Social anxiety can have a severe negative impact on every area of a person’s life. It can take its toll on their profession, romantic relationships and friendships. Until now, group therapy has been the most successful treatment for this disorder. However, a new therapy in the form of acting classes has shown to have extremely positive results as a treatment for social anxiety.
An interview of a director of one of the leading acting schools in New York City clearly said that acting classes are so effective at reducing social anxiety. The director has worked with a variety of actors, screenwriters and playwrights both regionally and off-Broadway on movies, television series and in theater productions. He is perhaps best known for his work with Oscar winner Sam Rockwell.
He was asked the following:
Q: How can acting classes be beneficial for a person with social anxiety?
A: From my experience, social anxiety can often be triggered by being too self-involved. This does not mean that they are necessarily narcissistic but rather that they tend to focus on the inner rather than outer. If your focus is constantly on yourself, it is natural to feel anxious. When that focus and attention is turned towards others or an activity, it alleviates the social anxiety.
It is also the human condition to want to connect with others. However, the concerns and stress that come with creating a connection often makes us inherently unavailable to form a connection. The fact that people who are socially anxious live in the future further aggravates the problem. “What should I say or do next?”, “What if I say the wrong thing?” or “What if they don’t like me?” are all common questions that the socially anxious find themselves struggling with.
The ability to be present in the moment and learn to listen are both key parts of training to be an actor. Being able to experience the moment and then building on the experience is an ideal way to get out of the anxiety-ridden head-space and allow you to make contact with another person.
The idea of acting as a form of play (the Sanford Meisner Approach), which we teach at the studio, also alleviates anxiety to a large degree. Imagine young children at play – there is not much anxiety involved in the process.
Q: Can acting classes provide tools that can be applied in reality?
A: Among other skills, students learn how to listen well, become more self-aware and connect with their emotions, thoughts and behaviors. They learn to exist in the present and improvise from one moment to the next without being concerned about the past or the future.
Another effective tool is to learn to identify thoughts and emotions and vocalize them in the moment. They can also benefit from learning to read body language and intonation. They are encouraged to be curious about and create space for the effect that they are having on others around them. Empathy, humanity and self-awareness are all critical to learning good acting skills.
Acting training is a journey of self-discovery that is incredibly personal to each individual. Exploring different aspects that foster various emotions such as something that might incite sadness, madness or excitement results in greater self-knowledge which in turn creates greater self-confidence.
Q: Is acting experience necessary to take acting classes in your studio?
A: We look for diversity in our student group and individuals who express generosity, curiosity and spirit in an openhearted, real and uncompromising collaboration with others. The experience inspires bold choices and a sense of playfulness while exemplifying integrity and joyous practice.
Our techniques are unique and provides our students with the foundation that they need to build on their understanding of who they are both as artists and as human beings. We celebrate the uniqueness of each individual and their specific life experiences. We aim to create artists that don’t fit into a mold and can act in any role they are given unlike the Conservatory Programs for actors.
While some of our students arrive at our doors with impressive resumes and prior training in acting, others have no experience in the industry at all. We provide classes for beginners, summer classes as well as a two-year intensive training program.