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Using Necessary Evil for a therapy group

 
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RPGCounselor
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Joined: 02 Apr 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2014 9:25 pm    Post subject: Using Necessary Evil for a therapy group Reply with quote

Hello Pinnacle!

First off, I apologize if this isn't the proper area for this request. I'm still getting oriented to the world of, well, Savage Worlds. Anyway, I'm currently working as a rehabilitation specialist with individuals on probation and parole who have a major mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.). At my agency, group therapy sessions are pretty highly encouraged. I've somehow managed to convince my supervisor to let me start a group that utilizes tabletop RPGs in a therapeutic manner--less psychoanalysis and more behavioral modification. I stumbled onto Savage Worlds awhile back and I absolutely love the system. It's my preferred system when I get to play, and I think it's perfect for the group I intend to start. Necessary Evil, specifically, pretty perfectly mirrors what I'm trying to help folks on my caseload do: transition from villains to something like heroes (ie, reintegrated members of society).

Additionally, my supervisor has highly encouraged me to use this as a pilot study for a new (?) form of group therapy. If I do go that route, I would need to go into detail about the methodology I use, including the materials I used to Game Master. As it stands, I am intending on using Savage Worlds: Necessary Evil. I'd like to officially request permission to do so. I am not sure about the legal issues, but I wanted to get in touch with you all here first. Again, this idea is very much in the initial phase, and it will take at least 6 months to accrue all the relevant data before analyzing it and writing up the study for publishing (in a non-profit, academic article, mind you).

If that crosses too many legal or copyright boundaries, I totally understand. Thank you for your time.
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Thunderforge
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Joined: 24 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have worked in a therapy environment as well (at a partial hospital with teenagers struggling with mental illnesses) and I did some research into perhaps doing some sort of tabletop RPG as well. Ultimately we didn't because we had a limited amount of time and we wouldn't have had the time to do an RPG, but it was something I considered.

Speaking in general, there are a number of roleplaying techniques that are currently being used that are similar to immersive RPGs, such as the Gestalt empty chair technique or having two people imagine that they are in a situation and acting out the roles (especially used in marriage and family therapy). Several books have been written on the subject too. That said, it seems that roleplaying in therapy environment is something that hasn't been researched a lot and I've never seen any reference to it being used with an RPG, so it's not known how effective it might be.

The closest thing I could find to a tabletop RPG in therapy was a Christian RPG (can't recall the name) that had the explicit goal of having players, generally teenagers, have their characters go into a situation that might match situations they could be struggling with in real life. Pretty much that's the same sort of goal that you would be going for, having them use a tabletop RPG to explore situations they would deal with in real life.

I think if it were me, I would pick something other than Necessary Evil for the first campaign, partly because, having run it with my gaming group, I know that it takes a long time to properly transition from villain to hero. Also, I'd be concerned that while we're in the "villain" phase that I'd be reinforcing negative behaviors. More likely what I'd do would be to pick a setting where characters transition from neutral to good. Also if one of the things you are hoping to change is a tendency to use violence to solve problems, I'd probably look for a different system that has mechanics that are designed for resolving situations in a non-violent way (since combat is a major focus in Savage Worlds).

At any rate, I hope that this is helpful and I'd be interested to hear if you wind up doing this. If you're still pursuing it, you might be better off e-mailing Pinnacle directly than posting on this topic.

As an aside, there was one situation when I was an intern counselor in which Deadlands actually helped a teenage girl, albeit indirectly. She had extreme hallucinations and described what she saw as demons, which were making her life absolutely miserable. However she didn't have them any time when she was having fun, such as playing card games or going to the pool during the summer.

At the time I was in a Deadlands campaign and considered how the monsters and abominations grow in the Weird West: through fear. And the way that you defeat these demons is depriving them of fear by spreading positive emotions, particularly hope. Especially since she didn't see these "demons" when she was having fun, we encouraged her to work on the same techniques that the heroes of Deadlands use to reduce fear in the Weird West: by not feeding those monsters with fear, by using positive emotions like hope to overcome them, standing up to the monsters in a group, and telling others about our successes. While I wouldn't say that this was solely responsible for her recovery, I think that it did help her recovery process in some way.
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