New Book Explores Video Games and Psychotherapy

January 13, 2023

Based on a decade of research, clinical experience, and teaching, a new book explores how video games and interactive media can help children and adolescents address mental health issues such as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.

A young person holds a video game controller.

Video Games in Psychotherapy, written by Dr. Robert Rice, associate professor of mental health counseling at St. John Fisher University and co-founder of MindFit Mental Health, provides readers with a framework for using video games, interactive media, and gaming metaphors in the practice of psychotherapy.

Throughout his career working with individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder and autism, Rice noticed that the majority of his young patients wanted to discuss video games. Together with colleagues at the Rochester Institute of Technology, he developed a video game where young people could practice skills for overcoming repetitive behaviors. His narrative approach to counseling and focus on moments of competence helps him better connect with patients, Rice explained.

“Using video games and interactive media in counseling is a natural progression from using crayons and construction paper,” Rice said. “Video games provide a phenomenal array of potentially therapeutic metaphors that can help people externalize problems and talk about them more comfortably and openly in counseling.”

Rice, who has not been a gamer since his childhood, wrote the book in a way that is understandable for all mental health providers, regardless of their own familiarity with gaming. He draws on multiple case studies to demonstrate concepts and provides a theoretical framework and review of literature on this growing research area. The result is a guide to help an array of professionals, from mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, or school counselors better understand how to talk to young people about video games in a therapeutic manner.

“I’m not a gamer and I have had great success integrating video games in counseling,” Rice said. “My clients and students have directly informed everything that I know and do in clinical practice, and this is evident throughout the book.”