by Jake Bava, M.Ed., PLPC
Over the past decade or so there has been a cultural resurgence around the tabletop game, Dungeons & Dragons. I have been playing D&D for almost 8 years. In that time, I have been able to explore intimate aspects of myself, my personality, strengthen my social skills, such as conflict resolution and problem solving, as well as develop and maintain deep, meaningful relationships with the people I have played with. Since becoming a therapist, I noticed that many of the benefits seen in play therapy are also present in Dungeons & Dragons, regardless of your age.
One of the most important components of D&D is the character you create for yourself to play in the game. I can recall road tripping with my friend and discussing for hours who my first character should be. There was so much to explore about my character’s personality, his back story, his family and why anyone with a lick of sense would decide to venture out into a dangerous world as an adventurer. Since playing D&D, I have been able to create characters that help me to explore different aspects of myself, that I otherwise would have never discovered. I have used the many different characters that I have played to explore aspects of myself in a fun and unique way. Similarly, many people have found that D&D has been a safe space for them to explore topics like gender and sexual identity, religion, family relationships and more. By exploring these topics with a fictional character in a fantasy world, many can find resolution and closure when they were otherwise unable to.
Playing Dungeons & Dragons also comes with a ton of practical skills. Patience, empathy, resiliency, critical thinking, and creativity are just few of the many different social skills that can be grown while playing D&D. Navigating a dangerous tomb riddled with traps gives players the opportunity to confront anxiety and fear of the unknown. Dealing with an unruly gang of thieves and bandits allows players to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in making a difference for their local community. Mourning the loss of a dead character gives players the chance to practice grieving, as well as developing empathy and connection with the other players in their group.
When immersed in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, players can often times experience a sense of agency that is not always possible in the real world. If players notice injustice, discrimination, or other forms of oppression in the fantasy world, their characters have the power to make a difference in changing those systems. This sense of empowerment often times is carried over from the fantasy world into the real world. Additionally, the time spent building a story with the other players can lead to deep and long lasting friendships. These connections develop a powerful social support system for players and offer a sense of community.
Dungeons and Dragons is a wonderful tabletop role playing game where players are given the opportunity to express themselves in ways they may not be able to otherwise. Experiences in the game can lead to closure and resolution to issues outside of the game, as well providing a safe environment to explore intimate aspects of ourselves. D&D grants opportunities to build upon our social skills as well as empowering us to make a difference in our own communities. The only question left at this point is: “How do you want to do this?”
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!