Starting this September we’ll be doing something a little different, a therapy/improv group aimed at reducing anxiety. I’ve had a few general questions about how this group works, so I thought I’d answer those questions here for you now:
Q : How does this all work?
A: This group is a hybrid of two things: improv and group therapy. Each week participants will attend group therapy to process the role anxiety plays in their lives. They’ll also develop tools in Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to aid them in decreasing anxiety symptoms. On a separate day of the same week, participants will then attend an improv class with the Louisville Improvisors. This class will focus on putting the tools developed in therapy into action.
Q: How do I sign up?
A: Contact me at email@example.com. I can give you all the details on signing up. Groups begin Sept. 8th for the low fee of $300 for both groups! That’s less than $20 a session!
Q: Why improv?
A: Improv is all about flow and acceptance. In a real life situation you may find yourself stuck in your own head, wondering if what you just said was “stupid” or allowing anxiety to hold you back from participating in social situations. In an improv class, you learn to let go of those thoughts by becoming part of the flow. The motto of improv is “yes, and” meaning the conversation never stops; everything you say is an opportunity to further the scene. And because participants are encouraged to say “yes, and” they, by default, are accepting of whatever their other improvisors are saying/doing. This accepting environment is the perfect test ground for individuals with social anxiety to practice feeling accepted, and to challenge the thoughts and feelings that may be holding them back from putting themselves out there.
Q: How can improv help with anxiety?
A: The accepting environment of an improv class is a fabulous testing ground for anyone who wants to move beyond their normal social reservations because it sets them up for success. In therapy, we encourage people to set themselves up for success when learning something new or trying to move beyond an anxiety. This reinforces that you are capable of that which you typically avoid.
Here’s a good example of how improv can help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=na-QHMIe5tk
Q: Wouldn’t this make me MORE anxious?
A: You might feel pretty anxious signing up for a group like this. In fact, that might be what holds you back, but improv for anxiety is nothing new. Second City in Chicago has been collaborating with the Panic and Anxiety Recovery Center for a few years now. What they discovered was that improv was often a successful means of anxiety reduction (when combined with group therapy) because of four essential elements:
- Group cohesiveness
Q: How do these elements reduce anxiety?
A: Simply put, these four elements together can reduce anxiety symptoms because of their psychological and physiological benefits.
Group cohesiveness – They say the most important determinant of successful therapy is the client-counselor relationship. When a person feels accepted and non judged by their therapist their odds of success in therapy increase drastically. Now imagine being accepted by an entire group of people, not just your therapist. This element of acceptance and cohesiveness that’s found in improv is what truly allows rapid growth for an individual.
Play – This is where your whole body gets involved in the process. Play encourages movement, action and, spontaneity; taking your experience of processing anxious feelings to another level beyond the typically cognitive approach of talk therapy.
Exposure – Exposure therapy is nothing new and in fact taking the risk of exposing yourself to something that could bring about feelings of anxiety helps challenge those thoughts and feelings, especially when you’re expecting to be rejected and are accepted by your fellow improvisors instead.
Humor – Laughter has many physiological benefits. Studies show that laughing can actually increase the immune system and help us relax suggesting that laughter could actually have some anxiety reducing qualities. (Bennett & Lengacher, 2008)
Q: Will there be a “final performance?”
A: Absolutely not! The point is for participants to relax and feel comfortable and safe. Therefore there will be no “final performance” looming over your head. This is about the experience, not the end product.
Q: Do I have to be funny?
A: Nope. Improv isn’t always about being funny. Sometimes it can be quite serious. Typically we associate improv with being funny because that’s the most popular type of improv. However, that doesn’t mean every scene needs to be a crack up.
Ready to sign up?
Email me at : firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
More on improv for anxiety: