And nobody likes a crybaby. Unless things start going in a direction you don’t like. If that happens, let your therapist know with hoot-worthy weeping and shouts. Think flying monkeys. If your clinician asks, “How does that make you feel?” like one of those silly ones from old movies, try to stick to either “good” or “bad.” Those hairsplitting distinctions between sad, mad, glad, happy, afraid, and disgusted just muddy the waters. Thumbs up or thumbs down. That’ll get you on your way.

Don’t worry about articulating a plan. The future is tricky and filled with disappointment. Instead, focus on events from the distant past that will never change. Walk through the non-traumatic ones in glorious detail. Then turn to your dreams and fantasies, especially sexual ones that have nothing to do with what’s bothering you. Those ought to be entertaining. These sessions should go on and on. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. You’ll be clicking ruby slippers in ten years of treatment. Maybe even a little less.

Last but not least, there should never be homework. Try to keep therapy in the therapy room. You’ll be working hard during the 50-minute hour, so you’ll need your rest during the week. Don’t think about any of the discussion. It just stirs up a bunch of nonsense. When you’re in session, you’re in session. But afterwards, there’s no place like home.