Session 3: Medical Improvisation 101

August 1, 2022 to August 5, 2022
It has long been recognized that the practice of physical and mental health care involves adaptation to unexpected challenges.  Recently a new movement spearheaded at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has begun using improvisational acting exercises to teach physicians, psychotherapists, nurses, and pharmacists the ability to respond flexibly in the face of change.  Medical improvisation has shown promise in promoting a wide variety of additional communication skills, including empathy, mindfulness, affirmation, collaboration, and authenticity.  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, 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 is required.

Target Audience

This advanced seminar is geared to mental health and health professionals.

Learning Objectives

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

  • Discuss the literature documenting the importance of spontaneity and improvisational ability in medicine, psychotherapy, pharmacy, and other health-related fields
  • Describe Fu’s (2019) classification of medical improvisation’s goals and core skills into three categories: (a). Attunement (knowledge of self and others), (b). Affirmation (validation of self and others), and (c). Advancement (enrichment of self and others)
  • Examine research demonstrating the importance of patient-centered communication in improving clinical outcomes, reducing malpractice suits, and enhancing patient satisfaction
  • Practice micro-communication skills via medical improvisation, including mindfulness, empathy, agreement, adaptation to feedback, comfort with failure, etc.


Additional information


Kiara Bond
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.
  • 15.00 NASW
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
08/01/2022 - 9:00am CDT
Event ends: 
08/05/2022 - 12:15pm CDT

Monday: 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 medical improvisation in improving provider flexibility, confidence, and collaboration; Basic principles of medical improvisation; Warm-up exercises


Tuesday:  Medical Improvisation 1


Wednesday: Medical Improvisation 2


Thursday: Medical Improvisation 3


Friday: Summary and conclusions; Wrap-up exercises

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.

Fredrick J. Heide, Ph.D. 
Adjunct Professor
California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International Unversity in San Fancisco Bay Area
Lee Becker

Frederick J. Heide, Ph.D. is Adjunct Professor 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 presented at MCW’s Door County Summer Institute for 23 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 almost five decades with Door County’s Northern Sky Theater, which has received the Wisconsin Governor’s Award for Arts, Culture and Heritage. He has recorded three albums and co-authored 20 shows including Packer Fans from Outer Space and Belgians in Heaven (both with Lee Becker and James Kaplan), as well as the deer-hunting musical Guys & Does (with Lee Becker and Paul Libman).  Dr. Heide also co-created several shows with Second City’s founding director Paul Sills, including Moon of the Long Nights, Tales of the Midnight Sun, and Ya Ya You Betcha.


Lee Becker began improvising over 30 years ago with ComedySportz while attending UW-Madison. He helped found ComedySportz NYC, and also worked with the group in Milwaukee, 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 and has also performed and written for First Stage Children’s Theater in Milwaukee.

Accreditation Statement

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

Designation of Credit Statement

The Medical College of Wisconsin designates this live activity for a maximum of15 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 each week-long session of this live activity for up to 15.0 hours of participation for continuing education for allied health professionals and each two-day session a maximum of 8.0 hours of participation for continuing education for allied health professionals.

APA Approved Sponsor:
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

"This program is Approved by the National Association of Social Workers (Approval # 886840778-8759) for 15 continuing education contact hours."

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.
  • 15.00 NASW


Please login or register to take this course.

Tuition for 5-day sessions is $685.  Two-day sessions are $395. Tuition for graduate and medical students and resident physicians is $400 and $215 with a letter from the training director. 

Tuition for 5-day sessions will be reduced to $630, and to $350 for 2-day sessions, if received by June 1, 2022. 

Please note: A $17.00 non-refundable processing fee is assessed on all registrations.

Refunds, minus a $50 administrative fee, may be obtained if requested in writing no later than 15 days prior to the beginning of each session. There will be no refunds thereafter.


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35th Annual Door County Summer Institute under “Featured Courses,” register, and follow the prompts.

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