Skip to main content

Mental Health Benefits of Improvisation Training: Games and Exercises

The games and exercises in the workshop Mental Health Benefits Of Improvisation Training are designed in the same way that improvisation warm-ups work for performers. They gradually enhance the sense of psychological safety in the group so that an unplanned, unpredictable social-emotional experience can be created in real time. By learning the skills improvisers use to tell stories together without a script, anyone can learn to be more adaptable, agile, creative and spontaneous on the stage of life. The games and exercises used in improvisation training are subtle and deceptively sophisticated ways to hijack the naturally-occurring “stranger danger” anxiety we feel in the face of the unfamiliar and lay down new pathways paved with distinct social-emotional memories, making them more available in real life stressful situations.

Learning to do this kind of thinking and behaving with other people in a controlled, supportive environment trains the brain to manage anxiety, uncertainty and change with greater agility, ability and emotional stability. When anxiety, depression, grief or other psychological and emotional states are persistent, the self-protective stress response is easily triggered. Situations of uncertainty - real or perceived threats - or even just the challenges of making change activate the same fight/flight/freeze response as that evoked physical threats, and the brain goes into the same heightened state of tension. The focus of attention becomes more narrow, and activity in the pre-frontal cortext - which we need to be able to problem-solve, think things through and learn new information - is dramatically reduced. With less cognitive capacity, judgement is impaired and self-protective defenses go even higher. But research shows that we can learn to manage uncertainty and change without shifting into the stress response by strengthening the capacity to self-regulate and development of social-emotional skills. Much like a juggler learns to keep one ball in the air, then 2, then more and more complex objects, improv skills are a way to continually grow and strengthen skills for navigating increasingly ambiguity and complexity. The skills for dealing with with the unfamiliar provide a pathway for managing difficult life transitions and psychological struggles.
The social, emotional and cognitive engagement provided by improvisation experiences is an accessible way to shift out of the stress response in situations of uncertainty ignite the brain chemistry of reward and trigger the positive effects of face-to-face interaction. Properly designed creative interactions and games with clear structure but open-ended in terms of choice-making within that structure allow participants to shift out of the self-protective mode that is almost always operating in our social-emotional brain, especially in situations of uncertainty and possible threat as in a group of people we do not know. Improv redirects anxiety and self-protection to curiosity and creativity. We do this together, strengthening the depth of the shift through social support and a fun, possibly joyful experience shared with others. 


  • Increase group members' knowledge about one another;
  • Engage in a process that reduces the unfamiliar and enhances a sense of connection and commonality;
  • Focus the group on the principle of acceptance and support for one another;
Each participant shares a story about their name, including meaningful details they care to include. As information about each person is revealed to the group, members chime in about similarities that emerge. We look for things we have in common and what we are learning about each other through this exercise.

  • Enter into the “state of play” which is the brain’s instinctive learning state;
  • Learn a new, unfamiliar task that produces new neural pathways;
  • Experience the cognitive process that occurs a pattern is disrupted;
  • Experience the subtle discomfort involved with not knowing what will happen next;
  • Experience the opportunity to make a creative choice;
  • Share something unique about self in a creative way;
  • Build up the connections within a group and increase the sense of safety;
Layer 1: The groups stands in a circle. Leader uses left arm to make a sweeping movement toward the person to his/her right as if moving energy, while saying “whiz.” The next person does the same to his/her right and so on around the circle until a pattern is established. 
Layer 2: Continue as with layer 1, but now a player can respond with “Bop” which is the right arm with a fist and bent at the elbow facing the person who just passed the “whiz.” The right arm will be inside the circle for this move. “Bop” reverses the direction of “Whiz.” The action resumes, with everyone moving energy in a direction until someone “Bops” in which case the person who just passed it passes is back. This continues for a few rounds.
Layer 3: A player can yell “Freakout” which cues everybody to start screaming and running to a different place in the circle.
Layer 4: After a few rounds, the leader adds another choice of play. Participants can say a line from a favorite movie, in character. articipant to name their favorite movie or book, .e.g clicking heels together and saying “There’s no place like home” and everyone in the group repeats the phrase and movement. 

