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What is Therapeutic Tabletop Gaming?

The Bodhana Group believes strongly that gaming, in multiple forms, can be helpful and therapeutic tools that yield far reaching benefits. These range from the most basic act of socializing with friends to advanced aspects like social skill rehearsal, empathy building, and insight into moral decision making. The basics of play being therapeutic has been well researched and documented. The Bodhana Model bases its core philosophy and approach on three principles:

It Starts with a Theoretical Orientation

All uses of games for either therapeutic benefit or clinical application must start with a firm foundation rooted in a theoretical orientation. What The Bodhana Model is based on is not "Role Playing Therapy." It is actually the use of either role playing games or tabletop board games as an approach to achieving targeted goals for the person supported. So we start with what counseling theory of treatment modality is best suited for the client. Are you using Cognitive Behavior Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral therapy, or Narrative Therapy? This maintains that we are approaching the client from the modality that best suits their needs. This also means that interventions in the use of gaming still adhere to the philosophy and treatment ethics following with those traditions and approaches.

The Game is the Vehicle, Not the Destination

The actual play of the game is a careful consideration where we use the game as a way to deliver the approaches and techniques that fall under the Theoretical Orientation. You stretch the game to fit the therapy, not the therapy to fit the game. This helps ensure that therapeutic approaches are the foundation. So we might use an interaction within the game where players deal with the loss of a party member as a way to simulate dealing with grief and loss, or we might set up an enemy as being very judgmental and imposing to give the player a practice situation when dealing with a bully or an authoritarian figure in their life.

The game is utilized as a unique delivery system for working on goals through:

  • Creating characters that represent the player as the person

  • Crafting worlds that simulate their environment

  • Encountering challenges and scenarios to practice real world skills

  • Engaging in collaborative play to enhance:

    • Social Skills

    • Problem Solving

    • Resilience

    • Creativity and Expression

    • Emotional Recognition and Management

  • Providing safe space for increased therapeutic transference​​

  • Using the fun of play to increase engagement

The Balancing Act of Fun and Function

When using games as a unique way to approach education, skill building and therapeutic goals, it is always important to remember that the Bodhana Model espouses never to forget the fun. A big component that we advocate for and utilize is that sessions must be a balance of both therapeutic goal work and entertaining and vibrant gameplay. This increases the fun and excitement for the client and brings them closer to working on their goals through going on an adventure. Our trained staff are experienced group facilitators as well as storytellers, with years of practice in both worlds. To help maximize our potential in aiding our clients reach their potential, The Bodhana Group:

  • Offers individualized storylines that change and grow with our clients

  • Utilizes multiple game systems spanning multiple genres

  • Match gaming experiences to learning styles and developmental level

Whether kids teen or adult, whether board or RPG, Bodhana can help find the right game to work for you! Email us for details on groups and unique opportunities for your program or agency. We find the right games for the right reasons to help you bring characters to life!

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