I discovered something in my teen therapy group recently: teens are not great at working together as team. This was somewhat surprising to me, and kind of surprising that I was surprised. I thought that because teens are so peer-group focused, that they would have slight advantage of working together in a group context. I was wrong. This discovery made me remember that none of us in our super individuated culture – regardless of age – have strong skills at building the group, the team, working well with others.
So what happened: In the group session participants were throwing out their own random thoughts, statements, opinions without regard for what a fellow participant just shared before them; there was no attention to stringing along the conversation nor was there much active listening going on.
First person says: “I’m mad at my mom of dating this new guy”
Next person: “I read the best book ever this week”
Next person: “I’m going to a wellness retreat this weekend”
Next person: “I love Bruno Mars”
So I decided to help the group out with advancing our listening, team building conversation building skills. Improv to the rescue!
I interrupted group and invited us to play the classic improv warm-up game called Yes, And. We create a story where everyone offers one sentence to the story, the next person starts their sentence with ‘Yes, And…’ then adds to/builds the story. It is a fun and challenging team or group building game.
It is challenging because we are so used to creating our stories all by ourselves and not having to really listen to others. It is also challenging because it can be anxiety producing to have to offer something up on the spot while everyone else is relying on you to keep the story going. The game requires all the helpful elements for teens (and all of us) to develop:
Listening to others
Taking risks that are not destructive
Building off of what others are saying, not just thinking of yourself
Dealing with anxiety in new ways
The group found the experience very fun and very hard. I said: Perfect!
Jennifer Bullock, M.Ed., M.L.S.P., LPC | The Philadelphia Social Therapy Group