Connecting mental health with games in innovative worlds and ways


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 Clinician Guides which are a one-page tip sheet 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.

Read about mental health games and our in-production game to support teens in managing anxiety in this recent New York Times feature. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date with the production of the Anxiety Game and its release.

Saw us on Extra Credits? Co-authored by our our director of mental health research and design, Kelli Dunlap, this episode hopes to offer guidance for future game researchers and developers on how to think critically about the representation of mental illness in games.


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.


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


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 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.


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. 


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.

The Power of Teens

The Power of Teens

iThrive co-designs games with teens, educators, mental health experts, and professional game developers to discover how play and design can empower teens to thrive. But why do we care about teens? First of all, we know teens face tremendous pressures. Just a few of...

A Canadian Game Jam On Mental Health and Teens? Mais Oui!

A Canadian Game Jam On Mental Health and Teens? Mais Oui!

The first weekend of October, iThrive staff made their way to Montréal, Canada to co-host the JamNATION game jam. The jam was the perfect opportunity to test two shiny new Design Kits we developed with expert devs and scholars at this fall’s iThrive Design Hive:...

About iThrive's Critical Strengths Engine

About iThrive's Critical Strengths Engine

At GenCon earlier this month, we were delighted to announce our Critical Strengths Engine. Critical Strengths is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) engine -- or ruleset with which to play tabletop RPGs -- that applies the science of empathy and kindness to exploring...

About iThrive's Journal of Games, Self, and Society

About iThrive's Journal of Games, Self, and Society

Journal of Games, Self, & Society (JGSS) is a peer-reviewed journal created and edited by iThrive Games and published by ETC Press. The goal of JGSS is to encourage interdisciplinary research, conversation, and community around games-related scholarship. The...

"Link"ing Games and Therapy: A Triforce Intervention

"Link"ing Games and Therapy: A Triforce Intervention

[Content Note: Description of trauma, sexual assault] Jane (not her real name) was a 13-year-old girl referred to me after being groped multiple times by random peers in the hall at school while visiting her locker between classes. As a result of Jane’s traumatic...

Mental Health in Games: 3 Design Tropes that Need to Die

Mental Health in Games: 3 Design Tropes that Need to Die

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s talk about how mental illness is represented in video games and why that should change. About a quarter of commercially released video games include characters with symptoms of a mental illness. Too often, these...