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‘Just what is there now, that is what there is’—The effects of theater improvisation training on cli

Flexibility, Therapeutic Presence (TP), and collaborative tendency are core capacities in clinical social work as well as in theater improvisa- tion. This mixed-methods pilot study studied the effects of theater improvisation training on 35 graduate-level social work students, who participated in an experiential, semester-long ‘theater improvisation skills for clinicians’ course, compared to a control group of a similar cohort. These variables were measured before, after, and at a three-month follow-up to the course. Additionally, Follow-up semi- structured interviews were conducted with 17 course graduates. Quantitative results showed a significant increase in flexibility and TP immediately following the course compared to the controls, which was not maintained at the three-month follow-up. The qualitative findings indicated an increase in flexibility, open mindedness, TP, and self awareness following the training. Triangulation of both sets of data suggests that improvisation training contributed to changes in participants’ general attitudes and perceptions regarding their clinical work. However, longer training is needed in order for these skills to effectively impact their clinical work. The findings suggest that improvisation skills can help clinical social workers increase their flexibility and TP, as well as other important alliance abilities. Implications for teaching and research are discussed.

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