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Games as therapy: helping people heal through gaming

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Games have always been a part of entertainment industry, providing an escape for people from their daily lives. However, what people do not know is that they can also help them heal. Games as therapy have taken the world by storm, with professionals and players alike using them to overcome different types of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Games as therapy come in different forms. Some are specifically designed for this purpose, while others are mainstream games that serve as a medium for therapy. In this article, we explore how games as therapy are helping people to heal through gaming.

One example of games used for therapy is the application ‘SuperBetter,’ designed by Jane McGonigal, a world-renowned game designer who suffered from post-concussion syndrome. The application assists users in setting up goals that help them lead healthier, happier and more connected lives. Users can monitor behavioral changes, share progress, and receive motivational messages.

Another game is ‘SPARX,’ designed by researchers from the University of Auckland, which is aimed at helping teenagers overcome depression and anxiety. The game is set in a fantasy world where the player is the main hero, tasked with solving challenges, which help them develop coping mechanisms that they can use in real-life situations.

Games as therapy have also helped those with disabilities such as autism and cerebral palsy. For example, the game ‘Minecraft’ has been used by therapists to help children with autism develop social skills such as teamwork and communication. Using video games as therapy has helped people with cerebral palsy improve physical coordination, cognitive skills, and overall improvement in their motor skills.

In addition, virtual reality (VR) has been used for several years in therapy, with patients being immersed in different environments that cause reactions that are then tracked and cured. For example, veterans suffering from PTSD can revisit their traumatic experiences in a safe and controlled environment to mitigate their anxiety and depression-like symptoms.

Games as therapy have also benefited mental health professionals. Therapists often use role-playing video games to administer therapy, assessing client’s communication and problem-solving skills while also helping them to learn teamwork, socialization, and emotional regulation that they can then apply to real-world situations.

The use of games as therapy also serves as an alternative when traditional therapy proves either too expensive or not accessible at all. Virtual therapy has been used increasingly across the globe to tackle this and alleviate the social stigma associated with receiving traditional therapy.

In conclusion, games as therapy serve as an unconventional method of solving a range of mental illnesses. With their immersive and interactive nature, they provide a safe place for patients to overcome their struggles. As technology advances, games will become an even more powerful tool to help patients overcome different kinds of mental illnesses. With preliminary results showing, significant improvement in patients, it is expected that more research and application of games as therapy will continue to spread.

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