Recovery is no laughing matter – or is it?

Alex Byron Barker (Division of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Gary Winship (School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Publication date: 8 August 2016



The purpose of this paper is to describe an exploratory pilot study to assess the methods used to evaluate an innovative programme of comedy workshops for a small cohort of people recovering from substance misuse problems. The comedy workshops involved participants working with a professional comedian to explore, develop, write and finally perform a stand-up comedy routine drawing from their own personal experiences.


The impact of the programme was gauged using questionnaires; the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the General Self-Efficacy, Scale and the Life Orientation Test-Revised and Eco-Mapping Tool.


Ten participants began the programme with four participants following through to public performance at an evening showcase event. The quantitative measures showed favourable results on three positive outcome measures; psychological well-being, self-esteem and self-efficacy. Participant’s number of social relationships and strength of relationships decreased following the intervention, however, relationships were more mutual and were characterized by less conflict following the workshop.

Research limitations/implications

The small sample limits generalization of this study, but the methods for data collection were found to be feasible. Preliminary findings suggest that the workshops have a positive impact on recovery.


This paper describes an evaluation of an innovative programme of comedy workshops for people recovering from substance abuse problems. The preliminary findings point to a new hypothesis about recovery, that successful recovery might be characterized by a smaller social network, with stronger mutual bonds.



Barker, A. and Winship, G. (2016), "Recovery is no laughing matter – or is it?", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 167-173.

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