ANN ARBOR—Improvisational theater training can reduce fearfulness and anxiety among teens struggling with social interactions, a new University of Michigan study suggests.

School-based improv theater—performing without a script or preparation—may be effective for social phobias and anxiety disorders because it offers a low stigma, low cost and more accessible context for help in reducing these symptoms, say U-M researchers.

Participating in improv can enhance a student’s well-being and reduce their anxiety, says lead author Peter Felsman, a graduate student in social work and psychology.

“In addition, the mutual support that improvisation rewards builds trust, helping group members feel safer taking risks and more willing to make mistakes,” he said.

Felsman and colleagues say this is the first study to examine whether improvisational training can be linked to reduced social anxiety in a school setting.

“These findings show that reductions in social anxiety were related to increased confidence in social skills, ability to figure out how to achieve goals and take action to do so (hope), creative ability and greater willingness to make mistakes,” said co-author Colleen Seifert, professor of psychology.

Read the full article at Michigan News.