Skip to main content

NICK'S PICKS: Some Ideas For Making What's Good In Life a Little Better

by Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP

In the days and months following the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, immersed in my role as a lead trauma counselor on a team working with survivors and family members of the missing, I felt the stirrings of change within myself that continues to this day. Tragedy feels darker, acts of kindness more transcendent. A heightened sensitivity to the effects of disaster on victims and the healers who rush to their side when things are at their worst is with me always now. An article by a physician doing relief work in Haiti after the recent earthquate published in last week's New England Journal of Medicine resonates to this and adds a haunting reminder of the humanizing power of music:

"After the January 12 earthquake, I traveled with a national disaster team from the Department of Health and Human Servicesto Haiti, where we set up a mobile tent hospital on the sitesof a devastated school and a nearby adolescent clinic. My 2-weekdeployment was marked by sensory overload. There was the hotsun, the humidity, and the swirling mosquitoes. The air wasfull of dust and smoke from burning bodies and burning tires.The smell of diesel fuel from our generator was mixed with thoseof decomposition, garbage, and unwashed bodies. The sound ofwomen and children weeping in sorrow and pain joined the noiseof roosters crowing from 4 in the morning until noon, the droneof the generator, and the throb of rescue helicopters. But at dusk, voices of the earthquake survivors rose in gospel song from the tent city next to our camp and seemed to weave a tapestryof solace. "Annekathryn Goodman, M.D. "Ministry of Touch - Reflections on Disaster Work after the Haitian Earthquake" New England Journal of Medicine, March 3, 2010

Improv is a work-out for the brain, a creativity-and-spontaneity generator and one of the best ways to spend an evening, either as a participant or an audience member. This article sheds some light on why skill-building activities that are hard (like improv and psychodrama, among other things) make us happier. I like it when research catches up to what artists, creatives and non-comformists already know. "No Pain, No Gain: Mastering A Skill Makes Us Stressed In The Moment, Happy Long Term"

Artistic New Directions is a not-for-profit laboratory for development of creative work - improv, stand-up, plays and other projects - with the support of first-class faculty. Learn about ANYTHING GOES on Wednesday nights for works-in-progress, their classes, workshops, retreats and more at http://www.artisticnewdirections.org/

The Pit People's Improv Theater in NYC has drop-in improv ($20/session), economically-priced classes for everyone from beginners to sketch-writers for Saturday Night Live, and shows for $8. Check out their shows and class schedule at The Pit website.


Nicholas Wolff is a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work and Trainer, Educator, and Practitioner of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy. His training group in experiential methods meets on Wednesday evenings Sept - June.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence. These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers. 
    Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use. 


Why Improvisation?
Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete. The tensions of the creative process and this kind of interpersonal interaction are a fa…

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP, Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff


   “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, just as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.
    The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a professional train…

Improvisation Training Makes The Science Of Human Connection So. Much. Fun.

There is an improv warm-up game called "Mind Meld" in which people pair up, are given a suggestion, count to three out loud and then say the first word, at the same time, that comes to mind. After a beat, they do it again: "One. Two. Three. Word." After another beat, they do this again. It usually takes only a few beats for both players to say the same word at the same time. Some people find this a remarkably easy and intuitive thing to do. Others find it weird and struggle to stay with it long enough to get results. Somefind themselves doing a rapid assessment of their partner's face and predicting what he/she might say. When I use this exercise in training workshops with therapists and educators, there is often a great need to know "how to get to the mind meld moment" and reflexive self-criticism about having "done it wrong." The exercise can raise anxiety, resulting in a brain freeze for one or both players. But there are no "right&…