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Dungeons and Dragons for Wellness

Go back in time and think about the last time you played a game of some kind. Maybe a video game, computer game, card game or board game comes to mind. For me, a game that has been meaningful in the past year has been Dungeons and Dragons - a collaborative storytelling, TTRPG (table-top role player game). Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D as it’s commonly known) is set in a fantasy world where you create a character who joins a band of fellow players/heroes to explore a world designed by a Dungeon Master (DM, or Game Master). The DM facilitates and sets out quests for you to achieve. Whether you played online with a group of friends or in-person at a table, I have found so many benefits of playing this immersive and interactive game with familiar friends as well as making new ones along the way!


Although much has been written on what Dungeons and Dragons is and how it became so popular since its premiere in the 1970s, the release of the game’s 5th edition in 2014 helped make the game more approachable for newer players like myself. In the almost year of playing, becoming a DM and immersing myself in the local D&D community, here are some of the benefits I’ve noticed as a therapist and a person playing this game:


  • Enriching social engagement. In the time I have played this game, I have learned so much about my housemates, friends, loved ones and community. Through becoming a fictitious character, I have been able to roleplay various social situations (flavored in fantastical worlds of magic, faeries, elves and dragons) as a means to meet new people. I got to know people who I lived and shared life with and got to know myself in new and interesting ways.

  • Exploring identity and mental health. Since playing, I’ve learned from local DMs like Massachusetts locals Danger Wizard, Fight the Exposition and Side Quest Books and Games how the D&D community helps players understand themselves, explore their identity and take on personas and personalities different from their own. Some players explore gender and sexual identity through game play while other players work through their social anxiety or fears through engaging in imaginative play where their avatar explores a dungeon or participates in an intriguing social interaction during the game.

  • Expanding creativity. Whether I’m a player or DM, I’ve been able to get back in touch with my creativity. For me, this has rekindled my love of art through painting 0.28mm miniature figures I use to tell a story (as a player and a DM, respectively). Inventing original stories for my players to navigate and improvising in the midst of gameplay what my characters say and do and how my stories shift and move due to the collaboration of players telling a story with me has also been a source of creativity. A great resource for watching people play D&D are Critical Role and Dimension20!


Admittedly, this brief post only begins to scratch the surface of how TTRPGs like D&D can improve mental health. In fact, a few work trainings I’ve done through Geek Therapeutics have been helpful in learning more about the intersection of gameplay and mental health. 


Ask around, I bet more people than you think are part of this community! 




In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month Looking Glass Counseling is pleased to support The Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK). ATASK was incorporated in 1992 to address the gaps in services for Asian domestic violence survivors in the Greater Boston and Lowell areas, including low-income immigrants with limited English language capabilities. A United Way-affiliated agency, their mission is to prevent domestic violence in Asian families and communities and to provide hope to survivors.



 

Lou Lim, LMHC, REAT is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.


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