What makes therapeutic improvisational theater so special?
Improvisational theater offers a playful process within a safe space in which patients can practice and train essential factors for therapeutic success.
Improvisation is uniquely equipped to facilitate self-awareness and situational competence. Improvisation is based on making something out of momentary impulses.
What makes improvising so unique is that it enables participants to experience a variety of situations in a playful way, and thereby learn more about themselves. Improvisation is based on making something out of momentary impulses. Patients discover how, through interaction, streams of consciousness converge to form a river. They learn to navigate the flow.
Participants can try on different roles and perspectives in a playful safe space. They encounter themselves in a positive way, and discover new aspects about themselves. Improvisation opens up new possibilities for people to experience and express themselves and their feelings.
Role plays provide a way to examine concrete situations and deal with them. Alternative courses of action can be discussed and playfully tried out.
As such, improvisational theater supports the key factors for the success of psychological therapy.
This is particularly true for people struggling with the consequences of a lack of self-love – for example depression, self-deprecation, eating disorders, disassociation, and self-damaging behavior in general.
In order for therapeutic interventions to be successful, these patients in particular need first and foremost to accept the factors behind the individual manifestations of their mental illness – and their consequences.
In practice, it has been shown that by training and playfully experiencing acceptance, therapeutical improvisational theater can accelerate therapeutic success.
In improvisational theater, laughter, lightness and humor come naturally. This makes it easier for patients to examine many aspects that would be more difficult to address in a primarily reflective and analytic therapy session. This too directly contributes to the success of the therapy.
Another factor is that the playful, natural integration and acceptance of mistakes and blunders enables patients to experience their own lightness and their own humorous ways of dealing with mistakes and deficits. They practice becoming more resilient.
By positively experiencing that "mistakes" are often the most serendipitous source of inspiration for improvisation, they learn to mitigate the negative evaluation of mistakes and personality traits.
This gives them room to love themselves.
In my personal experience, it is often the very patients who initially exhibit the greatest resistance to – or fear of – this unfamiliar world of improvisation who ultimately benefit the most.
What kind of institutions and organizations use therapeutic improvisational theater?
Treatment clinics, day clinics
# stationary psychotherapy and psychiatric clinics
# rehab centers
# self-help groups
Currently I am working with several different day clinics.
What makes therapeutic improvisational theater successful?
Improvisational theater offers a playful process in a protected setting in which essential success factors of therapies can be trained.
# Allow, feel and train emotional responses
# Experience and train access to your inner "happy child"
# Accept the here and now, without judgment
# Allow the situation to change you
# Experience your own creative power
# Develop solutions based in the here and now
# Playfully experience and train new behaviors and strategies
# Connect with others, and experience the connection as pleasant and supportive
# Experience yourself and your interaction with others in a positive way
# Be proud of your own accomplishments
# Learn to accept your own mistakes and deficits
# Experience lightness
# Be proud of the results
# Feel free to laugh
Who takes part?
Participants are patients undergoing psychological or psychiatric therapy – with the approval of their psychiatrist or therapist.
How does therapeutic improvisational theater work in practice?
The focus is on the needs of the participants and their wishes for the respective therapy unit.
Each session is different.
Therapeutic improvisational theater comprises a process:
# Transparency about the current state of mind of the participants
# Transparency about the current dynamics in the group
# Each unit takes shape on the basis of the current group dynamics
# Implementation in a mixture of exercises, purely playful elements, role-playing on relevant topics, therapeutic interventions
# Interventions and exercises take place within an on-going process comprising discussion, critical questioning, clarification, encouragement, support, trying and experiencing new things, ensuring transfer of knowledge
# Each session ends with transparency about the current emotional status, how the session was perceived, concrete practical plans
What are some of the elements used in therapeutic improvisational theater?
# Arrival and exercises for grounding
# Exercises for awareness of one's own body
# Perception exercises
# Thought and association exercises
# Exercises about making eye contact, sending and receiving signals
# Exercises using emotions
# Exercises to connect with others
# Exercises to experience the flow state
# Exercises on leading others with trust and trusting others to lead
# Open improvisation of scenes
# Guided improvisation of scenes
# Scenes with conscious use of emotions
# Scenes with deliberate changes of emotions
# Scenes with switched roles
# Role-plays dealing with issues suggested by the participants
# Body exercises
# Breathing exercises
# Voice exercises
# Speaking exercises
# Body percussion
# Exercises from other therapeutic methods
# Reflection about how the participants experienced the session
# Application to everyday life