Connecting mental health with games in innovative worlds and ways

MENTAL HEALTH AND GAMES

Games are the cultural competency of the 21st century, and more mental health providers than ever are in need of resources, training, and support in this area. The Mental Health Professionals Hub offers tools and resources for mental health providers that support strengths-based mental health outcomes through gameplay. Our mental health initiatives are designed to build social and emotional skills as well as reduce the barriers to treatment for teens. We research, design, and create Clinicians’ Guides which are a one-page tipsheet that breaks down popular video games in order to enhance rapport and pursue treatment goals. For the more adventurous mental health provider we have the Critical Strengths Engine, a pen-and-paper role-playing rulebook for facilitating therapeutically-minded tabletop role-playing sessions. Outside the therapy room, we provide education to providers through our mental health blog series, iThrive’s peer-reviewed journal Games, Self, and Society, and through presentations and workshops.

We research, study, and embed evidence-based practices — preventative and therapeutic — into tools, programs, and readily accessible, immersive games. iThrive consults with game developers and mental health professionals to create resources that support the use of games in therapeutic contexts.

WHERE TO START

Video games are rich, immersive, engaging, and motivating — and they’re where people increasingly spend their time. Browse these highlights for an overview of how clinicians can connect with clients with games as the medium.

HOW BAD DATA HAVE GIVEN GAMES A BAD RAP

As with anything, games should be played thoughtfully, with balance and healthy limits. Read more.

USING GAMES TO CONNECT WITH TEEN CLIENTS

Using play and games in therapy to facilitate skill building and rapport is well documented, and video games are one digital extension of that approach. Read more. 

VR AND eMPATHY: TreaD CAREFULLY

VR can open the door for audiences to have novel experiences and bear witness to deeply emotional circumstances. But is asking someone to experience another person’s trauma necessary for developing empathy? Read more.

TOOLS

iThrive’s resources support mental health and social and emotional learning by choosing meaningful games for therapeutic benefit and highlighting how those games facilitate social and emotional growth. Learn more below.

Curated Games Catalog

A list of commercially available games & their potential applications

Connecting With Games: Pokemon

A two-page introductory guide to connecting with clients who are immersed in the world of Pokemon.

CLS Paper: Representation of Mental Health in Video Games

A scientific paper discussing the portrayal of mental illness in games.

Beyond Empathy

An extended read on how games foster teens’ social and emotional skills. 

ARTICLES

iThrive and our mental health partners explore how games open up new opportunities for connecting with clients and provide expert tips for exploring mental health and games.

Sea of Thieves: Anchored in Positive Design

Sea of Thieves (SoT; rated 13+ years), a pirate-themed, open-world game, launched in March of 2018 with over 1,000,000 players ready to set sail on day one. What initially sparked my interest in SoT was an article in US Gamer about how Rare, the development studio,...

Psychology and Game Design: One Possible Future Path

“Is flow the only concept from positive psychology that...help[s] us design better games regardless of our motives for doing so? Or is it just the only one that the game design community has discovered so far?” - Ian Schreiber Editor’s note: Ian Schreiber joined...

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