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The joys of in-person therapy!


My Zoom set-up for Critical Core © Game to Grow 2021

My in-person set-up for Critical Core © Game to Grow 2021

😊🥴 hmmm, which one do I prefer?


In some ways, these two photos encapsulate my practice during COVID/SIP. And I know which one I prefer! So wonderful to be able to explore Critical Core (CC) in-person with my students. I got lots of comments and questions after my recent blog on the game, so this time I want to tell you a story that reflects the power of therapeutic role-playing games.

In a social group that started CC a few weeks ago, there is one very anxious student. As we were pre-planning and discussing what the boys did NOT want in the game, his list was long: no gore, scary creatures, ghosts, bats, creepy vegetables (?), etc. Hmmm, I thought, I will need to tread lightly! As we started the campaign, I gave him a feeling tracker, feeling fixers (which he's used to using,) and sat him next to me. He was eager, but also uncertain.


As soon as the first skeleton made a less-scary-than-usual-more-cautious entrance (being the Game Master I can adjust whatever needs to be adjusted,) this student became anxious, and said “well, I’m getting under the table,” which he actually did. Surprisingly, another student stated “I’ll get under the table with you,” even though that student was not anxious. Such a friendly gesture!


Having gone through the mental health training track at GametoGrow, I knew what tool could support this student in his anxiety. I quickly invented a pseudo playing character – an additional character who enters the story whose sole role is to assist a player who may be struggling. Catticus – a guinea pig who crawled out of the wall after the skeleton was VERY afraid. Much more afraid than the anxious student (whom I knew loved animals.) With my squeaky little voice, I described his darting eyes and shaking fur. He went over to my anxious student, telling him how afraid he was, asking the student (well, his large and powerful character) to take care of him. The student told Catticus that “it will be ok” and, when Catticus asked if he could get in his pocket, said “sure, I’ll take care of you.” The reassurance he was giving Catticus became reassurance he was giving himself. His anxiety lessened, and he very much enjoyed the rest of the session’s excitement, with Catticus safe in his pocket. For the rest of the campaign, Catticus will ready to step into action when I feel my student needs someone to care for as he builds his resilience and learns to manage his own anxious feelings with more positive self-talk.

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