Using Improv Within Mental Health Programs
Improv Therapy Group provides ample processing time during each of our modules so participants and/or therapists will be able to ask questions, review and master those elements of the technique they believe will assist them most in their work.
The following modules are examples of the types of games, principles and practices that training sessions might be built around.
Communication and Yes, And
The foundation of improvisation is built on the principle "Yes, And". This concept is about making sure people feel heard, acknowledged, and validated. When "Yes, And" is part of a culture, it creates a safe place to generate ideas and promote creativity with confidence. Groups become more accepting and collaborative.
Participants will work together and create in positive, supportive ways. They will also heighten their listening and communication skills as they express themselves in a safe, low-stakes environment.
These exercises put into practice acknowledging the reality of others, letting ideas be heard, validating all parties involved, and moving forward with support.
Stress Reduction and Self Care
There is a reason they say laughter is the best medicine. Laughter is a coping mechanism known to naturally reduce stress. Play is known as a key to living a wholehearted life.
These games and exercises help participants break down defense mechanisms, explore willingness to be vulnerable, and express themselves creatively. All this happens while laughing, bonding, and healing together.
I SECOND THAT EMOTION:
Emotional Intelligence and Empathy
We are often hard pressed to be sure the emotion we are expressing is the emotion being received. We discuss the range of emotions and how facial expressions, body language, and physical presentation are all involved in accurate communication.
Improv games help individuals explore their emotional intelligence. In a safe environment, participants try on emotions and reactions to emotional situations. The value is enormous as participants explore and experience emotions in a positive way.
ON THE SPOT:
Public Speaking and Performance Anxiety/Stage Fright
One of the greatest fears is speaking in public. The same skills for public speaking are also applicable for social situations, ability to work in a small group, and a capacity for leading a team.
These exercises help people confront their stress related to public speaking. Participants will gain confidence to speak up in a group and enhance their presentation skills.
Social Anxiety, Openness and Playfulness
Getting out of our comfort zone is scary. In improv, we put ourselves out there with a group of people that are taking the exact same risk. Play is vital for happiness and adults often find this is the first thing that is sacrificed in the name of anything else. Creating a time and space for play and creativity is guaranteed to help you be goofy and happy.
Applying improvisation to real life situations is perhaps most obvious when it comes to improving an individual's communication skills in social situations. The exercises dramatically improve one's communication skills, build confidence to interact in a variety of situations. Defenses are diminished and connections with others are grown.
UNITED STATES OF MIND:
Closing Cultural and Language Gaps & Building Community Relationships
Playing together and laughing together works wonders at building empathy. Improv as an art form is excellent at helping build connections, crossing cultural boundaries and leveling the playing field among participants. An outstanding historical example is the Hull House in Chicago, where Viola Spolin pioneered improv work that helped immigrants assimilate into society, The Hull House was created for immigrants who came to Chicago and could not communicate well with each other. The exercises they played were designed so they could play together even though they spoke different languages.
These Spolin-inspired games bring people together in a positive way with humor and creativity. The exercises are about physicality and other ways of expressing ourselves that are universal, bridging cultural and language barriers.
OUR STORIES OURSELVES:
Creative Storytelling and Expression
We all have a story, and we all tell our story in a variety of ways throughout our lives. The act of listening to each others' stories and reacting in a positive, humorous way brings a clarity to our understanding of our own stories. Storytelling is a natural way to invoke empathy, authentic connection and understanding. It is one of the most important skills to have as a leader.
Using improv techniques, participants explore the elements of a story, and have opportunities to share their stories. They will be able to tell them in a way that connects with others. Most importantly, everyone will feel as if their story has been truly heard.
FOLLOW THE FEAR:
It's OK to Fail
We are all afraid to fail. We hesitate to try something new. We are cautious about making a big choice because we might fail. Improv techniques embrace the philosophy that there are no mistakes; a mistake is, in fact, a gift. Improv teaches one to be open whatever the circumstances and to have courage in the face of everything.
Through improv games participants learn the most fun can be had when things do not go right. Participants are discouraged from editing themselves. Rather, they are encouraged to react immediately, to "get out of your own head" and explore the unknown.
PERFECT IS BORING:
Perfectionism stunts creativity and is, admittedly, an unrealistic expectation. Improv is a safe place to expect and embrace imperfection.
These exercises create a safe space to let go of the need to be right and in control. Individuals learn to accept things as they are, not how they want them to be. This is a place to let go of judgment, be in the moment, and enjoy what's being created, no matter how "imperfect."
IN THE NOW:
Mindfulness and Being Present
People don't listen. They want their turn to talk. They are not in the moment; they are not engaged. This is a huge breakdown in the communication process.
Improv is a place to practice active listening and reacting in the moment, because everything in improv is spontaneous and happens in the moment. The participants can take these exercises and directly apply the "tricks" to conversations to help them stay present and actively listen.
Cognitive Flexibility, Neuroplasticity and Memory
Improv exercises our brain. By practicing new ways of communicating, we can change our neural pathways and create real change in the way we interact and communicate with others. It is this exact reason that improv is useful in strengthening the brain for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients.
These games exercise our brains in new ways as participants must focus on multiple things at once, or try to remember one thing while doing another.