In October 1996, the first international congress on «Humor in Therapy» was organized at the Basel Fair Congress. In the following five years, this auspicious development continued as the congress was conducted annually at the Basel Fair Congress Center and was visited by approximately 3000 participants. In the principality of Liechtenstein, a lovely country situated east of the Swiss border, a special humor academy was also established in 1997. It offers an ongoing educational program for health care professionals in therapeutic humor which covers 15 weekend seminars. Simultaneously, many humor and health professionals joined the international society «HumorCare» with branches in Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Germany. HumorCare Germany is the largest national society with regional divisions in many parts of the country. In 2000, the «Hospitalhof» Stuttgart (a large training center of the German Lutheran Church), in Cooperation with HumorCare Germany, launched professional training courses in therapeutic humor comprising 100 hours of lecturing. The response to this project has been quite encouraging: Over 200 participants from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland have enrolled to date.This success motivated the organizers to plan a 2002 International Congress on Therapeutic Humor in Stuttgart, the capital of the German State of Baden-Württemberg.
The congress took place at the Hospitalhof Stuttgart from May 2 to May 5, 2002 under the patronage of Erwin Teufel, the Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, who is an admirer of the work of psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl. Subsequently, in his introduction for the congress program, Prime Minister Teufel wrote about the importance of therapeutic humor in our time. Another politician who participated in the congress was Manfred Rommel, the former Lord Mayor of Stuttgart. Dr. Rommel is the son of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the «desert fox», of World War II, and one of the leading figures of anti-Hitlerian resistance. Dr. Manfred Rommel happens to be a very witty man who has authored three excellent joke books. He opened the congress with a remarkable and humorous address that was then quickly quoted in the extensive media coverage, of the congress.
The highlights of this congress, which was attended by approximately 3,500 individuals, included the workshops of Frank Farrelly, founder of Provocative Therapy, and of Nossrat Peseshkian, founder of positive Psychotherapy. Another highlight was the celebration of World Laughter Day under the auspices of Dr. Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter Club Movement. Other presentations delivered by leading scientists included lectures by Dr. Frank «Appletree» Rodden, neuroradiologist frOm the University of Tubingen, Germany, by Dr. Jan Tidstrand, Austrian oncologist, and by Dr. Helmut Zöpfl of Munich, German, a pioneer of therapeutic use of humor in the educational field. The scientific and therapeutic presentations alternated with humorous interludes from various clowns and standup comedians. The congress participants were enthusiastic about the presentations and the nationwide media coverage of the congress proceedings was highly positive. The Therapeutic Humor Congress will continue next year with an even wider offering of lectures, workshops, and entertainment.