Dr. Kristin Krueger is a Chicago based psychologist with an interest in improv comedy as a therapeutic technique. A member of the Therapy Players, an improv group made up entirely of psychotherapists, we had a chance to sit down with Dr. Krueger and chat a little bit about her comedic background and the positive side effects of being silly.
Hi Kristin, how did you first become interested in improv comedy?
I never really aspired to be a comedian or an improviser. Years ago a friend of mine suggested I take an improv class and I just noticed right away how much better I felt, I felt more confident speaking.
I’ve had struggles with anxiety in the past and it never occurred to me to get help. I took the improv classes when I was still in school, towards the end of my graduate dissertation and I had worked through a lot of that anxiety on my own, but the improv made me feel better and more confident when I had to give speeches during that process.
When I was a post-doc at a clinic in Logan Square and I started using those improve tools there and then throughout the years I developed more ways to use it.
I enjoy performing, I enjoy working with my troupe members and interacting with the audience, but my main interest still lies in using it therapeutically and seeing how people can grow from it.
What is it about improv that lends itself to being a therapeutic tool?
I think one of the most common things is that people feel supported, we go through life with a lot of self judgment and judgment of others, and a lot of my psychiatric patients have had some harshness in their upbringing, so to be in a group situation where you are not judged, people feel happiness about that
Another reason improv works well in this setting is that you are actively doing things to change your mood. Using improv games in a group where the patients get to act on things, their mood in actually changing. Inevitably there’s gonna be some laughing, and even without the laughter, the fact that you’re going around and doing silly things or moving your self in a silly way, or initiating a silly suggestion changes your mood. So the fact that you’re actually changing your mood during this group therapy time is very powerful.
How did your colleagues react to your incorporating improv into your professional practice and research?
In the past there were instances where I was discouraged by people at a higher administration level because the idea of using improv techniques therapeutically seemed so wacky and novel, but for the most part my colleagues have been supported and interested.
Is there anything else you’d like to add in regards to improv comedy its use as a therapeutic tool?
I think we really have the ability to change the way mental health services are provided. Improv could be a really great addition to mental health services. By adding groups where people can change the way they feel and in some some changes change the way they think.
It’s a great therapeutic tool to help people manage their emotions. The structure of improv helps them identify and label and express their emotions in a way that’s manageable vs. not manageable. It gives people a format and a kind of training in managing emotions, they get to be heard as they manage how they express themselves.