Anxiety Management

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One effective tool for managing anxiety is practicing the art of improvisation. More and more research is showing that incorporating improv into someone’s therapeutic treatment plan can help alleviate anxiety and depression.

The Problem with Anxiety  

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that people with anxiety are between three and five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric complications. Though anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., less than 40% of those struggling receive treatment. Imagine how unacceptable this statistic would be if it applied to individuals struggling with cancer or heart disease! Instead of trending towards improvement, TIME has exposed that anxiety rates are rising among U.S. adults. Fortunately, however, awareness about anxiety-related health issues is growing and effective treatments are being explored. 

Improv as a Tool for Anxiety Management 

One effective tool for managing anxiety is practicing the art of improvisation. More and more research is showing that incorporating improv into someone’s therapeutic treatment plan can help alleviate anxiety and depression. 

Mark Pfeffer is a psychotherapist and the director of the Panic Anxiety Recovery Center in Chicago. In 2011, he launched a class called “Improv for Anxiety” that helps participants embrace uncertainty and relieve various social fears. In his article, “Comedic Improv Therapy for the Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder”, he explores four critical therapeutic elements that improv can offer someone: 

  1. Group Cohesion 
  2. Play
  3. Exposure 
  4. Humor  

Why Improv Helps 

Along with a growing number of trained therapists, Mark believes that improvisation can shed light on certain fears in the safe context of group play and help people step beyond their anxiety. Two major therapeutic benefits of improv for treating anxiety are exposure and unconditional positive regard. Participants can expose themselves in the safety of group play to themes or ideas or situations that normally give them anxiety. By playful risk-taking, individuals can step beyond embarrassment and shame and fear. 

The Yes And mantra of improv promotes unconditional acceptance of someone’s presence and their ideas and involvement in a scene. This unconditional positive regard encourages people to take healthy risks and to accept the unknown within a scene in a safe context. The openness and freedom of play is critical to alleviating the anxiety that people experience. 

Community and Connection 

Belonging to an improv group or attending a group class can help facilitate connection and belonging. A great resource for dealing with anxiety is to form connections with others who may also experience social fear, depression, or anxiety. Arranging meet-ups with a small group and being intentional about connecting with others who may suffer from anxiety can help relieve the isolation that often accompanies anxiety-related disorders. Finding or forming an improv group can be a great way to find community and address anxiety in a safe, fun, and effective manner. 

Christiana Frank
Consultant / Trainer / Program Developer / Speaker- International.

Christiana Frank is a consultant, speaker, coach, and program developer. For over 21 years, she has been helping corporate teams, educational institutions, and mental health facilities grow their organization, connect with their clients, and engage the world at large. Christiana’s passion is to meet her clients’ needs and embed her expertise into their existing methodologies, thereby creating stronger, healthier systems. Along with her team of experts, Christiana ensures the growth and success of every client by embracing all perspectives and cultural differences. For a free consult, or to bring Christiana and her team to you, please email [email protected]


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