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Department of Theatre Studies


ACTitude: Improvisation techniques training program for mental health professionals

ACTitude project develops an innovative methodology based on improvisation techniques (Improv) to capacitate individual suffering from mental disorders to confront demonstrations of social rejection in form of verbal abuse and mockery to which they are being exposed so often in their day-to-day lives.

In contrast to traditional theatre, Improv is a method based on natural actions that surge during the performance. In Improv, there are no scripts- the latter are being created on the go through the interaction between the persons involved in the performance.

ACTitude Improv based training program provides professionals working with the target group with a tailor-made intervention process to empower the persons with mental illness to recognize when they are being subject to verbal abuse, to stand up for themselves, and respond to the offenders in real time in order to cut short the abuse.

The training program using elements of the 3rd generation psychological therapies and techniques applied in improvisational theatre is created jointly by the team of psychologists and researchers from the Dept. of Psychology of the University of Maribor (UM) and a transnational team of expert performers and trainers specialized in improvisation

Although people most often associate abuse with physical violence, it can come in many different forms including verbal abuse, a type of emotional abuse in which a person uses words, body language, or behavior to cause emotional pain or distress to another person. Although it is not physical and does not leave visible bruises, it is just as damaging and leaves emotional scars in the person subject to it.

Persons suffering from mental illness (PSMI) are one of the collectives most exposed and, at the same time most vulnerable, to open demonstrations of social rejection expressed verbally such as disrespectful comments, insults and mockery. Offenses may come from passers-by, co-workers, neighbors, and sometimes even from family members and persons considered friends. The victims of abuse think of themselves as of a lesser person and, most of the time, they accept the role of the victim and adopt a passive attitude given that they don’t know how to stop the abuse. But the consequences of the offense are not only hurt feelings and miserable self-esteem; they go as far as to constitute the primary obstacles to social inclusion which, in turn, is essential to advance in the recovery process.

There is a latent need for professional tools to conduct effective interventions with the clients of mental health services to:

a) Empower the latter to act in situations of social and community violence.

b) Mitigate the effects that continuous rejection, disrespect, and mockery have over the persons with severe and prolonged mental illness.