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Humor, laughter and mental health: a case study of Mary Kay Morrison

Mary Kay Morrison (Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, AATH, Rockford, Illinois, USA)
Ros Ben-Moshe (School of Public Health and Psychology, La Trobe University – Bundoora Campus, Melbourne, Australia)
Freda Gonot-Schoupinsky (Department of Psychology, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 28 April 2023




The purpose of this paper is to meet Mary Kay Morrison, an active member and past president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH).


This case study is presented in two sections: an autobiography of Mary Kay Morrison, followed by a ten-question interview.


Mary Kay recommends exploration of the benefits of humor and laughter for mental health professionals. In recognition of the need for clarifying terminology, she coined the terms Humergy, which is joyful, optimistic, healthy energy and Humordoomer, which denotes a person who zaps that energy from us. Her work includes exploring the five stages of Humor Development as a significant factor in understanding cognitive development.

Research limitations/implications

This is a personal narrative, albeit from an educator who has been active in the field of applied and therapeutic humor for over 30 years.

Practical implications

Humor and laughter research is recommended to explore their use in optimizing mental health. Mary Kay endorses expanding pioneering work in therapeutic humor as a treatment for anxiety and depression. She shares recommendations for humor practice in both prevention of mental health challenges and as a viable treatment for anxiety and depression.

Social implications

Three humor benefits with particular social applications are highlighted. Humor facilitates communication, creates an optimal learning environment and supports change.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first case study about Mary Kay Morrison, Past President of the AATH and founder of the AATH Certified Humor Professional program.



Morrison, M.K., Ben-Moshe, R. and Gonot-Schoupinsky, F. (2023), "Humor, laughter and mental health: a case study of Mary Kay Morrison", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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