Laughter, Music and Yoga: Three Unique Tools of the Social Work Trade


Social workers have long known that therapy is not one-size-fits-all. People and their issues are unique and therapy offered must be individualized. While some people may benefit from the simple act of talking, others need a bit more. Dr. Gita Sura-Narayan, a social worker from South Africa with more than 30 years of experience under her belt, has gained international attention with her groundbreaking study on laughter-yoga as a therapy tool. Here are some of the more unique therapies, and their benefits, offered today:


The goal of laughter-yoga is all in its name: laughter. There’s very little yoga involved in this form of therapy, unless you count milking pretend cows and blowing up imaginary balloons. But why laughter? Studies have shown that the simple act of having a good belly-laugh can lower blood sugar levels, increase heart rate and burn calories. The classes are simple; participants “ho ho ha ha ha” with each other until real laughter takes over. People who undertake laughter-yoga therapy report feeling elated for hours afterward and, after getting over an initial bought of self-consciousness, look forward to their next sessions.


Many people visualize music therapy as people sitting in a room, listening to music “prescribed” by a social worker. While this can absolutely be true in some cases, it is not true for all. Music therapy utilizes a wide range of tools: free writing, instrument playing, lyric discussion, improvisation and movement. Tailored to the individual client, music therapy has proved beneficial for a variety of emotional, cognitive and physical issues experienced by people of all ages.

Laughter is the best medicine


It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in today’s technological world that counseling sessions are being offered electronically. For some patients, particularly those who are experiencing a family emergency or are homebound, social workers may offer sessions via telephone. Other social workers are offering therapy sessions via chat, web meetings or even Skype. Though research is limited in the potential scope of this type of telemedicine, patients report that it is both convenient and effective.


Art therapy can take on a variety of forms within the social work setting, only needing to be individualized to be effective. Art therapy may include discussions of the emotive effect of works of art, drawing representations of feelings, or simply coloring with crayons as a form of relaxation. In one unique exercise, clients in group therapy are partnered and asked to draw a simple shape. Drawings are traded and partners add to each other’s drawings. The process continues, the partners loosen up and begin a dialogue.

Social work and social work therapy is ever evolving. Social workers understand that they must have several tools in their belt in order to best reach their individual clients. Therapies are as varied and unique as the individuals that are served by them. If you have an interest in any of the therapies listed above, seek out more information; there’s little doubt that any or all can be effectively incorporated in your practice.

Writer Robert Neff writes full-time. If you’d like to incorporate creative methods into a career of helping others, but you can’t afford to quit your job, you may want to consider the flexible possibility of an online degree in social work.

By: Khezia Dajao

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