Lessons Learned from Improv and Art Therapy: Part 2

An Opening Ritual

I sat with the participants of the art therapy group in the Memory Support section of the retirement community. Each person held a puppet created during past sessions. Ellie* turned to David, and made a sound and gesture using her puppet. David then repeated the sound and gesture he heard to Mollie on his right. Mollie repeated David’s sound and gesture to Beverly, and so on. I encouraged the participants to mirror only what the person directly before them had done, and allow changes in the sound and gesture to happen naturally. In this way, we focused on the present moment as a measure of success, accentuating the strengths of the individuals living with dementia as they laughed and exercised their creativity. The sound and gesture circle was inspired by a warm-up I learned in improv class. It translates seamlessly as a valuable opening ritual of the art therapy session, as group members validate each other through mirroring and create a sense of group cohesiveness.

The Creative Connection

Recently I described some other ways that taking improv classes has impacted my art therapy practice working with older adults, in addition to being a method of self-care.  While I know the specific connection between art therapy and improv is not one that applies to many people, the way my work and self-care have informed one another has led me to wonder about other self-care practices of people in helping professions. How, for example, might doing yoga influence a social worker’s day-to-day work. Natalie Rogers described the creative connection, “a process in which one art form stimulates and fosters creativity in another art form, linking all the arts to our essential nature” (Rogers, 2001). Rogers continued, “Using the arts in sequence evokes inner truths which are often revealed with new depth and meaning.”

How does self-care impact your work?

As professionals in the field of aging, how do your self-care practices influence your work? Do they help you to better understand yourself and the people with whom you work? For more on creativity and aging, see Dancing Through Dementia Case Studies and Building Community Through the Arts. For more on self-care, take a look at Self Care Made Simple. *Names changed Thank you to Elyse Baylis for editing this post and Johnia! for the photo.

One Comment

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