Second City improv used to help social anxiety disorders

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When you think of the Second City training center, names like John Belushi, Tim Meadows and Tina Fey may come to mind.

But organizers at the sketch comedy school say many of the same techniques they teach to budding actors and comedians can also help people with certain mental health disabilities.

These exercises help actors learn to be more confident, to interact with others and to think quickly on their feet.

They serve the same purpose in the Second City training center's wellness classes, which include improv for anxiety and improv for autism spectrum disorders.

George Kuhnen says his therapist recommended the courses to him to support his treatment for social anxiety disorder.

"It changed my life completely," Kuhnen said. "I was afraid. I would go to work, come home, had no social life and now coming here, starting this program, I now can do what I've never done in my life."

Joe Kovach says his parents encouraged him to sign up to become more at-ease with interpersonal contact.

"I suffer from Asperger's Syndrome and I wanted to communicate and I was searching for something for my life," Kovach said. "This is a place where it's safe to have a group around you and if you want to have fun, people will support you."

After two years of hosting a series of classes aimed at self-improvement, Second City is launching its first wellness week to promote mental health.

"For many years, we've had students that have been referred to our programming for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons may be to tackle social anxiety or to deal with depression or to come here to develop the interpersonal skills that some of us might take for granted, but that some folks may need a little additional support developing," said Kerry Sheehan, president of Second City training center. "We decided a few years ago to really explore this area."

And for those who think they could never find the courage to perform on-stage, we're reminded that you should never say never.

"There's nothing to be worried about," Kovach said. "I mean everybody's welcome here. It's like family. You'll have a good time."

Wellness Week activities will include laughter yoga, a whole body voice workshop and even improv for older adults. For more information, visit https://www.secondcity.com/about/news/top/.
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