Improv

Gifted Development Through Improv

The masks we adopt to protect our sensitive, intense, longing gifted selves can be so well practiced that we don’t even know we’re wearing them. When I stumbled into Improv, I found a path to gifted development that leads with laughter and play. Play requires safety and trust, and it has no goal other than itself. In Improv, we create a container that allows you to take your inner child out for ice cream.

Improv has proven, again and again, that playing in a room of other outliers changes lives. In addition to the rich ‘afterparty’ discussion, the pure trustbuilding of Improv is a unique and fun way to heal old wounds.

Read below to learn more about how Improv changes gifted lives.

IMPROV FOR 2E+ TEENS

Register Below! Once we get to ten people signed up, you’ll get an email from me to let you know. We will decide day/time once the group is filled. I am also available to meet with your students or other teen groups in-person or virtually. Please let me know what you’re looking for. I’ll help Yes, And it into existence.

Your teen walks through life with intensities – intellectual, sensual, physical, creative, emotional, existential. Some experience hyperfocus and can feel hyperscattered. They feel different from the neuromajority, and they’ve camouflaged to ‘fit in’. They want to feel connected to people, relax and laugh with them. They can be burdened with perfectionism and anxiety, and they love it when there is ease and flow. They’re complex, and they like complexity. 

Read about Improv for 2e+ Teens, what it’s like, and why it makes lives better at my newest blog post on the subject!

Improv for 2e+ Teens is a place where your teens can be themselves in all their facets. They’ll laugh and get to use all of their strengths. They’ll laugh some more and feel accepted no matter what happens. They’ll come to greater self-acceptance and self-trust. They will have the experience of shedding the masks they’ve worn.

Cost for the entire six week series is $275 per participant. For BIPOC participants who choose it, the Equity Rate is $220. Email me at gordon@gordonsmithasheville with the subject line “Equity Rate”, and I’ll send that link.

Improv is built on two primary principles: Yes, And & Got Your Back. Yes, And means that whatever your teen brings will be received and built upon. Got Your Back means that the whole group will support each other to keep things flowing no matter what happens. There are no mistakes in Improv. We use everything. It’s not about trying to be funny. It’s about allowing the next thing to fall out of your mouth, and that’s what makes the funny! (More about What Improv Is and How It Helps is below.)

Gordon Smith of Gifted and Growing, and Lisa Bany, Chief Improv Officer of Improv Therapy Group have collaborated to develop an experience focused on the specific needs of Twice-Exceptional Teens. Gifted? Yup. Spectrum? Awesome. Characteristics of ADHD? Fantastic. Assortment of learning differences? Bring it. Your neurodivergences are amazing, and we want you to come out and play. 

This class offers an six-week experience in which we come together (on zoom) with 2e+ peers to explore, experiment, and play. Through Improv games and exercises we cultivate openness & playfulness, relaxation & self-care, emotional intelligence & empathy, and creative storytelling & expression.

Improv, what it is and how it helps

Improv can be defined “as the form of theatre, often comedy, in which most or all of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted: created spontaneously by the performers.” Through a series of structured scenarios, participants contribute spontaneously. Improv operates under two central principles: “Yes, and” and “Got your back”. ‘Yes, and’ means that we accept whatever our scene partners are offering, and then build upon it. This principle creates a culture of acceptance, affirmation, and the impossibility of making mistakes. ‘Got your back’ means that your scene partners and ensemble are going to support you no matter what happens. This principle creates a culture that facilitates risk-taking, letting go of perfectionism, and trusting others.

Our first run of I42e+Teens was a raucous success. These teens found spontaneity, community, increased self-trust and self-confidence. And they LAUGHED! I’ve also been offering an Improv for Gifted Adults series’ for about two years. Most of the participants identified as 2e or 2e+, and we have seen remarkable results. In addition to folks coming back again and again, they have reported marked increases in self-trust, self-acceptance, cognitive flexibility, tolerance of uncertainty, social connectedness, and fun in their lives. They have also reported decreased anxiety, worry, and perfectionism. The strength of the community has led to friendships outside of the Improv structure, an ongoing Facebook community of current and past participants, and plans for future in-person gatherings to improvise and nurture these relationships.

