Jude Treder-Wolff, president of Lifestage, Inc., a company established in 1993 with her husband and business partner Nicholas Wolff that provides training seminars for professional and personal growth through creativity, believes that Lifestage's roots have more to do with her personality than anything else.
"I have so many ideas I want to experiment with in my work," Treder-Wolff said, who is a licensed certified social worker, a registered music therapist and a certified group psychotherapist. "I wanted the freedom to develop the ideas I had about applying creative arts and creative methods in innovative ways."
It is with this approach that Lifestage has created many interactive workshops, which take place at their office space near the intersection of Route 111 and Route 347 in Smithtown, or at the location of an organization that has requested their services. Many more of Lifestage's group sessions, which usually range from seven to 25 people, are planned for 2011. A recent project is called "Serious Fun," a workshop that integrates music with theater improvisation.
According to Treder-Wolff, these aren't your everyday group workshops.
"What sets these improv workshops apart is our combination of music, theater games and storytelling techniques that make each workshop a unique and unrepeatable experience," she said. "It is a real-time experience of being in the moment, which can reframe problems and stress in amazing ways."
Another project they are now putting together is the "Storytelling Group Series" in which participants develop a short story for performance. This will be used in a storytelling show in an actual theater.
"This is a very exciting program for us because storytelling is increasingly popular as entertainment. Also because business and leadership training focuses on storytelling as a primary messaging tool that people need to learn to compete at nearly every level in the world of work," Treder-Wolff said.
Perhaps a more personal group just forming is "Writing for Your Life: Journaling As a Tool For Self-Healing," which focuses on the writing process as a means of overcoming such things as trauma, grief or stress.
"I provide readings and journaling prompts that participants can use in their daily journaling process," she said. "We discuss the ways that a journaling process can shift perspective about events in our lives, strengthen connection to our inner life and to our creative capacities."
The participants involved in this and other workshops usually seek to develop their skills and tap into their creative side in a safe, supportive atmosphere. For skeptics who doubt their ability to take part, Treder-Wolff tries to provide reassurance.
"If anything makes people question what we do, it is the discomfort and anxiety many people have about doing anything experiential, thinking they will be put on the spot or feel self-conscious," she said. "We design everything knowing there will be people in the room who have these preconceptions about anything creative."
Even if an idea for a group workshop isn't solid yet, she still sees the benefits. And when it is a success, she couldn't be more content.
"I like to try things I haven't seen anyone else doing and it is a creative challenge that might attract like-minded people looking for community," Treder-Wolff said. "When things work, when people engage with what we're doing, respond, and a project takes off I feel like the pilot of a 747 and it thrills my soul."