June 2014

Minecraft? As Therapy?

Over our 17 years in practice, we have offered lots of different summer themed groups. There were Star Wars: Finding Your Inner Jedi, Harry Potter: Becoming a Social Cues Wizard, Taming Your Dragon: Managing Angry Feelings and Superhero Me!: Increasing Self-Confidence, to name just a few. The purpose of these themes is to get kids excited about working on social skills, anger management and in the case of Minecraft, emotional regulation. Conceptualizing feelings of anxiety or anger using familiar, beloved themes makes tackling these issues more accessible to kids and allows them to be more comfortable doing the work to make real change. Identifying angry feelings as "hostile mobs" and using natural resources to craft a stable emotional "shelter" is the therapeutic equivalent of "a spoonful of sugar."
As a drama therapist, Erica Craig LCSW, RDT is uniquely qualified to be the leader of these groups. Drama therapy is an active, experiential approach to facilitating change. Through storytelling, projective play, purposeful improvisation and performance, her participants are invited to rehearse desired behaviors and practice, expand and find flexibility within themselves and their relationships with others. For our Minecraft groups, comprised of kids who experience discomfort and difficulty with appropriately expressing or containing their emotions, these techniques are very powerful. Participants will work on managing uncomfortable feelings in socially appropriate ways and practice strategies to lower their overall baseline of anger and anxiety. Throughout the 8 week program, Erica will tie strategies back to the Minecraft theme and the kids will be "playing" the game through imagination and dramatic improvisation - no screen time violations here!
While theming a group may feel lighthearted, the kids are doing serious work. Equipping them to better manage stressful situations, prevent angry outbursts, and alleviate anxiety is more complicated than learning to mine for pixelated diamonds. As clinicians, forming groups of kids who will work well together is a very important piece of that successful process - it's the main reason one cannot simply "sign up" for our groups. We evaluate each child individually and as a team to promote a good clinical fit. Children are like snowflakes; even with the same diagnosis, no two are the same. Through the evaluation process, we are able to fit them together so they both compliment and challenge one another.
As a parent, if you were attracted to the title of this article, and it caused you to read to this point, you now know why theming a group can be so powerful. It bridges the gap for our children to allow them to tap into their own imagination and inner resources to work on difficult feelings. It gives them a relatable language of expression. Perhaps, going forward, you won't even cringe when your kids mention Minecraft!
For more information about this group and our other SummerStart programs, please email us at summerstart@insteppc.com or visit

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