  • Practice a simple “yes…and” to practice a fundamental rule for connecting to the group;
  • Experience the dynamic giving and receiving of offers;
  • Get out of lateral, conventional thinking and shift gears out predicting and planning to active responding;
  • Increase spontaneity in the group;

Players stand in a circle. Player 1 makes a simple facial expression with movement and sound and directs it to the person on the right. The next player imitates this expression, movement and sound as closely as possible and “sends” it to the next person in the circle and so on. The objective is to take what is offered, accept it without judgement and add a little of “self” to it in passing it along. The players heighten what is offered but just slightly. Intensify the elements of it little by little. The dynamic in the group will lead to a heightening in different ways — greater volume and large movement leading to smaller movement and less volume with more intensity.
Debrief: What is it like to do movements and expressions without context? What do you observe happening with the group through giving and receiving simple, nonverbal information in this way? How is this kind of interaction 

  • Demonstrate the fundamental principle of “yes” that drives improvisation;
  • Experience the dynamic interaction empowered by simple interactions with others;
  • Practice giving and receiving cues among other group members;

Group members stand in a circle. Player #1 makes eye contact with another player, who responds by saying “yes,” then moves to take that player’s spot in the circle. The player who said “yes” must seek out eye contact with another player, wait for him/her to say “yes” then moves to take that person’s spot in the circle. The movement can start slowly and then pick up momentum as a rhythm is established.
Debrief: This kind of dynamic interaction, with no content and a simple structure, is a mirror of the flow state between partners on a team, group members giving and receiving to one another, or the give and take between therapist and client. The exercise is a way to enter into a heightened state of awareness and attentiveness to the action within the group, just as an improviser must do in a scene and a responsive partner does in real-life communications.

  • Practice looking at the same thing in different ways;
  • Experience the novelty of others’ take on the same things;
  • Find new uses for ordinary items;
  • Explore a concrete way to conceptualize reframing;
An ordinary household item is chosen, e.g. an umbrella, a flashlight, a water bottle. Player 1 uses the item in some way that transforms it into something, e.g. an umbrella becomes a police baton, a large microphone, opened up and reversed it becomes a bird bath. The idea is to let the imagination lead us to see the same item in some new way and relate to it that way. Try to do a few rounds with the same item, then find a new one. Using the same item in a novel way triggers the curiosity/reward system in the brain.

  • Explore ambiguity through a simple exercise;
  • Collaborate without pre-planning or predicting how an interaction will be perceived;
  • Demonstrate how dynamics in relationships can be examined through a creative exercise;

Players sit in a circle. Each person in turn shares specifics about some ordinary, mundane activity done in the course of an average day, starting with the words "I don't want to brag." For example, "I don't want to brag but I stood in line in a coffee shop for a minute, and then told the barista exactly what kind of coffee I wanted and then I paid for it." Or "I don't want to brag but I drove the speed limit all the way from my house to my office today." The idea is heighten the pride the person is expressing through physical, facial and vocal expression and at the same time describe the mundane details of the task. After everyone shares one of these, the group returns to each of them to explore what kind of person would actually take pride in this "accomplishment." If this person was in a relationship with an individual or group, who would be receiving this information and how might they respond? 
The line is repeated in just the same way as it was originally spoken, and a group member responds in character, e.g.
Player 1:  "I don't want to brag but I stood in line in a coffee shop for a minute, and then told the barista exactly what kind of coffee I wanted and then I paid for it." 
Player 2: After 10 years in prison its got to feel pretty good to ask for what you want. And I'm glad you paid for it because otherwise I'd have to violate your probation. 
Explore other possible relationships in which this exact sentence would be an appropriate thing to say, e.g.
Player 2: I told you my seminar would change your life! One day you're walking over hot coals, the next day you are speaking up and getting exactly what you want!


  • Explore different perspectives on the same idea;
  • Practice taking focus without planning or predicting what to do or say;
  • Practice thinking on one's feet under pressure;
  • Practice supporting a partner in an active creative process;
  • Explore ambiguity in an active creative process;
3 or 4 chairs are set up to be the park bench. Two players sit on the bench as if they are 2 people having a conversation. 

Round 1:
A topic is given to Player A - something a person can have a strong opinion about based on a group or leader suggestion, Some examples:
The best season of the year
The Oscars - are we for or against?

Player A decides on a point of view and then just freely shares with Player B about that point of view, making as strong a case as possible. Player B engages by listening. After a few minutes of this monologue the players switch sides of the bench and return to their conversation. Player A again does a monologue, this time take the exact opposite view and making a case for this different perspective. Player B supports and engages by listening.

Round 2: 
2 players sit on the bench and this time Player A is delivering some news to Player B in a monologue. Player B listens without comment. The news is assigned by the trainer, e.g.
You are no longer going to celebrate birthdays
You are going back to school
You have changed your name
You are deleting all your social media accounts
You are going on a meditation retreat

Player A improvises a monologue based on the suggestion, making a case for why this decision has been made. Player B listens. Then Player B does a monologue in response, and this monologue will reveal the relationship between the players.
Player A: I'm no longer celebrating birthdays. Its just a waste of resources and I don't believe in it etc.
Player B: I hope you're still going to come to my 13th birthday Mom. I'm becoming a teen. I love birthdays...etc.

