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"Embracing the unexpected" - Improvisation and Systemic Therapy

Abstract

This presentation will explore ideas on how we can actively develop a position where the unexpected and unplanned for become resources to weave into therapy. It reviews the role of improvisational responsiveness and offers ideas from theatrical improvisation training to enhance collaborative interactions and creative possibilities.
Dr. Matt Selman
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust
United Kingdom
IFTA 2016 World Family Therapy Congress
Kona Hawaii
¡Background
§Juggler, Improv Theatre
¡All therapists
§work with the unexpected
§develop responsiveness
¡Can we actively develop this?
¡Dictionary Definition:
§1:to compose, recite, play, or sing
extemporaneously
§2:to make, invent, or arrange offhand
§3:to make or fabricate out of what is
conveniently on hand
¡And the definitions don’t always reflect the
preparation when in fact…
¡There is one paramount law of improvisation,
which musicians know well. The stronger one’s
technique, knowledge of the ground material,
and alternative possibilities of developments,
the richer will be the improvisation.
Improvisation always demands more and
harder work from the actor than playing
strictly within the limits of a scripted
situation.” Barker (2010) p.90.
Collaborative therapy has several distinctive
features that, combined, make it more of an
open-ended therapy and allow a more
improvisational therapist style.” (2007, p.54)
Harlene Anderson
Michael White
“I am improvisational in my
therapeutic conversations… I don’t
see any contradiction between
spontaneity and rigor in therapeutic
practice, or between improvisation
and the meticulous attention to the
development of therapeutic skills.“
Experiential Therapy Carl Whitaker
Theory gets in
the way
Bradford Keeney Improvisational Therapy
“Do what you want with any
therapeutic model, school, or
orientation -utilize it, ignore it, kick
it, invert it, reverse it, distort it,
misunderstand it, play with it.”
(Keeney, 1990)
In expanding the potentials of action oriented
therapy much would be gained by collaborating
with specialists in improvisation training. …In a
world of complex relationships and mercurial
fluctuations in meaning, we must increasingly
rely on improvisation for effective co-action.
Gergen, 2009, pp.308-309.
¡Jazz gives us a great metaphor
§It’s more than making it up
§You need the underlying k nowledge
§Structure underlines practice (chords etc)
§It often takes MORE practice to do well
BUT
Learning from it?
¡Improvisational theatre
§Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, Del Close
§Co-create scenes and entire plays
§Relational, creative, and there’s training
¡Explored
-Metaphor for therapist as artist (Keeney, 1990)
-Techniques used in family therapy -(Wiener,
1995; Ruby & Ruby, 2009)
-Group work for families going through divorce
(Bava,2003)
-Relating to systemic theory (Gale, 2004 ; Selman,
2016 )
¡Playfulness
§Using games
§Outside of Approval/Disapproval, Success/Failure
¡Be obvious and be average
¡Building narrative together (co-construction)
¡Make the other look good
¡Embrace failure
§Inevitable
§Do it with a smile
¡Accept and build
§Offers can be anything
§We habitually block
§Accept and build
§Saying “Yes and…”
“There are people who prefer to say ‘Yes’ and
there are people who prefer to say ‘No’. Those
who say ‘Yes’ are rewarded by the adventures
they have, and those who say ‘No’ are rewarded
by the safety they attain.”
Keith Johnstone, 1981 p. 92
¡Any questions or comments?
Anderson, H. (2007). The heart and spirit of collaborative therapy: The
philosophical stance “A way of being ” in rel atio nshi p an d co nver sati on. In
Harlene Anderson & Diane Gehart (Eds.) Collaborative Therapy: Relationships and
conversations that make a difference. New York: Routledge.
Barker, C. (2010) Theatre Games: A new approach to drama training. London:
Methuen.
Bava, S. (2003)The Show Must Go On: Families Growing Through Divorce: Training
Guide for Facilitators. Houston, Texas: Houston Galveston Institute.
Gale, J. (2004). Experiencing relational thinking. Context, 75: 10-12.
Gergen, K. (2009). Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community. New York:
Oxford Press.
Johnstone, K. (1981) Impro: Improvisation and the theatre. London:
Metheun.
Keeney, B.P. (1990) Improvisational Therapy: A practical guide for
creative clinical strategies. New York: Guilford Press.
Ruby, J.R. & Ruby, N.C. (2009) Improvisational Acting Exercises and
Their Potential Use in Family Counselling, Journal of Creativity in
Mental Health, 4(2),152-160.
Spolin, V. (1999). Improvisation for Theater (Third Ed.). Evanston:
Northwestern University Press.
Wiener, D. (1995) Rehearsals for Growth: Theater improvisation for
psychotherapists. New York: Norton.
Dr Matt Selman
Northumberland Community Learning Disability Service
Psychological Services
St. George’s Park
Morpeth
Northumberland
NE61 2NU
Tel: +44(0) 1670 502 602
Fax: +44(0) 1670 502 603
Email: matthew_selman@yahoo.com
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Expressive therapy interventions are a useful resource for counselors working with a wide range of presenting issues. This article illustrates a series of improvisational acting exercises that can be used within a family counseling context. Clear directions for specific exercises are provided, along with illustrative case examples.
Article
Utilizing exercises from improvisational theater, Rehearsals for Growth is a play-inducing, creativity-releasing, growth-enhancing method that can be employed within a broad range of psychotherapies. It offers personal growth and renewal for the therapist as well as techniques that help clients discover and experiment with different aspects of themselves and their relationships. [This book] teaches the basic principles of improvisation (accepting offers, paying attention to others, advancing the action, supporting others) through the use of exercises and games that will enable players—therapists, clients, all others—to experience greater freedom of expression and a power based on cooperation, imagination, and insight. The book contains detailed descriptions and instruction for use of over 150 variations of games and exercises that are applicable to group, couples, family, and individual therapy; 14 case examples and numerous clinical vignettes; and a discussion of how Rehearsals for Growth compares to other therapeutic approaches and how its techniques can be integrated with several kinds of therapies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The Show Must Go On: Families Growing Through Divorce: Training Guide for Facilitators
  • S Bava
Bava, S. (2003)The Show Must Go On: Families Growing Through Divorce: Training Guide for Facilitators. Houston, Texas: Houston Galveston Institute.
Experiencing relational thinking
  • J Gale
Gale, J. (2004). Experiencing relational thinking. Context, 75: 10-12.
Improvisational Therapy: A practical guide for creative clinical strategies
  • B P Keeney
Keeney, B.P. (1990) Improvisational Therapy: A practical guide for creative clinical strategies. New York: Guilford Press.
Improvisation for Theater (Third Ed
  • V Spolin
Spolin, V. (1999). Improvisation for Theater (Third Ed.). Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Theatre Games: A new approach to drama training
  • C Barker
Barker, C. (2010) Theatre Games: A new approach to drama training. London: Methuen.