Session 2: Developing Attunement Skills Via Medical Improvisation

Egg Harbor, WI US
July 22, 2024 to July 26, 2024
Recently a movement spearheaded at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has begun using improvisational acting exercises to teach physicians, psychotherapists, and other healthcare professionals the ability to respond flexibly in the face of change. This approach, termed “medical improvisation”, has shown promise in promoting a wide variety of communication skills, including empathy, affirmation, collaboration, and authenticity. Although the title of the approach implies that it is medically oriented, its methods apply to any setting involving human interaction. A recent classification of medical improv skills (Fu, 2019) breaks them into three categories: Attunement, Affirmation, and Advancement.

This year’s seminar will focus on the second category, Affirmation, or validation of self and others (e.g., agreement, appreciation, cooperation, comfort with uncertainty/risk, and encouragement). While the effects of practicing medical improv can often be humorous, participants do not need to be “funny” to do it. The leaders of this largely experiential workshop will draw on their close collaboration with Paul Sills, founding director of Chicago’s Second City, who used improvisation to train renowned actors such as Alan Arkin and Alan Alda. After an overview of current research and theory in medical improvisation and affirmation skills, the bulk of the week will be devoted to engaging in and discussing a series of simple and entertaining improv exercises in a safe, highly supportive atmosphere. No previous experience with improvisation or medical improvisation is required.

Target Audience

  • ​​​​​Physicians
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Physician Assistants
  • Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Psychologists
  • Social Workers
  • Psychiatry Residents
  • Medical Students
  • Allied Health Professionals

Learning Objectives

Participants who engage in this education intervention will be able to:

  • Identify the importance of spontaneity and improvisational ability in medicine, psychotherapy, pharmacy, and other health-related fields
  • List and describe Fu’s (2019) three categories of medical improvisation’s goals and core skills: (a) Attunement (knowledge of self and others), (b) Affirmation (validation of self and others), and (c) Advancement (enrichment of self and others)
  • Demonstrate core affirmation skills including acceptance, agreement, and appreciation
  • Demonstrate comfort with uncertainty/risk and failure
Additional information


Caimen Masterson
Phone Number: 
+1 (414) 955-7250
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 15.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™
    AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™
  • 15.00 APA
    APA credit.
  • 15.00 Hours of Participation
    Hours of Participation credit.
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
07/22/2024 - 9:00am CDT
Event ends: 
07/26/2024 - 12:15pm CDT


  • What is medical improvisation?
  • Definitions
  • The critical role of spontaneous adaptability in health care
  • Overview of Fu’s (2019) classification of the goals and benefits of medical improvisation
  • Literature documenting the critical role of provider-patient communication in improving outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction
  • Evidence for the effectiveness of practitioner affirmation skills, including acceptance, support, empathy, and agreement
  • Basic principles of medical improvisation
  • Warm-up exercises


  • Affirmation Skills 1


  • Affirmation Skills 2


  • Affirmation Skills 3


  • Summary and conclusions
  • Wrap-up exercises
The Landmark Resort
4929 Landmark Drive
Egg Harbor, WI 54209
United States
+1 (800) 273-7877

Lodging in July and August is in great demand; you must make reservations early. A block of suites has been set aside at the Landmark Resort. These suites will be held until June 7th, 2024, or until they are filled. After that, the rooms are on a space-available basis.

From its site on the bluff, the Landmark offers outstanding views of the waters of Green Bay with 294 units comprised of 1, 2, and 3-bedroom suites. Facilities include the Carrington Pub and Grill, 10 meeting and function rooms, 1 indoor and 3 outdoor pools, 2 tennis courts, whirlpools and steam rooms, and a fitness center and game room. The Landmark Resort is Door County’s largest and best full-service facility. As of May 2017, all suites at the Landmark have been renovated! Visit their website for photos and details.

The Landmark Resort
4929 Landmark Drive
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin 54209
Reservations: (800) 273-7877

To book through our discounted group rate, please call the Landmark reservation line at (800) 273-7877 and state that you are attending the Door County Summer Institute. No group code is required. Group rates cannot be booked online.