Improv, the research

There is a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and we already have some research we can use. Here are some key takeaways from various studies:

Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression

Conclusion: “The results of this study indicate that a brief intervention based on improv exercises may provide a strong and efficient treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.”

Social Competence Intervention Program (SCIP): A pilot study of a creative drama program for youth with social difficulties

“The treatment group showed significant improvement in key domains of observed social behavior in a natural setting compared to the clinical control group. Parents and children in the SCIP condition reported multiple positive changes in social functioning.”

“Yes, and”: Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy

“Improv training, in particular, appears to be a powerful and relatively accessible way of incorporating a yes, and approach into daily life.”

Improvisational Theater Games as an Intervention for Anxiety, Depression and Perfectionism – Capstone Paper, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Walter Watson Swift, April 18, 2017

“It is feasible to develop, conduct, and evaluate an improv intervention in the clinical treatment of anxiety and depression. Moreover, because improv directly harnesses uncertainty, it may be particularly useful with patients who live with high levels of Intolerance of Uncertainty.”

There are more studies available, and I hope this sampling provides you a general understanding that Improv based interventions are demonstrating significant improvements for its participants.

The Instructors

Lisa Bany is Chief Improv Officer at Improv Therapy Group. Lisa is also an instructor, director and coach at The Second City. She has authored numerous books, including On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids, which was awarded the Parent’s Choice Approval Seal for Excellence in Education, has been translated into German and Korean, and is sold around the world. She started teaching at The Second City in the early nineties and has directed and taught throughout the Chicagoland area. Lisa was one of the first teachers in the Second City Wellness Program where she has taught Improv for Anxiety, Improv for Parkinson’s Patients and their Caregivers, and Improv for the Autism Spectrum.

A graduate of Columbia College, Lisa has taught improv with The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Arlyn School for teens with Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has also created and directed performing arts summer camp programs with Play On, Northlight Theatre, Light Opera Works and the JCCs of Chicago.

Gordon Smith is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Coach, who has been practicing since 2000. Gordon’s practice is composed of gifted and 2e+ adolescents and adults in locations around the world. He has presented at numerous conferences, including being a presenter at the 2020, 2021, and 2022 SENG Annual Conferences. Gordon has been teaching Improv since 2021 and hopes to expand the reach of Improv to as many gifted people as possible.

Improv for Twice-Exceptional Teens, format, structure, age range, technical needs, cost, and timeline

Improv for 2e Teens is an six week experience on Zoom, conducted once weekly. In our experience, we’ve found that it takes up to six weeks for a group to reach their maximum cohesion. Successive group offerings, with new games and modules may be offered at the conclusion of the series.

Each session lasts 75 minutes and is composed of several different games each week – a warm-up, an ‘energy pass’, and several games in large and small groups. Each week has a theme, within which new games are played. Below is an example of the weekly themes:

● YES, AND: Giving and receiving acceptance. Actively collaborating and supporting.

● RELEASE CONTROL: Being present and a part of things as they unfold.

● EMBRACE MISTAKES: Imperfection is the nature of things. We can work with it all.

● PERSPECTIVES: Shifting perspective and understanding other points of view.

● PLAY WITH EMOTIONS: Accommodate and work with emotions of all kinds.

● IDENTITY AND STORY: Our stories about ourselves are ours to write.

● LEAN IN TO TENSION: Make space for discomfort.

● RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Trust yourself and each other enough to be in the moment.

Modules can be adapted from week to week and even within sessions depending on the needs of the group. One of the strengths of this modality is its inherent flexibility. Participants aged 13-17 are invited to attend. Each participant will need a good internet connection, a video and audio enabled device that will allow them to see all participants, and a quiet, private space from which to attend. Minimum group size is six participants and maximum is twelve. Cost for the entire six week series is $275 per participant.

