A Side by Side Look At Roleplay Therapy & Roleplay Gaming

Roleplay Therapy & Roleplay Gaming

Disclaimer - Therapy should be performed by a professional.

Why is pen and paper tabletop roleplaying beneficial for mental health? Below you’ll see a side by side comparison of a game and group therapy.

In many ways a game like Dungeons and Dragons will play out like a group counseling session. With an experienced therapist, this form of gaming can easily be used to improve psychological well-being.

Preparation:

The Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) guides the group through specific scenarios prepared ahead of time.

Counselor will identify areas for improvement and specific scenarios to be played out.

How to begin a session:

When beginning a session, the players will create characters and introduce themselves to the group. Depending on the game people could be an array of different heroes whether it be a superhero, cowboy, paladin, scientist, or space marine. Whatever is chosen as a group or an individual, everybody will be working together.

Once the scenario has been identified, the counselor will use icebreakers for everyone to learn about each other and know a bit more about who they’ll be working with to get through this.

How to begin a scenario:

The game begins with an explanation of where the player characters (PCs) are with enough details to grasp the situation they’re in and act accordingly. Perhaps they’re in a tavern when a hooded stranger approaches offering a magic potion that grants strength when drunk? The PCs now act or discuss their options.

The scenario begins with an explanation of where the participants are with plenty of detail to achieve a desired outcome. Perhaps this group is for addiction and the people are in a bar. A stranger greets them offering to buy a drink. People within the group will discuss their options and act out a response that leads to success.

Roles:

Players will each have some sort of role to play based on what they can offer the team. In a high fantasy game, you will probably find fighters, rogues, wizards, or bards. For group success, each player contributes actions and ideas. A fighter will stand up first against monsters. A rogue will keep the group cautious while searching for traps. A wizard adds knowledge and intellectual or creative ideas on how to overcome a puzzle. A bard is socially brave and influences people to other points of view.

Participants will be assigned specific roles to act out to help overcome their own challenges or demonstrate how to do so for others. In today’s age bullying has become a serious issue. A participant will act out how to stand up to a bully or formulate better responses to bullying. ADHD is now the most commonly diagnosed mental health issue among children. Acting out impulse control with the support of a group can lead to more creative ways to redirect themselves or focus on a given task. Phobias or social anxiety can be improved through practice, exposure, or discovering new coping strategies others use or learning a new point of view.

Control:

Taking on the form of powerful heroes that can overcome challenges can be empowering. Nobody wants to feel weak or a lack of control over their lives. A roleplaying game offers a safe environment to obtain power and use it to accomplish specific goals. Having an array of ability allows different approaches to success.

The support of a counselor or group in a safe environment can give structure and strategies to accomplish specific goals within one’s life. Acting out a variety of approaches and guidance from a counselor can help participants understand a multitude of ways for a scenario to play out, but it also sheds light on the most effective ways to succeed.

Post Session:

Often players will recount their heroic deeds once a session is over. It’s a natural response to take joy in moments of power overcoming a challenge/monster or laughing about the humorous times.

It’s important to review what was learned while acting out the scenarios. Discussing what words or coping methods were most beneficial will empower the participants and aid in retention for using those same skills out in the world.

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