Game Therapy has a name, and that name is Bodhana
What does The Bodhana Group believe?
The Bodhana Group advocates the use of tabletop gaming as a directed therapeutic and clinical practice that can benefit personal growth as well as enhance social and educational services to individuals and families.
We believe that the inherent benefit one gets from playing games can be focused and utilized to make one better. Better at math or reading. Better at socializing or emotional expression. Better at coping skills. Better at life.
Recognizing the need for holistic treatment, the Bodhana Group seeks to improve the continuum of care to those served by the human services field by researching and developing best practices, educating the community and facilitating the implementation of innovative programs. The Bodhana Group was officially incorporated on May 4th, 2009 as a non-profit corporation in the state of Pennsylvania. We are overseen by a Board of Directors comprised of experienced Human Services professionals and members of the community who champion the vision of our organization.
The Bodhana Group advocates the use of tabletop games as a form of adjunct therapy, specifically in the area of play therapy. Board, card, dice, and role playing games all inherently provide the opportunity to build skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic, socialization, manual dexterity, deductive reasoning, etc. The list goes on. Role playing and storytelling games provide a nurturing and safe environment where people can work through trauma, anxiety, and other emotional issues.
Our organization was born out of necessity. The founders all worked together for years at a residential treatment facility for boys aged 10 – 21, who were there for committing sexual and/or habitual offenses (assault, stealing, drug dealing, weapons, etc.). In 2009, our parent company decided to close all of their facilities in PA, due to recession. We suddenly found ourselves laid off, with diminishing options. One month later, a program director, three therapists, two supervisors and two direct care staff began putting together our ideas for The Bodhana Group.
We began in the area of providing training and program consultation specifically in the area of juvenile sexual offenders. That was the crux of our experience and services were slow to catch up to treating kids with these kinds of problems. However, we were having a tough time fundraising. Start-up grants were hard to find and personal donations even harder, considering the economy at the time. Everyone was penny pinching. Human service organizations were doing more in-house training, due to budget cuts. We were struggling.
Then we had an idea for a fundraiser: A role playing game convention. We were all gamers, we knew people who would pay for a game marathon, it seemed within reach. That first Save Against Fear convention, with 35 people, we started hearing stories. Stories about how gaming had helped people. How role playing books inspired their interest to read as a child. How the character they created in the game had traits of the character they strive to be in life. How their game group had become the most important social group they had in their life. It was inspiring. So The Bodhana Group switched gears. We had found our path: Therapeutic Tabletop Gaming. We currently have four Master’s level therapists. one Master’s level licensed therapist, multiple teachers, administrators, and direct care professionals all volunteering their time to forward Bodhana.
The Bodhana Group takes the massive library of games available and focuses on how to play these games with the intent of building skills, while keeping the fun factor. Traditionally, “therapeutic” games are often a bit too on point, focusing more on function over design. The kids we worked with in residential and outpatient treatment settings were often unresponsive and didn’t want to play these games. We began playing mainstream board games with them to help during homework help groups. They were able to pick up concepts that they had been struggling with, such as applied math and resource management, and see them applied in a game. When we tried role playing games, we had kids who had refused to speak to each other and were even violent at times, now working together to keep their story going. That bonding continued into “real” life. They helped each other stay out of trouble so that one of them wouldn’t miss out on the next game session, their friendship growing.
We now offer free structured game programs for kids, adults, and seniors. Programs designed to improve social skills, education, critical thinking, resiliency, and creativity through game play and discussion. We also offer private role playing therapy groups, both sponsored and for a fee. This is a form of group therapy meant to assist in dealing with more intense emotional issues in a safe setting. Our current projects include a book for parents, teachers, and youth workers instructing them how to utilize tabletops games for skills development, a game rating system and database that allows people to search for games based on the skill they are seeking to improve, and our long-term goal of having our own community center one day.