IMPROV FOR GIFTED ADULTS

Once we get to ten people signed up, you’ll get an email from me to let you know. We will decide day/time once the group is filled. I am also available to meet with you and/or your organizations in-person or virtually. Please let me know what you’re looking for. I’ll help Yes, And it into existence.

  • Beginners/First Timers are 12pm – 1:15pm Eastern.
  • Returning/Advanced are 2pm – 3:15pm.

$275 for the whole series. $220 Equity Rate for BIPOC participants who choose it.

I am also open to co-creating any sort of gifted adult improv group you have in mind. Just reach out, and let’s play with the possibilities.

You walk through life with intensities – intellectual, sensual, physical, creative, emotional, existential. You experience hyperfocus and can feel hyperscattered. You feel different from the neuromajority, and you’ve camouflaged to ‘fit in’. You want to feel connected to people, relax and laugh with them. You can be burdened with perfectionism and anxiety, and you love it when there is ease and flow. You’re complex, and you like complexity. 

Improv for Gifted Adults is a place where you can be yourself in all your facets. You’ll laugh and get to use all of your strengths. You’ll laugh some more and feel accepted no matter what happens. You’ll come to greater self-acceptance and self-trust. You will have the experience of shedding the masks you’ve worn.

Cost for the entire six week series is $275 per participant. For BIPOC participants who choose it, the Equity Rate is $220. Email me at gordon@gordonsmithasheville with the subject line “Equity Rate”, and I’ll send that link.

Improv is built on two primary principles: Yes, And & Got Your Back. Yes, And means that whatever your teen brings will be received and built upon. Got Your Back means that the whole group will support each other to keep things flowing no matter what happens. There are no mistakes in Improv. We use everything. It’s not about trying to be funny. It’s about allowing the next thing to fall out of your mouth, and that’s what makes the funny! (More about What Improv Is and How It Helps is below.)

Gordon Smith of Gifted and Growing, and Lisa Bany, Chief Improv Officer of Improv Therapy Group have collaborated to develop an experience focused on the specific needs of Twice-Exceptional Teens. Gifted? Yup. Spectrum? Awesome. Characteristics of ADHD? Fantastic. Assortment of learning differences? Bring it. Your neurodivergences are amazing, and we want you to come out and play. 

This class offers an six-week experience in which we come together (on zoom) with 2e+ peers to explore, experiment, and play. Through Improv games and exercises we cultivate openness & playfulness, relaxation & self-care, emotional intelligence & empathy, and creative storytelling & expression.

Improv, what it is and how it helps

Improv can be defined “as the form of theatre, often comedy, in which most or all of what is performed is unplanned or unscripted: created spontaneously by the performers.” Through a series of structured scenarios, participants contribute spontaneously. Improv operates under two central principles: “Yes, and” and “Got your back”. ‘Yes, and’ means that we accept whatever our scene partners are offering, and then build upon it. This principle creates a culture of acceptance, affirmation, and the impossibility of making mistakes. ‘Got your back’ means that your scene partners and ensemble are going to support you no matter what happens. This principle creates a culture that facilitates risk-taking, letting go of perfectionism, and trusting others.

I’ve been offering an Improv for Gifted Adults series for about two years. Most of the participants identified as 2e or 2e+, and we have seen remarkable results. In addition to folks coming back again and again, they have reported marked increases in self-trust, self-acceptance, cognitive flexibility, tolerance of uncertainty, social connectedness, and fun in their lives. They have also reported decreased anxiety, worry, and perfectionism. The strength of the community has led to friendships outside of the Improv structure, an ongoing Facebook community of current and past participants, and plans for future in-person gatherings to improvise and nurture these relationships.

Improv, the research

There is a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and we already have some research we can use. Here are some key takeaways from various studies:

Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression

Conclusion: “The results of this study indicate that a brief intervention based on improv exercises may provide a strong and efficient treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.”

