Care Cafe Using PlayCare Cafe 2-20-18.
By Gabrielle  Mason

Master creative arts therapist Heidi Landis’ warmth and wit turned our quiet Riverside Memorial Chapel space into an oasis of friendly play and connection for the Care Cafe: “Rewriting Your Story: The Art of Resilience and Moving Forward.” Heidi gently encouraged attendees and Wurzweiler student staff out of our chairs to warm up with no-pressure movement and theatre games. We learned more about our neighbors and ourselves, released stress, opened new possible paths, and (eventually) walked away with a wealth of new tools for mind/body breath and growth. Master creative arts therapist Heidi Landis’ warmth and wit turned our quiet Riverside Memorial Chapel space into an oasis of friendly play and connection for the Care Cafe: “Rewriting Your Story: The Art of Resilience and Moving Forward.” Heidi gently encouraged attendees and Wurzweiler student staff out of our chairs to warm up with no-pressure movement and theatre games. We learned more about our neighbors and ourselves, released stress, opened new possible paths, and (eventually) walked away with a wealth of new tools for mind/body breath and growth.

“As anxiety goes up, creativity goes down and you can’t imagine any other possibility in the world,” Heidi explained. “If you could, you might come up with another solution and find balance. Practice when you’re not in an anxiety situation to build muscle memory for coping with high anxiety.”

Heidi offered a top trio for coping:

  1. Creativity = Health.
  2. Group is its own therapeutic agent.
  3. Metaphor can be a healthy tool, which “allows us to look at our story with a little bit of distance.”

In essence, shifting our personal stories brings resilience and can help create new ways to move forward. One attendee beautifully re-phrased this as “bringing poetry to everyday life.”

Heidi then quoted Jacob Moreno, credited as the creator of psychodrama: “Spontaneity is a new response to an old situation or an adequate response to a new situation.” We all resonated with the reassurance that “good enough” really is good enough, as opposed to the old adage that madness is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Beyond the fun and freedom, she noted, play can reshape and regulate affect. Breathing and shaking it out in play situations can be practice for resilience and a new response in times of stress.

“We live in this world by relationship,” Heidi added. “The more roles I have access to, the healthier I am.” She encouraged us to be more active in choosing which role best serves from our Rolodex (something just half of the group remembered from prehistoric, pre-smartphone-contacts days) and “retiring” those that no longer serve. “What role do you need in your life to make a new story? What are you ready to shift? To put aside?”

Transitioning to an improvisatory role-playing exercise, Heidi offered another comforting nugget of wisdom from Moreno: “There’s no such thing as resistance, only lack of warm-up.” The group found truth in this as everyone moved from expressing their fears of (gulp) being asked to play, to admitting how much they enjoyed it, to sharing a laugh about how much better they felt at the end of the evening.The big take-away from our eve of play? Empathy, understanding, and openness. We learned how to more easily access our resilience-boosting creativity, to choose a more playful, positive path. Heidi’s concluding gift?

“Connection with yourself and others can re-shape your story.”


Gabrielle Mason

Gabrielle Mason

– Gabrielle Mason is pursuing an MSW to enhance direct service skill and complement careers in strength-based education (from early childhood music to college writing), parent support and advocacy (particularly for families with ability differences), and nonprofit communications/management. She is deeply grateful to help bring the warm, responsive Wurzweiler Care Cafe model to life.

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