This exercise is a heightened, performatory experience of what happens in real life when we co-create dynamic interactions and discover moments with other people. To do the exercise both players must allow inspiration to rise up and to follow it. The capacity to listen closely and support another person while "onstage" in front of the group strengthens creative confidence, the ability to self-regulate and skills for navigating uncertainty in real-life scenarios. 

Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, CGP, CPAI is a trainer/consultant and writer/performer. She is host/creator of (mostly) TRUE THINGS, a game wrapped in a storytelling show that features true stories, with a twist, told by people from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds and co-creator of MASHUP-Stories Into Songs.


  1. I think events like this really help to improve the overall status of the society. I think lots of people are participated in the GiveLocalAmerica program, an online giving and crowd funding platform. Please update more details regarding this program.jogos friv gratis 2019
    Jogos 2019
    jogos friv

  2. You completely match our expectation and the variety of our information. People can also read the health articles from link source.

  3. I recently found many useful information in your website especially this blog page. Among the lots of comments on your articles. Thanks for sharing. Brainfort supplement

  4. If you are finding for psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy than let’s have a look at Transactional analysis? It is analysis is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the patient as a basis for understanding behavior. In it, the patient is taught to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems. The benefits of analysis can increase self-awareness, also promote personal reflection.

  5. Working from home may have escalated some mental health issues due to the lack of social interaction and self-isolation. Additionally, some people may not have a conducive home to work in or in a toxic work environment and are faced with daily emotional triggers, which might further aggravate their mental health problems caused by stress. Read:

  6. Mental Health Benefits Of Improvisation Training are designed in the same way that improvisation warm-ups work for performers. For more information CLICK HERE

  7. Specific interval training becomes highly effective without the natural variability of the terrain of outside. Know which accessories will be perfect for you from

  8. i have got some information from this blog. that is very nice achievement for me. i am waiting

    for his next update. it is very helpful blog for every healthy people. for more update click

    yoga teacher training Hong Kong

  9. I am happy to find your way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the dmt

  10. I like this article. I was searching on the search engine and found your blog. I get more knowledge and I read a lot of interesting content here. keep doing it. depression therapy in bakersfield ca

  11. Very valuable information, it's not like all the blogs that we find here, congratulations, I was looking for something like this and found it here. Thank you for sharing this blog here. Anxiety Treatment Bakersfield

  12. This article's content is really unique and amazing. This article really helpful and explained very well. So I am really thankful to you for sharing keep it up..


  13. Nice blog, I will keep visiting this blog very often. how to do keto diet

  14. I found this blog informative or very useful for me. I suggest everyone, once you should go through this.

    एचआईवी लक्षण दाने

  15. While choosing an online casino to play with, it merits researching their favored banking strategies. Some will offer players better rewards or lower withdrawal expenses for certain kinds, like cryptographic money. Other banking strategies, for example, bank move or check withdrawals, can take longer and result in higher withdrawal expenses from online casinos. Pick an online casino that offers the best arrangement for you and your winnings. If you want to know more, Please check out here - agen bola88

  16. Thanks for the super site its really helps and its works 100% supplements
    it change my life to 100% complet Vitamins Online Shops

  17. Wow, cool post. I'd like to write like this too - taking time and real hard work to make a great article... but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. Pitted dates supplier in Czech

  18. This is my first time visit to your blog and I am very interested in the articles that you serve. Provide enough knowledge for me. Thank you for sharing useful and don't forget, keep sharing useful info: Medical cannabis

  19. Emotional and mental health is important because it's a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviors and emotions. Being healthy emotionally can promote productivity and effectiveness in activities like work, school or caregiving. online therapy

  20. EMDR therapy I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good post.

  21. It's really very useful to me. Thanks for sharing with us.
    Best Aviation Academy in Chennai

  22. Thank you for sharing the information, heyy is among the best online counselling and therapy in India where you can vent out your feelings and emotions.

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. This is a very useful and well-written blog. I also believe that gaming and exercise can reduce stress but some mental health issues can be overcome through proper guidelines/meditation. those who have some serious health issues should consult a therapist who is providing good Mental Health Services California which are helpful for the patient and through their help the person can easily overcome their mental issue.

  25. Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. Vein Treatment

  26. Similarly, although it may feel exciting to not have to get out of your pyjamas for the foreseeable, your mind will thank you if you look after your body. Try to eat well and eat regularly to keep your body fuelled (you may need to hide your biscuits and snacks), and get a good amount of sleep at night (put down that TV remote). Read: looking after your mental health whilst working from home.

