An Example Event With The Improv Therapy Group
We are all in a circle together and start with introductions. We let Improv Therapy participants know that this is going to be fun and that they always have the right to pass, and are always invited to play. It’s a nice way to start building a little communication and trust before we start going into improv games.
After intro games, we focus on a lot of different things.
Get Out Of Your Head
In general, an Improv Therapy session will next play an easy "getting out of your head game" like either One Word Story or Word Association. This is typically in a circle, tossing words around. Participants are getting used to being in the moment and letting go of the directions. You can best do that by either One Word Story or Word Association.
And then from there we would probably go to “Yes, and” work pretty early on. With “Yes, and” it’s just a conversation with a partner. You are planning something awesome using no and using yes and talking about the difference and how it was more creative and fun it was to say yes and why.
It is hard to argue with someone that is agreeing. Process groups and family therapy can be a time of feeling not being heard or validated.
Changing The Brain
We teach how to change communication by saying yes and validating the other persons viewpoint and feelings, and still share our viewpoint and feeling. Both can be true and valid, a common theme of dialectical behavior therapy. So you’re now on a different level of communication. You’re improving your level of communication and making others more comfortable during difficult conversations.
This process is about being able to take it immediately to the next thing that has to do with therapy. And most of the good places are using Dialectical Behavior Therapy and what that does sound like and they’re like DBT is cool. So there can be two opposing truths and it can be both so being able to validate what someone else is saying makes you a better communicator.
And then depending on what kind of group it is, we would create something together with yes. If it’s a group that can embrace getting up in front of each other we would probably do an ad campaign game where you invent something and make a commercial for it. If it’s a group still feeling nervous about getting up in front of each other, we might make an alien together, or a superhero, or something that we can all create together using “yes, and”.
We ask them how it felt knowing that whatever you said everyone was gonna say yes to.
Getting To Emotions
From there we might go to a mirroring game such as family portraits or mirror talks. This is all about checking yourself, being present and the feeling of being safe.
The magic family, the Adams family, the Kardashian family, the abstract family. You can gear it towards the anxious family, you can get to the emotions in a playful context.
We can bring in more emotional fun with raves and conducted rants. Even with groups that do not like to perform can get them to excited to perform something and express themselves with these games. Then we point out that “hey, you just improvised a monologue without thinking about it. Good job.”
Rapping It Up
We might end with something fun and maybe more performance for each other such as the “Doctor know it all” game, more one word story or end with raves and rants. We make decisions in the moment depending on the group. The games and process is not set in stone.
We always listen to hear what the group's goals are and what are they are hoping to get out of the experience.
After each exercise we check in with the group and ask – “what came up for you?”
We discuss in detail each time. We talk about why are we laughing, why is this funny and how did we get to a funny place by listening to each other and building on what each other had to say.