2017 Level II - Project Descriptions


Humor Academy Directors: Melissa Mork, Beth Slazak
Level II Study Group Advisor: Melissa Mork
2017 Academic Instructors: Karyn Buxman, Mary Kay Morrison, Melissa Mork, Joyce Saltman, Steve Sultanoff, Megan Werner

Here is a brief description of the Level II Projects for the Humor Academy this year. Level II of the Humor Academy involves both research and application of humor practice in an individual’s chosen field of study.


 Pet Therapy Team Bringing Smiles and More2Go

- Yvonne Brehan


  • Achieve certification as a Pet Therapy Team Bringing Smiles and More2Go.
  • Continue Pet Therapy Visits expanding venues where dogs are not allowed.

Researched Pet Therapy Training: Identified training with Pet Partners https://petpartners.org/. Facilities request Animal Assisted visits require Pet Partners certification. 

Certification Process: Handler training courses, and animal behavior training. Puggie and I achieved COMPLEX Pet Therapy Team certification, the highest rating.
College Dogs trained and certified therapy dog teams bringing joyful smiles and laughter to college campuses. http://www.collegedogs.org/.
Alternative Method: Used Stuffies, animal toys, as surrogate pets to cuddle and stroke as a Stuffie Therapy Team. Learned that dogs emit Oxytocin, as do humans, the cuddle/love hormone reducing the stress hormone Cortisol.

Identified several simple tips to Boost Oxytocin increasing ‘feeling as good’ as a ‘real’ dog Pet Therapy Team.


 Therapeutic Humor as a Recreational Therapy Intervention: DOes it Improve Quality of Life?

- Colleen A. Cooke, EdD, CTRS, CLL

This experimental research project sought to answer the following research questions:

  • What is the impact on quality of life of men with severe, persistent mental illness of structured therapeutic humor interventions?
  • What is the short-term impact on feelings of well-being following structured therapeutic humor interventions?
  • Does short-term impact on feelings of well-being predict impact on overall quality of life, when individuals participate in therapeutic humor interventions?

A convenience sample of 12 participants, ages 36 to 86, with severe, persistent mental illness (SPMI) was recruited to participate. The sample was divided into two groups, a treatment group and a control group. All participants were male, and one participant dropped out of the study. The measures used to gather data include the WHO Quality of Life scale (short form) and a modified Face Scale.


 Let's Find the "Humerus" in Healthcare!

- Debbie Derflinger, RN, BSN, CLL-E

“Let’s Find the ‘Humerus’ in Healthcare!” is a small pilot study of the use of therapeutic humor and laughter with healthcare staff to decrease stress, improve overall well-being, and create a fun, safe, and healing workplace environment in healthcare. The “Humerus” seems to be missing in healthcare. Utilizing therapeutic humor and laughter can help us find the “funny bone” and is a fun and effective way to heal the healer. Humor and laughter practices give healthcare workers the tools they need to create a more positive and healing work environment. In this study, the staff were invited to attend six humor sessions and voluntarily complete a Work-Related Quality of Life (WRQoL) survey prior to the first session and after the last session. Conclusion: Overall WRQoL went up in both groups, however it improved more in the (H) humor group compared to the (C) control group.


  • Create a safe, fun, and healing environment to lift one’s spirits.
  • Improve well-being through the use of therapeutic humor, laughter, and play.
  • Employ therapeutic humor, laughter, and play as self-care tools.


Caricature Entertainment as a Therapeutic Humor Practice

- Kyle Edgell

The Rationale

To inspire the practice and research of Therapeutic Humor in the Virginia Blue Ridge

As the Science of Humor has shown it to provide psychological, physiological, and social benefits, what resources are available to health practitioners, educators, businesses, to refer their clients? You-Tube Videos? Do teachers, counselors and caretakers have to learn to be funny or will they “find tools and resources from non-clinical humor and laughter professionals?” (Fr. Paul Moore, Level II project) How does the application of therapeutic humor play out in the community and where do people turn to find humor strategies and programs? Recognizing that my own development as an Caricature/Entertainer had all the elements of therapeutic humor, my skills created a good foundation for expanding the mission of AATH in my community.


Celebrate Wellness Retreat

- Cynthia Keeler, Mental Health Counselor

Project Goals:

  • Stress the importance of self-care • Introduce participants to various modes of self- care
  • Educate the participants on the benefits of each modality
  • Create an environment conducive to joy, laughter, support, and camaraderie
  • Encourage the continuation of the self-care methods post conference

The Celebrate Wellness Retreat was created to serve as a respite experience for Mental Health Counselors and other care-givers that were affected by the Pulse Night Club Tragedy in Orlando, Florida in 2016. The retreat began with a brief Wellness Survey to gage current self-care techniques. The program was set for a therapeutically restorative day held in an outdoor camp environment. Program sessions offered were: Laughter Yoga, Chair Yoga, Aromatherapy, Essential Oils, Healing Herbs, and Nutrition for Stress, Dance Meditation, and a Walking Meditation. We ended with a communal dinner, followed by a Therapeutic Drum Circle and s’mores around the campfire. Various levels of interactions were experienced with time for fellowship, laughter, and sharing of the experience. At the end of the day, participants again filled out a survey to see which of the interventions offered that day they might continue in their own lives.


Laughter Yoga Participant Survey

- Connie Pino

The goal of this survey is to assess the feelings of Laughter Yoga participants and what effect it has had on their lives. Laughter Yoga leaders can utilize this data to trigger a discussion with the group as to how the sessions can be improved. The information gleaned is also useful in presenting the benefits of Laughter Yoga to a new group of participants.


Better Than A Bucket List Workbook

- Beth Slazak

Project Goals:

  • Create a wish list of activities participants have always wanted to try/do
  • Evaluate activities for support, time, and order
  • Introduce the practice and tools of creative problem solving
  • Provides a platform for a person or a group to achieve dreams

This workbook leads the user through the multi-step process of creative problem solving to guiding them towards fulfilling dreams and wishes. The workbook uses researched tools and techniques and a system that has been in practice for decades. The 30+-page workbook takes the user from clarification, to ideation, to evaluation, to implementation. It includes ten tools that the user can then use in other situations. This is a guide to help armchair residents gain the get-up-and-go to complete life goals. The idea behind this is that we feel more happiness and joy when we are making progress, however we define it. Achieving life goals should increase our happiness level, and creative problem solving provides a path to do just that. Once completed, they will have the right to go on the webpage and mark themselves as a Better Than a Bucket List Buddy.


"HA-HA for TrauMA" - Comedy Process Groups

- Megan Werner, MS, LPC

Objective: To revamp mental health group therapy for adolescent clients with a comedic framework. This would allow at-risk youth, who have experienced extensive traumas, to approach, explore, understand, and implement therapeutic techniques for the purpose of sparking the initial healing process and of improving overall wellness.

Project Goals:

  • Allow clients with mental illness to approach necessary therapeutic tools by giving them a voice and the cognitive flexibility needed to work through their treatment.
  • Raise self-awareness by helping clients explore their traumas with depth to promote understanding of the trauma’s negative impact on the self.
  • Improve resilience by teaching clients to learn to apply humor every day, in nearly any situation, while using insight and good judgment.