GFH: Games Assisting with Psychotherapy

May 26, 2010 -

While there is very limited information on the intersection of games and psychotherapy—studies are extremely few and far between, and by some accounts, only a single “game” broaches the subject—one child psychiatrist is using videogames in a different way; as an icebreaker.

Dr. T. Atilla Ceranoglu is an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, in addition to running his own practice. In a session at Games for Health, Dr. Ceranoglu detailed how he makes use of videogames.

Inspired by a quote from Freud, “There is little that gives children greater pleasure than when a grown-up lets himself down to their level, renounces his oppressive superiority and plays with them as an equal,” the doctor outfitted his office with videogames. The use of games permits doctor and patient to build a therapeutic relationship, allows Ceranoglu to evaluate cognitive skills and helps to emphasize what the child might be feeling in real-life.

Ceranoglu shared the story of a 14-year old boy, who had been having troubles with his family. On the third office visit, the boy, who hadn’t said much to the doctor up until then, joined Ceranoglu for some cooperative play in a Lord of the Rings title. The boy started commenting on the gaming ability of the doctor, which began to promote communication between the two.

Eventually the boy relayed how he played games at a friend’s house, because he disliked his home environment. The two played a game of baseball, which the foreign-born doctor was not very good at, and the boy won handily. A FIFA match followed (a game which Ceranoglu excels at). The boy was getting creamed, so he started reacting in-game, getting red cards, which lead to his players being tossed from the game. In time, the boy took to practicing the game at home before finally returning to beat the doctor. This pleased Ceranoglu because the boy took something from the office home with him.

Further into treatment, the boy confided to Ceranoglu that he wished he had a brother to play games with, which led to a conversation in which the boy told the doctor about his brother dying some years earlier. The parents of the boy had never told Ceranoglu about this tragedy; they had chosen to ignore the incident as if it never happened. The boy then admitted to visiting his brother’s grave quite often, sometimes every day. From there Ceranoglu was able to further break down the walls and to administer assistance to the boy. He said that videogames made all this possible.

As far as what attributes games used in this manner should posses, Ceranoglu recommended that any games used should be brief and repeatable, contain many levels, feature an easy learning curve and portray various types of avatars. Additionally, games should contain stories relevant to a child’s conflict, should be able to be saved at any point (to avoid lengthy play sessions) and feature flexible multiplayer modes plus user-made content.

Dr. Ceranoglu said he discusses the role of games in treatment with parents beforehand, to avoid catcalls like “I’m not paying you $XX an hour to play games.” He reports that the reception of his techniques from other therapists has been “quite good.”


 
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james_fudgeWe appreciate your support :)08/29/2014 - 2:55pm
TechnogeekIt gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, the gaming community is not statistically indistinguishable from consisting entirely of people that your average Xbox Live caricature would look at and go "maybe you should tone it down a little bit".08/29/2014 - 2:49pm
TechnogeekI just want to say that while I've disagreed with the staff of this site on several occasions, it's still good to see that they're not automatically dismissing Anita's videos as a "misandrist scam" or whatever the preferred dismissive term is these days.08/29/2014 - 2:49pm
E. Zachary KnightZippy, So you can't find even one?08/29/2014 - 1:04pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen:Right because shes prefect and never exaggerates... *rolls eyes*08/29/2014 - 12:53pm
SleakerAnd honestly, nearly all of the games she references, or images she depicts I've always cringed at and wondered why they were included in games to begin with, from pinups through explicit sexual depictions or direct abuse. I think it's cheap storytelling.08/29/2014 - 12:35pm
Sleaker@AE - aren't most people fundamentally misunderstanding her at this point? haha.. On a related note I think a lot of the backlash is coming from males that think she is telling them their 'Generic Male Fantasy' is bad and wrong.08/29/2014 - 12:33pm
Andrew EisenAnd no, I don't think the female community would be upset over the performance of a case study in and of itself. Possibly the mostivations behind such a study, the methodology or conclusions but not the mere idea of a case study.08/29/2014 - 12:29pm
Andrew EisenAmusingly, these videos aren't saying you can't/shouldn't use tropes or that sexual representations are inherently problematic so those are very silly things to have a problem with and indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the series.08/29/2014 - 12:29pm
SleakerDo you think the female community would get extremely angry over a male doing a case study on the negative impact of sex-novels and their unrealistic depiction of males and how widespread they are in american culture?08/29/2014 - 12:25pm
SleakerThe other thing that people might find problematic is that they see no problem with sexual representations of females (or males) in games. And realistically, why is there anything wrong with sexual representations in fiction?08/29/2014 - 12:24pm
SleakerTo even discuss or bring up these issues at a cultural level to begin with. Going straight for games to many probably feels like a huge overstepping given that it's interactive story in many cases, and when you're telling a story why can't you use tropes.08/29/2014 - 12:21pm
SleakerI think a large part of the controversy stems from the idea that games aren't culture setters, but culture reactors, and simply depict what is already in culture. So people don't care that games use tropes or are blind to them because we've failed ...08/29/2014 - 12:20pm
AvalongodBesides, what better way to make her point for her than to respond to her opinion by behaving like a misogynistic asshole. Sure, it may be a troll account, but that doesn't make it "ok"08/29/2014 - 12:19pm
AvalongodWhether Sarkeesian is "right" or "wrong" is not relevant, neither she nor any other woman should have to expect that her opinion will be met with death threats or even just sexist language.08/29/2014 - 12:18pm
Andrew EisenOh, may as well. Zip, I challenge you to cite three specific examples from the TvW videos (use direct quotes and time stamps) and explain how/why they ring hollow or are over exaggerated.08/29/2014 - 11:56am
Andrew EisenZip - Bullies on both sides? What both sides? And of course bullies are worse than people who aren't bullies.08/29/2014 - 11:23am
Neeneko(2) yes, male tropes also have problems and gender studies looks at those too. But this highlights a privilage problem, the idea that if male issues are not brought up too female issues should not be discussed.08/29/2014 - 10:42am
Neeneko@ZippyDSMlee - jumping back (1) one can acknowledge systemic problems without requiring every male be a Neanderthal.08/29/2014 - 10:42am
MaskedPixelanteI don't like the new 3DS, mostly because it means there's a good chance future 3DS games won't be compatible with the current models.08/29/2014 - 9:30am
 

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