IMPROV-ing our Approach to Treating Mental Health: An Observational Study Exploring Therapeutic Improv in the Treatment of Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Key Terms: anxiety disorders in children; therapeutic improv; arts-based intervention

Lead: Melanie Lalani

About the Project

Anxiety disorders represent one of the most common forms of psychiatric illness in children. Treatment of anxiety in children and adolescents is paramount in improving academic and social functioning and reducing the persistence of anxiety disorders into adulthood.

Improvisational theater (improv) has been used to promote psychological wellbeing since the 1920’s. The use of therapeutic improv in the treatment of mental health disorders is emerging. There is evidence to support the use of therapeutic improv for adults with mental health conditions, but therapeutic improv has not been well studied in children. Our study is unique as it targets a younger age of child (9-13 years), is not restricted to social anxiety, and is carried out within a publicly funded healthcare system. Additionally, our study is a timely response to the call to action from the WHO 2019 review which outlined the overwhelming evidence for the role of arts (whether performative, visual, literary) as interventions for improving/promoting health and wellbeing. Our study will look at whether a virtual therapeutic improv program reduces anxiety symptoms in children. 

The FLOURISH Collective is supported in part by funding from the New Frontiers in Research Fund,
the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the University of Toronto Connaught Fund