Social Competence Intervention Program (SCIP): A pilot study of a creative drama program for youth with social difficulties

“The treatment group showed significant improvement in key domains of observed social behavior in a natural setting compared to the clinical control group. Parents and children in the SCIP condition reported multiple positive changes in social functioning.”

“Yes, and”: Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy

“Improv training, in particular, appears to be a powerful and relatively accessible way of incorporating a yes, and approach into daily life.”

Improvisational Theater Games as an Intervention for Anxiety, Depression and Perfectionism – Capstone Paper, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Walter Watson Swift, April 18, 2017

“It is feasible to develop, conduct, and evaluate an improv intervention in the clinical treatment of anxiety and depression. Moreover, because improv directly harnesses uncertainty, it may be particularly useful with patients who live with high levels of Intolerance of Uncertainty.”

There are more studies available, and I hope this sampling provides you a general understanding that Improv based interventions are demonstrating significant improvements for its participants.

The Instructors

Lisa Bany is Chief Improv Officer at Improv Therapy Group. Lisa is also an instructor, director and coach at The Second City. She has authored numerous books, including On Stage: Theatre Games and Activities for Kids, which was awarded the Parent’s Choice Approval Seal for Excellence in Education, has been translated into German and Korean, and is sold around the world. She started teaching at The Second City in the early nineties and has directed and taught throughout the Chicagoland area. Lisa was one of the first teachers in the Second City Wellness Program where she has taught Improv for Anxiety, Improv for Parkinson’s Patients and their Caregivers, and Improv for the Autism Spectrum.

A graduate of Columbia College, Lisa has taught improv with The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Arlyn School for teens with Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. She has also created and directed performing arts summer camp programs with Play On, Northlight Theatre, Light Opera Works and the JCCs of Chicago.

Gordon Smith is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Coach, who has been practicing since 2000. Gordon’s practice is composed of gifted and 2e+ adolescents and adults in locations around the world. He has presented at numerous conferences, including being a presenter at the 2020, 2021, and 2022 SENG Annual Conferences. Gordon has been teaching Improv since 2021 and hopes to expand the reach of Improv to as many gifted people as possible.

Improv for Gifted Adults, format, structure, age range, technical needs, cost, and timeline

Improv for 2e Teens is an six week experience on Zoom, conducted once weekly. In our experience, we’ve found that it takes up to six weeks for a group to reach their maximum cohesion. Successive group offerings, with new games and modules may be offered at the conclusion of the series.

Each session lasts 75 minutes and is composed of several different games each week – a warm-up, an ‘energy pass’, and several games in large and small groups. Each week has a theme, within which new games are played. Below is an example of the weekly themes:

● YES, AND: Giving and receiving acceptance. Actively collaborating and supporting.

● RELEASE CONTROL: Being present and a part of things as they unfold.

● EMBRACE MISTAKES: Imperfection is the nature of things. We can work with it all.

● PERSPECTIVES: Shifting perspective and understanding other points of view.

● PLAY WITH EMOTIONS: Accommodate and work with emotions of all kinds.

● IDENTITY AND STORY: Our stories about ourselves are ours to write.

● LEAN IN TO TENSION: Make space for discomfort.

● RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Trust yourself and each other enough to be in the moment.

Modules can be adapted from week to week and even within sessions depending on the needs of the group. One of the strengths of this modality is its inherent flexibility. Participants ages 18 and up are invited to attend. Each participant will need a good internet connection, a video and audio enabled device that will allow them to see all participants, and a quiet, private space from which to attend. Minimum group size is six participants and maximum is twelve. Cost for the entire six week series is $275 per participant.

IMPROV FOR FAMILIES

Imagine your family trusting each other more. Cooperating more. Accepting and supporting each other more. Laughing together. Playing instead of arguing. Exchanging ideas rather than withdrawing or competing. Doing something together that everyone can agree is just plain fun. 

