Psychologist | Seattle, WA

Serious Play

Serious Play


Taking Therapy to the Next Level: Geek Culture and its Therapeutic Value

I am a firm believer that if something is your passion, it is worthwhile in the therapy room. Though geek content has been dismissed in history as too "casual" a topic for serious psychological work, modern times create a whole new perspective on the heavy lifting of our fictional heroes. Below, I discuss brief concepts that apply to various geekdoms - including references to further works for your consideration. This is by no means a comprehensive list - if this is a topic of interest to you, please contact me and I would love to share more information. - The Console-ing Psychologist

The view of my entry to the  Museum of Pop Culture 's Star Trek exhibit - 2018.

The view of my entry to the Museum of Pop Culture's Star Trek exhibit - 2018.

Fandoms and Figurines - Defining the Geek

Geek culture, as I consider it, includes the niche to mainstream passions people have about tabletop and video gaming, comics, movies, shows, and general fiction. Stereotypes surely come to mind of nerdy, outcast, perhaps overweight and bashful teens - immature and unwilling to grow up, stuck in books or games that wastes their time. I challenge you to consider how the passions we have, regardless of topic, are powerful tools for change - and that being a geek is a positive thing. If you find this difficult to do, remember - being a geek is simply having a niche passion; this is also common to avid sports fans. Geekdom is not just for children... it is an experience of many adults in today's culture. 

My professional approach to geek culture is to consider how the stories people connect to can empower them, and how we can join together in the battle against their adversity. Embracing geek culture as a therapist is incredibly valuable to understanding clients better, finding new techniques for healing, and giving clients space to truly be themselves. 

Stories for Change: Anthologies and the Self

The characters people attach to can be therapeutic fodder for personal change... even in the darkest of times. The parables of comics, tv shows, games, science fiction, fantasy, and fictional movies can guide clients towards learning their own life lessons. By encouraging clients to consider how they relate to their favorite characters, mental health professionals can inspire personal growth. Narrative application is one of the most versatile approaches to geek therapy - and is one of my top recommendations as a way to try it out. Even when a person does not initially have a passion for a character, this can be useful if they are aware of the character's story. A few of my favorite characters to implement include the Hulk for feelings of anger or learned helplessness, Batman for foster children and ingenuity, Iron Man for impression management and individualistic perspectives, Lost Girl for sex-positive attitudes, and Sora from Kingdom Hearts for defeating depression. 



Atlas channeling his inner Superman, hoping to be the best therapy dog there ever was.

Atlas channeling his inner Superman, hoping to be the best therapy dog there ever was.

A mural on exhibit at the   Museum of Pop Culture   in Seattle, WA

A mural on exhibit at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, WA

Copyright © Sarah Hays PsyD LMHC

Acting Out Experience: Video Games and Therapy

Video games provide a unique opportunity to not only discuss story, but also include getting physical (or at least representational) action involved in the process. Games can provide exposure to simulated moral and philosophical dilemmas, behavioral control, mindfulness, and social contact. They also offer the ability to explore alternate identities and help players learn more about themselves as a result. 

My clinical approach to using video games includes assigned play and in-session play. I have used games to support clients through addressing symptoms of OCD, PTSD, anxiety, and more. One of my favorite ways to use video games is building frustration tolerance, particularly with unforgiving games like Dark SoulsWhen therapeutic work drifts into anger management, this or classic Super Nintendo games are my favorite tools to support brief play interventions. Other games are designed explicitly for their therapeutic use - such as Deep, a virtual reality game to help mindful breathing. I recommend considering how your therapy work can include even mobile gaming - you do not need to have full televisions and gaming setups to be able to get play involved!