Using Dungeons and Dragons in Family Behavioral Health

I recently wrote about how I put together a proposal to do Dungeons and Dragons groups for my primary job, a medicaid funded nonprofit family behavioral health agency. Eager to reach this population that generally can not afford social skills groups or group therapy, I was hoping that I would be able to do it through this agency. However, due to multiple reasons, my proposal was rejected, and I was back to the drawing board.

However, with the arrival of quarantine, mental health professionals everywhere have had to start getting creative, and this has been a boon for many individuals utilizing geek culture therapeutically. Since I've started using teletherapy, my work with clients has included Minecraft, a shared open role play, writing a Star Wars story together, and designing a videogame, all aligning with specific therapeutic goals. However, still no Dungeons & Dragons group...

Until last week.

One of my co-workers reached out to me about one of her families that wants to do Dungeons & Dragons to build on their therapeutic objectives, and sought me out. Soon after I was running a Dungeons & Dragons game for them. It was a smashing success, with everyone having a great time playing, and the clinician and I facilitating the session, ensuring everything went well and met therapeutic goals while I focused on running the game.

There were several keys to our success. First, the game was paired with individualized sessions prior to build characters, discuss expectations, talk about therapeutic goals, and build rapport. Then, I ensured that the clinician was familiar with the game and how I would be running it, and she gave me a lot of background on the family and their needs. Finally, there was a lot of enthusiasm about the activity in general, and that helped buy in significantly.

And thus, I have achieved my dream of bringing therapeutic RPGs to a population that doesn't easily have access to this- or at least one family.

So, what does this mean? I like to think that it's a good precident for the type of work that can be done in a family behavioral health agency, and hopefully a foundation for more RPG interventions in this space. Most of the applied RPG world is either built around schools or therapeutic/social skills groups, most of which are inaccessible to low income families, so I'm hoping that my success and continued application of therapeutically oriented RPGs in this field will inspire others to look at how they can incorporate RPGs into their own interventions, and bring this modality into the toolbox of ways agencies can serve families.

And personally, it means I've achieved a goal of mine. It's just one family, but to me, that's huge. Out of all the geeky activities I incorporate into my work, Dungeons & Dragons was the one I wanted the most, and being able to do that feels amazing. I believe the benefits of RPGs should be available to anyone and everyone, and being able to bring it to a family who would not normally have this resource available in a therapeutic context is huge. So it's definitely a very big feather in my cap.

Anyway, that's the latest. If you have any thoughts, or are working in a family behavioral health agency and want some tips on incorporating RPGs into your work, let me know, I'd love to chat, on Twitter as @rollforkindness.