Jannah Theme License is not validated, Go to the theme options page to validate the license, You need a single license for each domain name.
World News

Minnesota veterans get help with Dungeons & Dragons role-playing therapy


Allison Battles’ group therapy at Minneapolis VA Medical Center is never boring. On a recent Wednesday, she led four adventurers through ancient ruins and down a descent into a crystalline cave.

The quest was imaginary: they were playing the classic Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. But the communication between the veterans was real.

And of course that was the goal.

Battles and fellow VA psychologist Thomas Quinlan created one of the first group therapies using D&D, as it is popularly known, to give veterans with depression, post-traumatic stress and other disorders the practice of social skills that can be barriers in real life. Veterans prone to aggression can practice patience, while those with anxiety can express themselves or test personality traits through the game’s mythical characters.

“We hide therapy with a spoonful of sugar,” Quinlan said. “It makes therapy fun and shows that growth, recovery, and healing don’t always have to be focused on the darkness of the problem or challenge.”

Battles’ Roll for Growth program won acclaim last year when she and Quinlan presented the results of their first group to the American Psychological Association. Veterans after 12 weeks of play reported reductions in depressive and anxiety symptoms, aggression, and social avoidance.

Role-playing games (RPGs) work as complements to traditional therapy because they promote teamwork, compared to games that pit players against each other, Quinlan said. Decisions and dice rolls determine their fate.

“There’s a lot of therapeutic value to that, talking about failing something when the dice are right against you that day,” he said. Participants also “see differences between themselves and a character they can play.”

Battles served as Dungeon Master – the narrator and referee – and Quinlan played non-player characters during a session of their fifth D&D group last month.

The game resumed with the company of four returning from the cave, where they had killed giant spiders and hunted others before glowing crystals sap their energy and forced them to retreat. They were hired by an academic who wanted the cave cleared so he could search for the ruins of a magical library. He was not happy with their report.

“I’m confused,” Quinlan says in character, “because it looks like you came back with spiders still there. The idea was that I could go in and find out if that library exists!”

Christopher Swanson, one of the veterans, was bored – both in real life and in character as a half-elf named Pim.

“The spiders are gone,” Swanson retorted, “and I’m pretty sure that was our job. Our job wasn’t to find a library!”

Battles made note to discuss this conflict later in the session, which was split into 90 minutes of play and 30 minutes of review.

D&D is more than a professional tool for Battles, who has become a prolific researcher and has published studies of the moral wounds that occur when soldiers’ duties and beliefs come into conflict. But she was late.

Playing D&D with friends helped her through college, and they still play almost every Thursday. His first character was a warrior who righted wrongs.

“D&D allowed me to literally take up the sword of my own life,” Battles said.

She found a willing colleague in Quinlan, who enjoyed the Magic: The Gathering card game. It turned out that they found an ideal target group among veterans, some of whom were children when they played D&D, which was first released in 1974. But D&D also proved popular aboard ships and during deployments, as it does not require a lot of parts or electronics. .

Eleven of the 18 veterans in the first VA group completed the game, and those who stuck with it participated almost the entire time, blowing attendance rates typical of group therapy.

A veteran of the latter group is a biochemical executive who served as an Air Force project manager on a missile warning system. D&D helps him deal with depression and practice listening rather than always taking charge, said the veteran, who discussed the therapy on condition of anonymity.

“I’m working on trying a different approach,” he said, “and it’s consistent with my character” – Jiggs, a portly but helpful dwarf wizard – “to be comfortable following the whims of the band.”

The quest continued with the group rappelling into the cave. A low roll meant Jiggs tripped and fell, but a high roll meant another character, Azural the Barbarian, caught him.

Swanson wanted Pim to descend with flair, and a good roll allowed the character to descend the rope headfirst before turning around to land on his feet.

“Nice catch,” Pim told Azural.

Battles continued his narration, describing gray light streaming out of a crevasse. Dead spiders lay among the stalagmites and crystals, along with squirrel and wolf carcasses.

“Alright,” she said, “what are you all doing?”

Swanson’s Pim wanted a forensic analysis of the cave, noting that the dead wolf seemed irrelevant. The veteran playing Jiggs was impatient; the band had played for an hour without a fight or action.

“The most interesting thing is that gray light there,” he said. “How about we go over to this and try to see who’s singing?” Maybe they are friendly.

Decisions are key therapeutic moments. Some veterans still choose to fight in D&D, but Battles directs them to challenges that can’t be solved by force. A group had to solve a puzzle on a box, which frustrated a veteran.

“‘I’m just gonna smash the box. We’re just gonna get through it,'” Battles recalled. “As he said that, he looked at her face and he was like, ‘Oh, I still do. The frustration, felt in the character, reflected his own life.”

The therapeutic benefits of D&D were recognized as early as the 1980s, but rumors of the game’s satanic underpinnings have scared off research funding, said Megan Connell, a North Carolina psychologist who trains people to lead groups of RPG and wrote a book on this form of therapy. Role-playing invites people to experiment with personalities, she said.

“That little bit of social distancing gives you permission to try things, and if it doesn’t go well, it’s your character that’s at fault” rather than you, Connell said.

In a chat after last month’s game, veteran Brian Spencer said he resembled his character, the fiery barbarian Azural, in the way he carried out his duties. Education, military service, work and family all create obligations.

“It’s a non-stop race,” he said.

Swanson was upset over the argument during the game. Quinlan’s academic character had asked them to get rid of the spiders, then demanded more. This matched Swanson’s expectations during his service on a nuclear submarine and at work. Pressure breeds anxiety and Swanson said it was good to play the role of Pim, a character who stands up for himself.

“It’s not going to change things overnight, obviously,” Swanson told the group, “because I’ve been dealing with it for 45 years. But it’s helpful.”

startribune Gt Itly

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button