Red Daisies: Applied Improv for Acquired Brain Injuries
We always say that the tools you learn in Improv For Therapists can be used to help clients, but it’s always amazing to learn about it actually happening.
One therapist, who just took our Improv For Therapists Level One class, has already started implementing what they learned in their work. They are a Community Support Worker who helps people with acquired brain injuries, and this particular story centers around an older woman who has experienced a stroke and is having problems with memory as a result.
This client was preparing for a cognitive exam in order to keep her driver’s license, but was feeling demoralized due to not being able to remember five random words, which was part of the test. The therapist used a game they learned in improv class, where they would think of an object, come up with a short story about it, and place it in a bag to hand to their client. The client was enthusiastic about the game and had no trouble coming up with all sorts of stories for the objects, and was delighted to discover that using this method of imagination, she could not only remember five random words, but more as well.
The therapist began to try different variations of the game in subsequent sessions, as it had seemed to work so well. They asked the client to give an associated memory with two random words. It could be any memory, the goal being “radical self-acceptance,” which is something we strive to achieve at Improv Therapy Group. The therapist wanted her client to give any memory, with no filter, associated with the words they said. The words the therapist chose this time were “red” and “daisy.” After insisting for a little while that she couldn’t think of a single memory, and getting increasingly frustrated, the client suddenly was able to recite a treasured poem from memory:
“If there are any heavens” by E.E. Cummings
if there are any heavens my mother will(all by herself)have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses
my father will be(deep like a rose
tall like a rose)
standing near by
(swaying over her
with eyes which are really petals and see
nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
This is my beloved my
(suddenly in sunlight
he will bow,
& the whole garden will bow)
In tears, the client explained how this poem had always reminded her of her late father, and helped her feel close to him, and that she had forgotten how much the poem meant to her. In further appointments and continuations of this game, the client was able to remember more and more things, such as a dream that was important to her, where she was able to get some closure with a problem she was struggling with.
While improv had previously helped this therapist, they were able to see firsthand how healing it could be for their clients. We wanted to share this story because it was so incredibly moving and inspiring to us. Stories like this are why we do what we do, and we can only hope that many other people will get to have similar experiences.
Be sure to check out the therapist’s website, where they post poems, thoughts, analysis, and more!
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