Back in 2021, a family reached out to me. They’d spent a year at the edge of disaster as a member of the family battled a severe illness. Being in and out of hospitals, struggling through sleepless nights, and constant worry wrung them all out. The person recovered, and they found themselves unsure of how to become a happy, functioning family again now that the crises had passed.

We engaged in four sessions of improv together. They put my Zoomface on a wall of the living room as they all gathered in their living room. We played and laughed our way through game after game. So. Much. Laughter. They found themselves learning to play again. They started Yes, and’ing each other outside of sessions and creating their own games to play. They integrated the magic of improv into their lives and into their family dynamic.

If you’ve been through difficult times and are looking for ways to reset your family culture, improv is a fun, connecting way to do it. It’s not counseling. It’s not coaching. It’s play, and it’s hilarious. It helps break families out of feeling stuck in conflict, worn-out roles, and a seemingly bottomless longing for acceptance and connection. It’s a great complement to conventional therapeutic processes.

You can all show up and be yourselves in all your facets. You’ll laugh and get to use all of your strengths. You’ll laugh some more and feel accepted no matter what happens. You’ll come to greater acceptance and trust in yourself and each other. 

Improv is built on two primary principles: Yes, And & Got Your Back. Yes, And means that whatever you bring will be received and built upon. Got Your Back means that the family will support each other to keep things flowing no matter what happens. There are no mistakes in Improv. We use everything. 

It’s not about trying to be funny. It’s about allowing the next thing to fall out of your mouth and trusting it’s ok. (More about What Improv Is and How It Helps is below.)

I’ve been leading improv for gifted people for about two years. Most of the participants identify as 2e or 2e+, and I’ve seen remarkable results. In addition to folks coming back again and again, they have reported marked increases in self-trust, self-acceptance, cognitive flexibility, tolerance of uncertainty, social connectedness, and fun in their lives. They have also reported decreased anxiety, worry, and perfectionism. The strength of the community has led to friendships outside of the Improv structure, an ongoing Facebook community of current and past participants, and plans for future in-person gatherings to improvise and nurture these relationships.

Improv, the research

There is a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and we already have some research we can use. Here are some key takeaways from various studies:

Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression

Conclusion: “The results of this study indicate that a brief intervention based on improv exercises may provide a strong and efficient treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.”

Social Competence Intervention Program (SCIP): A pilot study of a creative drama program for youth with social difficulties

“The treatment group showed significant improvement in key domains of observed social behavior in a natural setting compared to the clinical control group. Parents and children in the SCIP condition reported multiple positive changes in social functioning.”

“Yes, and”: Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy

“Improv training, in particular, appears to be a powerful and relatively accessible way of incorporating a yes, and approach into daily life.”

Improvisational Theater Games as an Intervention for Anxiety, Depression and Perfectionism – Capstone Paper, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Walter Watson Swift, April 18, 2017

“It is feasible to develop, conduct, and evaluate an improv intervention in the clinical treatment of anxiety and depression. Moreover, because improv directly harnesses uncertainty, it may be particularly useful with patients who live with high levels of Intolerance of Uncertainty.”

There are more studies available, and I hope this sampling provides you a general understanding that Improv based interventions are demonstrating significant improvements for its participants.

Improv for Families, format, structure, age range, technical needs, cost, and timeline

Improv for Families happens on Zoom. We can schedule as many sessions as we need in order to make the changes in the directions you want to see. It’s most often three to six sessions. 

Each session lasts 55 minutes and is composed of several different games each week – a warm-up, an ‘energy pass’, and several ‘games’. I will work with you to tailor the sessions to your family’s specific needs. Below is an example of the possible session themes:

● Communication and “Yes, and”

● Trusting and showing up for others

● Embracing Imperfection

● Cognitive Flexibility, Neuroplasticity and Memory

IMPROV FOR THERAPISTS

The next in-person, five-week group will run soon on Nov. 6, 13, 20; Dec. 4, 11 from 10-11:30am at Grace Episcopal Church on N. Merrimon Avenue in Asheville. Registration is open now! $235 for the series – 7.5 CEs availableAll In-Person, $188 Equity Rate for BIPOC participants who choose it.

