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Brain Injury Recovery Using RPGs - Overview

by Hawke Robinson published Nov 11, 2016 11:11 AM, last modified Nov 11, 2016 11:11 AM

After consultation with the family and care-takers, it is determined that prior to injury, one of the client's favorite activities included various forms of role-playing games (RPGs). The client mostly preferred tabletop, but had dabbled with both computer-based and live-action forms. As the client slowly regains various levels of functioning, modified versions of RPGs can be presented in which the client may participate to stimulate neurological recovery.

While other therapies are assumed to be undertaken in parallel, this document will focus on the use of therapeutic recreational techniques in treating the client, specifically using variants of role-playing games, with various modifications as warranted to fit specific client needs, throughout different stages of impairment and recovery.

One of the major obstacles in writing this section is that role-playing games appear to have not yet been considered by many health professionals as a potential therapeutic intervention, let alone specifically the recreation therapy industry in the USA. I have had multiple dialogues in person and via websites, with various RT professionals, many with decades of experience, and in speaking with them, they never even considered, or ever heard of anyone considering, using any version of role-playing games for therapeutic intervention. The closest I have been able to find included drama therapy, and standard game therapy, but nothing in the full form of “role-playing game therapy”. There are a few possibilities outside of the United States, and there are a number of educational programs using RPG's, so this document is purely hypothetical in the proposed interventions for TBI clients, but is based on closely similar approaches, but using the structure of RPG forms. Hopefully some recreation therapists will attempt these in the future and report on the results and modifications necessary for maximal efficacy.

Not counting purely experimental research projects, after researching and searching worldwide now for several years, there appears to only be one actual ongoing RPG-related therapy program that I have found to date, and this is in Israel through the Romach group (http://www.lance.co.il/). (Update: Their program ended in the Spring of 2015, due to the store closing where they provided sessions.) Unfortunately the site is completely in Hebrew, though I have had some dialog with them in English through email.

There are however any number of educational programs using role-playing games for instructional purposes, including the Danish public high school (Østerskov Efterskole - http://rpgr.org/blog/osterskov-efterskole-danish-public-high-school-teaching-all-subjects-using-larp) with an entire curriculum taught using live-action role-playing (LARP). Because using RPG as a therapeutic intervention is not (yet) established for TBI, every effort was made in this document to extrapolate likely scenarios matching the use of related activities, expected implementations, and outcomes, using hypothetical suggestions based on the information to be gleaned from the aforementioned areas.

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