By Mike McMahan, LPC
We all play roles in our life, and this is something that a therapist can explore with clients. How do our behavior and feelings change when we are in parenting mode versus work mode? It’s also something that can be explored (in a subtle fashion) with children. But if you can explore playing roles, can it be done via role-playing games?
I must confess, this article from Kotaku, which discusses the possibility of playing Dungeons & Dragons as a way for therapists to engage clients, is pretty much my favorite thing in some time. If you view your life as a story, what better way to shape and explore than through a world of fantasy in which all interactions and situations are controllable within the therapy room? There are a lot of possibilities with thus, both literally and metaphorically. On the literal front, it is a way to explore social interactions and “what would you do in this scenario” for any number of social situations. For clients who need help with day-to-day social interactions, their character can go to a shop and practice buying swords and magic items. As the article points out, this benefit may be magnified for clients with autism who struggle with social skills. For clients who need help with decision making, the therapist can help their “character” (wink wink) learn to weigh the pros and cons of making a certain decision and later explore what the benefits and consequences of that decision were.
Another possible benefit not explored in the above article is character creation itself. This can be a way for kids to reflect on their strengths and how to apply them. “Are you better at being strong or being smart? What makes you say that?” Kids respond well to this sort of concrete thinking.
So, if you aren’t a D&D player yourself (or, if you’re like me, you were a player as a kid and only remember endless arguing), what can you do with this to help you parent? Rory’s Story Cubes can accomplish many of the same things with less effort on parent’s part. And it is also applicable to younger children. I have used this type of thing a number of times with clients and it has never failed to produce results; this applies to younger kids and those who are intellectually and developmentally disabled.
So get out your swords, your gold pieces and your Monster Manuals and Fiend Folios. Let’s go on a quest…
Mike McMahan, LPC, is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
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Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture