How can participating in improv help a caregiver relate to their loved one with memory problems? That is the question psychotherapist and Stomping Ground Comedy cofounder, Andrea Baum, posed in a recent Improv for Caregivers class. The Rockwall First United Methodist Church ALZ Association Caregiver’s Group is an ongoing community peer support group, led by David Frost, that has met for three years. Thanks to The Dallas Foundation and AWARE Dallas which funds Stomping Ground’s Improv for Caregivers program, the group was able to invite Stomping Ground’s Improv for Caregivers instructors to host a class that would teach them some practical tools for managing their care for their loved one at no cost to the caregivers.
The class was part psychoeducation, part dramatic reality. The members of the group were challenged to act out different characters, and afterward, the group would process their empathic reactions to the characters in the present moment.
The different characters represented ways in which we might show up for our loved ones. For example, a character that’s high status and “too busy” might walk into the room without acknowledging anyone’s presence. Another character might enter the room silently and somberly. After each exercise, Andrea would process with the group about how they experienced the different characters emotionally, to increase empathy and awareness for what their loved ones may feel in reaction to their caregiver’s verbal or nonverbal behaviors.
Members then started to spontaneously share their own experiences, relate to one another, and bond through their shared experiences. Andrea went on to reveal how mirroring, saying “yes-and” to the experience, and building self-awareness can increase the odds of a more pleasurable experience with your loved one.
Attendees were asked to take a survey before and after the class, rating how they felt in the moment. Before class, some members reported feeling anxious, depressed, frustrated, and annoyed. But after class, some of those same members reported feeling encouraged, empowered, amused, relaxed, motivated, strengthened, and assured.
A Note from David Frost, Group Leader
Andrea and staff,
Thank you for coming to our meeting this evening. You folks did a nice job and I think everyone enjoyed the experience. The principles you focused on were well placed and I particularly liked the sensory ideas as a strategy. As you can tell, I have a lot of pride and love for the attendees in our group. I learn something new regularly. Best of luck to you as you continue your work and passion.
Click here to learn more about Improv for Caregivers and find out how you can participate, or email Andrea Baum at email@example.com to invite Improv for Caregivers to your support group.