Humor in the healing process is topic of Upstate conference Oct. 9

Mental health specialists and members of Central New York’s creative community will share their thoughts on how humor, when used responsibly in a clinical setting, can be a good prescription for people dealing with crisis or chaos, at a conference sponsored by Upstate Medical University on Friday, Oct. 9. The Ninth Annual Naomi Chernoff, MD, Creativity Conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Archbold Theater at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee St., Syracuse.

The public is invited to attend this conference that also serves as a forum to share ideas on how humor can be used in the healing process.

Conference Director and Participant David Keith, MD, says that humor has a place in the clinical interactions between the mental health practitioner and their patient, but what is its place? This is what the conference will explore.

“The Creativity Conference invites attention to alternative ways of thinking about clinical problems,” said Keith, professor of psychiatry and director of Family Therapy at Upstate. “It will allow for a more open and in-depth conversation on how methods of humor can be used by mental health practitioners to help their patients deal with life situations and impasses that undermine their health. This is a conference about ideas and we encourage people to share their ideas with us on this subject.”

Keith’s presentation will deepen the understanding of humor’s relation to human experience and language.

Other conference presenters include:

• Tim Mollen, a freelance writer, author and theater professional from Binghamton, N.Y., will present “The twin masks of tragedy and comedy can be worn at the same time.”

• Mark Cole, retired professor of theater, and Patrick Murphy, associate professor of theater at SUNY Oswego, will examine the transformative power of the comic spirit.

• Roger P Greenberg, PhD, Distinguished Professor and head of the Psychology Division at Upstate, will discuss some of the disadvantages of using humor during psychotherapy sessions and identify techniques outlined in scientific literature for using humor to deal with emotional problems.

• Lauren Unbekant, director of educational outreach at Syracuse Stage and adjunct movement/devising faculty for Syracuse University Drama Department; and Emmett Van Slyke, composer, musician, producer and owner of Van Slyke Productions, will demonstrate how humor and an artistic process help to guide health and healing.

• James Knoll, MD, director of Forensic Psychiatry and professor of psychiatry at Upstate, will identify recent research on the use of humor in a variety of psychiatric treatment settings. He will also discuss how humor can be a transcendent defense mechanism with the potential to create new perspectives and modes of how mental health practitioners can relate to patients.

The conference is sponsored by Upstate’s Department of Psychiatry, Division of Psychotherapy. Registration fee is $50. The conference is free for students and mental health trainees. For more information or to register, contact Linette Thorp,, 315-464-3104.

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