Frederick J. Heide, PhD, is Professor Emeritus at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in the San Francisco Bay Area. There he was a member of the core faculty for 37 years and won both the Master Teacher and Teacher of the Year Awards.   He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Pennsylvania State University in 1981 and has co-presented with Lee Becker at MCW’s Door County Summer Institute for 25 continuous seasons. Dr. Heide received the Outstanding Research Contribution Award from the Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT) for his foundational work on relaxation-induced anxiety and has published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Psychophysiology, Mindfulness, Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, Behavior Research and Therapy, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, and elsewhere.  He also served as associate editor of the APA journal PsycCRITIQUES. Dr. Heide co-founded and has performed for five decades with Northern Sky Theater, which has received the Wisconsin Governor’s Award for Arts, Culture, and Heritage. He has recorded three albums, published a book of 55 original songs (2022’s Tangled in Wonder), and co-authored almost two dozen shows including Belgians in Heaven and its prequel Hell’s Belgians (both with Lee Becker and James Kaplan), and the deer-hunting musical Guys & Does (with Lee Becker and Paul Libman).  Dr. Heide studied improvisation with The Second City’s founding director Paul Sills and created several shows with him, including Moon of the Long Nights, Tales of the Midnight Sun, and Ya Ya You Betcha.  In 2023 he received the Winifred Boynton Creative Spirit Award for his significant and enduring contributions to Door County.
Lee Becker began improvising over 35 years ago with ComedySportz while attending UW Madison. He helped found ComedySportz NYC, and worked with the group in Milwaukee, performing and running workshops in all three locations. He is a core member of Northern Sky Theater where he is a performer, musician, and playwright. Lee was a founding member of Door Shakespeare in Door County, WI, and has also performed and written for First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee. Along with Doc Heide, he has been a workshop facilitator for DCSI for over 20 years, providing trainings using role play and Spolin theater games. He has done similar work as a guest teacher at Alliant University’s CA School of Professional Psychology.

Activity Director:
Carlyle H Chan, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and 
the Institute for Health and Equity-Bioethics and Humanities
Medical College of Wisconsin

Planning Committee Members:
Robert Huberty, MSW, LCSW
Program Director
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

Ellen Leitner, LCSW
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

Kevin Bozymski, PharmD, BCPS, BCPP
Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Science
Medical College of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy 
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

Kylie Lenz, PA-C
Physician Assistant 
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

Heather M. Smith, PhD, ABPP
Lead Psychologist
Director of Psychology Training
Milwaukee VA Medical Center
Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

Jessica Reyes-Roberson, APNP
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
Medical College of Wisconsin

In accordance with the ACCME® Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education, Standard 3, all in control of content must disclose any relevant financial relationships. The following in control of content had no relevant financial relationships to disclose.
  • Carlyle H Chan

  • Robert Huberty

  • Ellen Leitner

  • Kevin Bozymski

  • Kylie Lenz

  • Heather M. Smith

  • Jessica Reyes-Roberson

  • Frederick J. Heide

  • Lee Becker

Accreditation Statement:
The Medical College of Wisconsin is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Designation of Credit Statement:
The Medical College of Wisconsin designates this live activity for a maximum of 15.00 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Hours of Participation for Allied Health Professionals:
The Medical College of Wisconsin designates this live activity for up to 15.00 hours of participation for continuing education for allied health professionals.

National Association of Social Workers Credit Statement:

This program is pending approval by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval # XXXXXXXXXX) for 15 continuing education contact hours.

Psychology CE Credit Statement:
The Medical College of Wisconsin is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.  The Medical College of Wisconsin maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

This activity contains content or processes that may be potentially stressful.

MCW's Psychology Continuing Education Grievance Policy

Available Credit

  • 15.00 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™
    AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™
  • 15.00 APA
    APA credit.
  • 15.00 Hours of Participation
    Hours of Participation credit.


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Early Bird pricing will be available through June 15th, 2024. After that, prices will increase as noted below.

FeeAttendee TypeAmount
Five-Day In Person Registration (Early Bird)Physicians, psychologists, pharmacists, physician assistants, APPs and other Health Professionals$675.00
Five-Day In Person RegistrationPhysicians, psychologists, pharmacists, physician assistants, APPs and other Health Professionals$725.00
Five-Day In Person Registration (Early Bird)Medical students, grad students, residents$575.00
Five-Day In Person RegistrationMedical students, grad students, residents$625.00

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