gaming and psychotherapy

Some parents seek out psychological help for their children because the kids have become obsessed with video games. They may be surprised to find out that, in many instances, video games are also used as part of the therapeutic process.

There are, as of yet, no large-scale studies on the effectiveness of video gaming in child and adolescent psychotherapy but there is some literature that suggests that Vegas casino online video games can be used as play therapy tool, to treat or prevent psychiatric disorders and as a tool to create a more conducive environment in which therapy can take place.


Video games were first introduced in the ‘70s and since then, their popularity has expanded tremendously. While the first video games were played in arcades and in other public areas where video gaming machines were located, over the years personal PCs, consoles and mobile devices made it easy for people to play whenever and from wherever they want.

Increasingly, video games are becoming incorporated into medical and psychiatric clinical care. Academic interest in the effectiveness of video games is increasing with many therapists expressing the belief that often, video gaming can be used as a tool in child and adolescent psychotherapy.

There are barriers to the use of gaming therapy that can’t be ignored – the lack of familiarity of many therapists with the games, society’s perception of the negative effects of games on youth, questions of how to adapt the right game to the right personality, etc.

It is, however, generally accepted within the mental health community that future collaborations between video game developers and clinicians will produce games that are geared for use in psychotherapy.

Gaming Culture

Emerging research shows that a large number of off-the-shelf video games could, potentially, be applied to preventative and therapeutic processes. The field is still lacking serious academic study of this potential but a number of researchers are trying to lay the groundwork to examine the possibilities that video games can play in preventing, treating and rehabilitating mental health conditions.

If players in the field can come together, professionals will be able to better understand the complex interactions that determine the success or failure in the incorporation of video games in mental health therapy.

In 2020, there were an estimated 2.7 billion gamers playing video and online casino games around the world. In America, almost 40% of the population plays digital games, either on a PC, a console or on a mobile device. Many therapists are examining the potential of using commercial video games as therapy (VGTx).

They note that there’s a difference between “off the shelf” games (COTS) that were created for entertainment and video-based, custom-made games which have been specifically created for health applications and interventions. While the games that were created for therapy are useful, so are the COTS.

COTS games – both those that feature interactive environments and those that rely on social support networks – have the potential to change healthcare in the future. First of all, budgets for games made for health can’t compare to the high level of gameplay sophistication and high-tech wizardry found in COTS games.

If the video game industry, the gaming community and mental health professionals start working together, everyone can benefit from this emerging field of innovation.

Examples of Success

While no studies have yet been carried out on this specific issue, there have been some limited studies of video games as they relate to health outcomes. They include

  • FreeCell solitaire game – In a 2004 study Holly Jimison, James McKanna, Jesse Pave and Misha Pavel  conducted a study called  Researchers monitored older adults and their computer interactions in order to determine if they’d be able to detect sustained changes in users’ cognitive performance.

    The researchers’ goal was to see if, through early detection, they could identify medically related cognitive problems and confusion in order to allow for more effective clinical intervention.

  • Pokémon GO  -- a team at Stanford University found that the Pokémon Go game promoted physical activity among people who are generally not physically active. Study subjects included individuals of all ages, weight status, and prior activity levels.

  • Hand-held gaming before surgery – In 2006 doctors at the New Jersey Medical School determined that children who were scheduled to undergo surgery experienced reduced pre-operative anxiety when playing a hand-held game, thus eliminating the need for a calming drug such as midazolam.

  • Puzzle Games – some puzzle games were given to patients experiencing depression in a 2013 study by Kevin O’Brian, Matthew Fish and Carmen V. Russoniello.

    They found that playing puzzle games within a prescribed regimen significantly reduced symptoms of clinical depression among test subjects, leading them to suggest that low-cost games could be used as a possible intervention to address depression-related psychological and somatic symptoms.

VGTx is seen as a different way to view games for health. It’s a strategy that involves incorporating or adapting popular video games into interventions that promote mental health. Such games offer tremendous potential for the mental health field.


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