What is Improvised Therapy?

My early experiences as an improviser often left me with the uncanny feeling that the games we played to become better performers were actually very fun speech games.  I would leave work and arrive at improv class only to find that I felt I was still in therapist mode.  As an improviser, the struggle to let go of these musings and stay in the moment was a serious challenge, but because of this nagging thought in the back of my brain, I decided I may as well give it a go and use the same games in cognitive therapy sessions.  I was blown away!

My clients, who ranged in age from 18 to mid-50s at the time, all had fun, and the therapeutic targets were right there in front us the whole time!  Even better, the results were dramatic.  The game Whoosh, Bang, Pow yielded a phenomenal insight into one client’s in-tact motor learning skills in the face of severe short-term memory loss. Presents provided a unique way to target perspective taking in clients with TBI and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Story Spine proved useful in both cognitive therapy and aphasia therapy.

The theory behind Improvised Therapy is simple: group therapy is a veritable treasure trove of naturalistic learning opportunities and a chance to find creative ways of targeting several goals across multiple participants at a time.  Alternatively, a therapist may choose not to target a specific goal but allow the challenges of play to present themselves as informal, ongoing assessment.  By  moving away from static worksheets and discussion-based sessions, therapists can recharge group therapy by increasing energy, participation, and developing insights into strengths and barriers that may not be readily apparent in more conventional contexts.

The books in this series include instructions for each game, potential barriers, targets, example goals, a small literature review, and a few of the games even have corresponding video available on the website. The books have been divided by targets for ease of use and to provide the most value. As always, I am available to provide half-day and whole-day training sessions so you and your team can practice the games and be trained in the improv concepts before bringing them to your clients. Just message me for more information if you’re interested!

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