The Bodhana Group advocates the use of tabletop games as a unique technique of therapy and treatment. Therapeutic use of tabletop games is an approach that is rooted within a foundation of other research validated modalities, such as CBT, REBT, DBT, narrative therapies and drama therapy. Board, card, dice, and role playing games all inherently provide the opportunity to build skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, socialization, manual dexterity, deductive reasoning, etc. The list goes on. Role playing and storytelling games provide a nurturing and safe environment where people can work through trauma, anxiety, and other emotional issues through the medium of play that replicates and borrows from other techniques.
Our organization was born out of the need for change. The original founders worked together at a residential treatment facility for boys aged 10 - 21, who were there for rehabilitation and treatment for sexually problematic behaviors as well as habitual offenses (assault, stealing, drug dealing, weapons, etc.). In 2009, our parent company decided to close all of their facilities in PA, due to changing trends within the industry. We suddenly found ourselves laid off, with diminishing options. One month later, a program director, three therapists, two supervisors and two direct care staff began putting together our ideas for The Bodhana Group.
We began our journey by providing training and program consultation specifically in the area of juveniles with sexually problematic behaviors. That was the crux of our experience and services were slow to catch up to treating clients with these issues. However, we were having a tough time fundraising. Start-up grants were hard to find and personal donations even harder, considering the economy at the time. Everyone was penny pinching. Human service organizations were doing more in-house training, due to budget cuts. We were struggling.
Then we had an idea for a fundraiser: A role playing game convention. We were all gamers, we knew people who would pay for a game marathon, it seemed within reach. That first Save Against Fear convention, with 35 people, we started hearing stories. Stories about how gaming had helped people. How role playing books inspired their interest to read as a child. How the character they created in the game had traits of the character they strive to be in life. How their game group had become the most important social group they had in their life. It was inspiring. So The Bodhana Group switched gears. We had found our path: Therapeutic Tabletop Gaming.
The Bodhana Group takes the massive library of tabletop games available and focuses on how to play these games with the intent of building skills, while keeping the fun factor. Traditionally, "therapeutic" games are often a bit too on point, focusing more on therapy and less on play. The kids we worked with were often unresponsive and didn't want to play these games. We began playing mainstream board games with them to help during homework help groups. They were able to pick up concepts that they had been struggling with, such as applied math and resource management, and see them applied in a game. When we started playing role playing games, we had kids who had refused to speak to each other and were even violent at times, now working together to keep their story going. That bonding continued into "real" life. They helped each other stay out of trouble so that one of them wouldn't miss out on the next game session, their friendship growing.
We started diving into these early lessons learned about the power of gaming and embarked on a path of deciphering how gaming can be fine tuned to provide direct support and services that engage clients differently. We started by examining how gaming had changed us, then we married these observations with our clinical experience. A new path lay before us. Embracing this change of direction, The Bodhana Group since then has grown. We have spoken at international conventions, developed a robust training program, and have brought this unique vision of treatment through engaged and directed play to multitudes of people.