Upcoming virtual group for Therapists/Coaches for Gifted and 2e+ People! Please contact me if you’re interested. Once we have the numbers, we’ll schedule something that’ll work for everyone.

Let’s play! Personal and professional growth through laughter, play, and community is what Improv for Therapists is all about. This five week experience is a hilarious way to practice spontaneity, acceptance, collaboration, and trust. It makes us better therapists and happier people. When we carry our Improv brains out into the world and into our work, we experience more self-acceptance and self-trust, more acceptance and trust of others, more laughter, less perfectionism, more spontaneity, and more ease.

We therapists are called upon every day to be in a space of curiosity and acceptance. We support our clients through whatever they bring to us, and we endeavor to affirm their experience. We understand the boundaries of our roles. We work within those boundaries to create a safe container for others to feel accepted, respected, and invited to grow. We aspire to trust ourselves to be enough for each encounter. We improvise.

I came to Improv when I was searching for ways to efficiently and effectively build trust and intimacy in online spaces. I started taking classes from Second City, and then I joined the Improv Therapy Group. I took Level 1, 2, and advanced. Then I kept taking advanced classes. They invited me onto their advisory board and then to be an instructor. Over the last two years, I’ve come to recognize that Improv offers people an experience that deepens their relationships with themselves and others. And it’s not therapy. It’s not coaching. It’s play.

Improv is built on two primary principles: Yes, And & Got Your Back. Yes, And means that whatever you bring will be received and built upon. Got Your Back means that we will support each other to keep things flowing no matter what happens. There are no mistakes in Improv. We use everything. 

It’s not about trying to be funny. It’s about allowing the next thing to fall out of your mouth and trusting it’s ok. Turns out that’s where funny happens!

Improv, the research

There is a lot of work yet to be done in this area, and we already have some research we can use. Here are some key takeaways from various studies:

Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression

Conclusion: “The results of this study indicate that a brief intervention based on improv exercises may provide a strong and efficient treatment for patients with anxiety and depression.”

Social Competence Intervention Program (SCIP): A pilot study of a creative drama program for youth with social difficulties

“The treatment group showed significant improvement in key domains of observed social behavior in a natural setting compared to the clinical control group. Parents and children in the SCIP condition reported multiple positive changes in social functioning.”

“Yes, and”: Acceptance, Resistance, and Change in Improv, Aikido, and Psychotherapy

“Improv training, in particular, appears to be a powerful and relatively accessible way of incorporating a yes, and approach into daily life.”

Improvisational Theater Games as an Intervention for Anxiety, Depression and Perfectionism – Capstone Paper, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Walter Watson Swift, April 18, 2017

“It is feasible to develop, conduct, and evaluate an improv intervention in the clinical treatment of anxiety and depression. Moreover, because improv directly harnesses uncertainty, it may be particularly useful with patients who live with high levels of Intolerance of Uncertainty.”

There are more studies available, and I hope this sampling provides you a general understanding that Improv based interventions are demonstrating significant improvements for its participants.

Improv for Therapists, format, structure, age range, technical needs, cost, and timeline

Improv for Therapists is an in-person, five week experience, conducted once weekly. Successive group offerings, with new games may be offered at the conclusion of the series.

Each session lasts 90 minutes and is composed of several different games each week – a warm-up, an ‘energy pass’, and several games in large and small groups. Each week has a theme, within which new games are played. Below are examples of weekly themes:

● Communication and “Yes, and”

● Trusting and showing up for others

● Embracing Imperfection

● Cognitive Flexibility, Neuroplasticity and Memory

Improv for Therapists costs $235 for the five-week series. 7.5 CE credits are available thanks to a partnership with Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Graduate School of Counseling.