April 9, 2024

The Benefit of Music Therapy and Improv Theater for Adolescent Anxiety

Cascade Academy is excited to announce new group offerings to include weekly music therapy and improvisational theater.

Researcher and Author Dan Siegal identifies essential neurological changes during adolescence that present as unique challenges and opportunities of this developmental life stage. He describes this time period as the Essence of Adolescence. He argues that not only is this stage of life full of changes and challenges, it is also a time of life to be celebrated and explored with its fullest potential in mind. One of his tenants, Creative Exploration, argues that our adolescent years are when we are most primed for artistic and creative exploration. Many of our history’s greatest creatives thrived during this period of life.

It has also long been known that creative exploration is a tool for accessing the subconscious and providing powerful healing in the therapeutic process. It is not surprising then that treatment centers have long implemented modalities of therapeutic creative exploration including, music therapy, art therapy, movement therapy and more. 

Cascade Academy has partnered with Utah-based Pure Progression Music Therapy to provide weekly, 90 minute music therapy to our students. A typical music therapy group at Cascade Academy may entail fun activities such as rewriting popular songs like Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” to express the daily experience of clinical anxiety or collaborating as a group to write original songs. When asked about the impact of music therapy, one student stated, “I get to be creative with the lyrics that can be meaningful to [my] treatment.” 

An emerging evidence-based creative intervention for the treatment of clinical anxiety is the use of improv theater. While the use of improv at Cascade Academy has been present since its inception, our students are now participating in weekly 90-minute improv therapy groups. 

Benefits of improv in the treatment of clinical anxiety include the cultivation of a group experience in which mistakes are celebrated, challenging rigid thinking and taking social risks in a safe and supported setting. Students take chances in creative expression and thinking on their feet. At the end of each session, students participate in a discussion reflecting on their experience in taking such risks. A typical improv group consists of playing games, practicing communication skills and of course, a lot of laughs. When asked about the impact of improv, one student reported, “[improv] helps me think outside of the box and some of my silly ideas come to life.”

Cascade Academy has partnered with improv teacher Jordan Todd Brown. A native of Utah, Jordan has over 10 years of experience studying and performing improvisational and sketch comedy. His professional training began at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) in Los Angeles. UCB is a world-renowned improv theater and training center that has routinely produced some of America's most celebrated comedians, writers and performers. Jordan has taken his training and passion for the arts and has pursued many projects over the years. He has performed and directed in the New York Theatre Festival and countless improv festivals across the U.S. and abroad. As a veteran at Pickleville Playhouse, a beloved Utah theater company, he has been an integral part of many of the company's productions, including writing, directing, performing and teaching improv at summer camps. Jordan is also a proud member of the acclaimed Story Pirates, an educational media company whose aim is to "nurture and inspire big thinkers, dreamers and creative problem solvers of tomorrow" by adapting kids' written stories and ideas to the world stage.

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