  27. After reading the above posts, I got some useful knowledge which is really informative. Thanks for posting it.Hypnotherapy Plymouth

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Presents are exchanged (the host additionally has to offer go back offers to his or her visitors as a token of gratitude for his or her presence), video games are played, prizes are gained and meals is served. The primary assembly time table for a party is the host's birthday.AA Meetings

  30. I admire this article for the well-researched content and excellent wording. I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading. I am impressed with your work and skill. Thank you so much.Heathrow Airport Taxi Keep Site Service Sharing

  31. You have a genuine capacity to compose a substance that is useful for us. You have shared an amazing post about Couple Therapy Singapore....Much obliged to you for your endeavors in sharing such information with us.

  32. You have a genuine capacity to compose a substance that is useful for us. You have shared an amazing post about abbotsford counselling services.Much obliged to you for your endeavors in sharing such information with us.

  33. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon. Big thanks for the useful info. Relationship counselling vancouver

  34. Mental health problems are increasing now a days you can visit Home care services in Canada that helps you to get cure from mental health problems.

  35. You have provided valuable data for us. It is great and informative for everyone. Read more info about Caring For Parents Home Care in Fairfield Keep posting always. I am very thankful to you.

  36. This blog will help to get more ideas. This is very helpful for Software Testing learners. Thank you
    for sharing this wonderful site. If someone wants to know about Software QA services this is the
    right place for
    you yoga teacher training hk

  37. The post was really interesting and amazing. You shared this great article with us, which is much appreciated. Your writing is excellent. Corporate Team Building Activities | Best Team Building Activities | Virtual Team Building Activities | Best Corporate Team Building Activities | Corporate Team Outing Places

  38. Thanks for sharing this. Mental health has a basic role in the perfect life a person. So maintaing the mental health good is the top priority of a persons. As a black therapist California I work on the mental health of the person and try best to overcome their issues so that they can make their life happy and easy.

  39. I really thank you for the valuable info on this great subject and look forward to more great posts. Thanks a lot for enjoying this beauty article with me. I am appreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great article. Good luck to the author! All the best! cms 1500 form fillable software

  40. If you are searching for hot tubs for sale, it is ideal way to find the best deal and the lowest price possible, but without sacrificing the quality as well. Even if you are not yet ready to purchase one, you can keep this information for reference if you will be purchasing later on.

  41. Buy Crystal Meth Online in the USA. Crystal mеth iѕ the common name fоr сrуѕtаl methamphetamine, a ѕtrоng аnd highly addictive drug that affects the central nеrvоuѕ ѕуѕtеm.
    Meth for sale, buy meth online, buy crystal meth online, buy methamphetamine online, crystal meth online, buy crystal meth, order meth online

  42. The majority of the video games provided by traditional casinos are additionally out there in on-line casinos, along with a few of} additions. Customer loyalty gold is solely unbelievable, it offers gamers tons of opportunities to win more by constant gaming and continuing to play their favourite video games on the site, and incomes factors. As an experienced player, be sure to|make certain to|remember to} verify on provides and promotions. Undoubtedly, the net on line casino web site you choose determines 카지노 사이트 the experience you get and the video games you will play sooner or later.

  43. Comedy improv itself has benefits since it fosters connections, acceptance, and communication in a safe atmosphere. Counselors might advise clients who are having problems with relationships, self-esteem, confidence, or social anxiety to enroll in a basic improv class, according to Baum. Therapeutic improv varies from regular improv in two ways: first, it customizes the improv games to target a particular mental health need or group, and second, it gives players the chance to process and use the skills they acquire in the games in their own life.

    smithfield speech therapy

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. Excellent job, this is great information which is shared by you. This info is meaningful and factual for us to increase our knowledge about it. So please always keep sharing this type of information. I would also like to request the kitamine therapy from Viva Infusions in the USA.You may get the greatest Ketamine Treatments for all of your lifestyle needs from Viva infusions. and  also provide remedies for a lot of other illnesses, like sadness and anxiety.


Post a Comment

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.  by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP       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 crea

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, j ust 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 profe

Stories To Light Up The Night: An Interview With International Teacher/Trainer, Storyteller and Author Susan Perrow

        "It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you." Ben Okri, Birds of Heaven Stories can change your life and when they do you almost never see it coming. The way a story gets into our consciousness is often subtle and suprising. Something about it sticks. And if we allow the story to do its work it sticks exactly where we need it. This is true of both receiving a story and making one. The skills required to weave together character, conflict and color to create a vivid and imagination-grabbing tale that is also transformative takes time, training and experience to develop. It helps to be familiar with the impact of stories on our own inner life, recovery and growth. It helps also to have an inspiring, gifted teacher to guide the process.        Such was my experience in April at a full-day wo