A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Anthony Bean, founder and Director of Geek Therapeutics. After talking shop about applied RPGs and our shared vision for the future of the field, he invited me to become certified as a Therapeutic Game Master through Geek Therapeutics. I agreed, and began my journey towards becoming a certified therapeutic GM.
The program itself was fairly simple, a 10 week online course with weekly two hour RPG sessions hosted by a professional DM. The online content was presented on a fairly standard, easy to use learning management system, and featured lectures from industry professionals such as Dr Megan Connell and Dr Raffael Boccamazzo, the latter who I worked with for several years running social skills groups. The trainings were very interesting, and while they covered a lot of material I knew from working in the applied RPG field for many years, there were still some areas that were very helpful, especially around understanding how to approach therapeutic goals and intentionality within the game. For a GM or therapist who has not been doing this work for as long as I have, I highly recommend it, and even as a seasoned applied GM, I found it very helpful to reflect on my practice. For the online content, I feel like it was expertly delivered, easy to understand, and relevant to the work I do. The final exam I passed on the first try without studying, although given my experience in the field I might not be the best person to assess difficulty on that front.
The other aspect of the training was live RPG sessions. These including an ongoing D&D campaign and guest GMs running random non-D&D streamed games to give the players exposure to a variety of RPGs. In full disclosure, due to a very busy schedule I was only able to attend one of the streamed non-D&D games, but I found it fun and worthwhile. However, I did attend every one of the D&D games, and found it to be a fun experience to build rapport with other aspiring therapeutic GMs. The highlight was near the end, when the other members of my cohort got a chance to run a 30-40 minute one shot. One of the cohort ran a session where the party had to help a spirit with emotional identification, and I was absolutely blown away at the skill and insight he used in both designing the encounter and running it. I feel that more hands on experience would have been useful, but given the time constraints I understand why it was limited. The one area where I felt there was an issue was with one of the sessions run by the Geek Therapeutics GM where he killed off my PC. I personally feel that players should always consent to PC death, and while my PC later returned as a sort of spirit who could vaguely interact with the party, the shock of a PC being killed without my express consent in a therapeutic training was concerning. Even so, it led to good discussion around player consequences and rewards, so there was benefit to it. The only other recommendation I have is that it would be helpful to have a live session with a certified therapeutic GM with extensive experience in the field to discuss the ins and outs of running a practice and provide some immediate feedback and consulting around anything the aspiring therapeutic GMs might want to know. There is access to a Discord community with plenty of people who can help, but I personally am a fan of the live interaction.
Overall, I would highly recommend this training to any therapist wanting to get into therapeutic RPGs. I feel there is a need for a non-clinical training with a condensed version of the training offered here for individuals working within community settings such as youth shelters and community centers, but hopefully that will come with time. In the mean time, the Geek Therapeutics Therapeutic GM training is a wonderful way to get started as a therapeutic GM, and provides a lot of great generalizable skills to non therapeutic applied GMs as well.
A huge thank you for Dr Anthony Bean for offering this training to me, and giving me an opportunity to become certified as a therapeutic GM.