Some people bring in an agenda of what they want to talk about in session and try very hard to make sure everything gets addressed within that time. This can be helpful, but what if only one of those items gets addressed in great depth, or if you end up entirely off-topic? That’s why I always say the best sessions are when you have no idea what you’re going to talk about. This is when therapy can start to resemble improv.
All therapists are skilled improv actors to some degree because they work with whatever is being presented to them and help guide it towards the goal that the client is working on. And since improv is always based on two people bouncing ideas off of each other, the therapist invites the client to become this partner. No, therapy isn’t a comedy, despite some funny moments here and there, but it is definitely a venue for which improv can be helpful. This is why the four rules of improv, shared by actress Tina Fey, show that when applied to therapy can help someone make positive changes in their life.
Rule number one is to agree. Obviously, a client won’t agree with everything that their therapist is saying, but considering what your therapist has said reminds you to respect what they have created and to have an open mind. It forces you to step outside your comfort zone and sit in a whole other perspective you might not have ever considered.
Rule number two is to not only to agree but also add something of your own. If your therapist says something that you start to consider, your role is to then offer something that would make it work. For example, if your therapist suggests a specific relaxation technique it then becomes your job to find out how to make that work for you. When would you do it? Where would you do it? If it’s not effective, what’s something else you could try? The point is to roll with it instead of being immediately against it.
Rule number three is to make a statement or have confidence. This is especially helpful when a client is trying to express something. I always joke around and say that if I waited for my brain and mouth to connect that I would never speak. Sometimes you have to start saying something, knowing what it is that you want to say but without knowing exactly how you’re going to say it yet. Sometimes it takes a while for your brain to catch up, but when you don’t get stuck in your head you end up speaking from the truest of places. Then that gives your therapist something to work with.
Rule number four is there are no mistakes only opportunities. Sometimes because you’ve said something the wrong way it leads to a whole other discussion, in which something amazing comes out. So many of the world’s greatest discoveries have been an accident and that can be the case in a therapy session as well. However, if you’re too worried about what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, that wonderful, life-changing, aha-moment, won’t have the chance to happen!
If you’re considering stepping on stage for the improvisational skit that is therapy, please call Specialized Therapy Associates (STA) at (201) 488-6678, to start your opening act.