Experts have already stated that gaming is more than just a means of entertainment for the majority of young people. It could also be more beneficial in some ways. Researchers from Texas discovered in 2014 that playing video games could improve the social interaction and communication skills of people with autism.

With the pandemic causing anxiety, isolation, and frustration for many, some groups are also exploring new ways to incorporate video games into mental health therapy.

Some organizations, as reported by Wired, are utilizing yet another aspect of gaming to assist individuals, particularly young children, in addressing various mental health issues. According to the report, mental health professionals are starting to recognize the therapeutic value of tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs) in providing a safe space for clients to discuss sensitive topics.

Tabletop Gaming Therapy

Tabletop refers to board games that are played on a flat surface, such as a table, as the name implies. In addition to board games with moving parts, these include card games, dice games, and games with some really cool battle figurines or dioramas. Most of us played tabletop games with friends or at pajama parties after school.

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Monopoly and “Dungeons and Dragons” are two well-known tabletop games. According to The Guardian, there has been a surge in the popularity of the games in 2016, with some coffee shops in the UK transforming tabletop into thriving “social networks.”

These types of games are not only entertaining, but they also foster camaraderie and friendship (not all the time with Monopoly). This could be why some organizations are utilizing tabletops’ potential as a medium for teamwork and self-expression.

Game to Grow” is a non-profit organization co-founded by two individuals with substantial experience and training in therapy and education. Adam Davis and Adam Johns came up with the idea of combining their expertise in family therapy, education, and drama therapy with their gaming experience to create “therapeutically applied role-playing games.”

This strategy grew over time, allowing them to train others, particularly eager mental health professionals, to use game-based interventions to support their own communities or clients. 

According to their website, “Game to Grow” has instructed hundreds of therapists and other professionals through their training program, workshops at academic conferences, and individual consultations.

Geek Therapeutics is another organization that uses tabletop to improve people’s lives. Geek Therapeutics, like “Game to Grow,” aims to help people reduce psychological distress and empower gaming communities. The organization also provides training for mental health professionals based on research and evidence-based practices.

Why It Matters

According to ThinkMonster, tabletop gaming is an entire culture of gaming enthusiasts who use their creativity and enthusiasm to explore new worlds. However, reports indicate that it may also be beneficial for a variety of populations, including those with a history of trauma, those exploring their identity, and those who struggle socially.

People can lower their anxiety and develop the skills and confidence they need to try more social interactions in their daily lives by practicing social interaction in a fun, non-threatening gaming environment through tabletop gaming.

Clinical psychologist Raffael Boccamazzo tells Wired that role-playing can make going to therapy less challenging. “It’s way easier for me to go and engage in an enjoyable process than it is for me to go to somebody’s office knowing I’m going to talk about some very painful, very difficult things directly,” Boccamazzo says. 

“If something is enjoyable, you will return to it,” he adds.

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