What is the Difference Between Therapy and Therapeutic in Tabletop Gaming?

Therapy and therapeutic treatments are two distinct methods for achieving mental health and emotional well-being. While many people think of them as the same thing, there are key differences that should be understood when deciding on the best course of action for a person’s individual needs. 


Therapy is a traditional form of mental health treatment provided by a licensed mental health service provider. Therapy typically involves one-on-one sessions with a therapist or in some cases a clinical intern. In these sessions, the therapist works with the individual to identify and address underlying issues and develop skills to help them manage their emotions and behaviors. During therapy sessions, the therapist may use techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help the person learn new ways of thinking and behaving. There are many theoretical frameworks and approaches to treatment plans that therapists may use to help treat their clients. 


Therapeutic treatments or experiences are more like interventions that may or may not have a licensed therapist guiding a person through the experiences. These are often designed to help the person achieve a specific outcome. Therapeutic treatments are generally not as intensive as therapy and do not involve regular sessions with a therapist. They may be done on one’s own, with a friend or family member, or with a qualified therapist. 

Therapy and therapeutic treatments can both be effective ways to achieve mental health and emotional well-being. However, it is important to understand the differences between the two in order to make the best decision for one’s individual needs.

As technology continues to evolve and therapy becomes more accessible, therapeutic gaming is increasing in popularity. Therapeutic gaming in many formats is becoming a viable option for individuals and groups looking to find relief from various mental health issues or daily stressors. But as mentioned above, therapy and therapeutic are very different and there are differences in using gaming in therapy with a trained therapist vs playing a game and gaining therapeutic benefits from the experiences the gamer is having. 

But what is the difference between therapy and therapeutic gaming you ask? As mentioned earlier, therapy is a traditional type of mental health treatment that involves talking through psychological issues with a trained professional for a period of time. In these sessions, the therapist listens, offers insight, and helps the client identify and understand their issues so that effective strategies can be developed for managing them. Therapy can take place in-person, with groups, via phone or video conferencing, or even through text-based therapies such as chatbots.

Gaming in therapy is an increasingly popular modality for therapy that uses games to address psychological challenges. These games can have a variety of goals, such as helping people to manage their stress or increase their social skills. Furthermore, therapeutic games can be used in combination with traditional talk therapy to increase its effectiveness.

Therapeutic gaming is very different and has a number of advantages. For one, it is often experienced with friends around a table or while playing a game on a console. These moments in game can be cathartic and allow the individual to move into a reality that is driven by stories in the game and provide a change of mental experience from day to day life and stressors to more enjoyable engaging experiences with friends or family. When therapeutic moments are created in games it is because the player is experiencing relief from whatever has pained them from the day or week or month. These moments are not driven by the therapist or forced onto the individual. 

Many mental health providers often get hung up on the idea of therapeutic encounters being therapy and that these moments should only be provided by licensed mental health professionals and many times forget that therapy and therapeutic have two different meanings as well as provide different experiences to the individual. 

So when you are thinking about therapeutic gaming and using it in therapy, that must be done with a trained mental health professional. However, therapeutic experiences are moments when the client or yourself are feeling good about the moment in your game or at the table with friends or even shopping for the holidays.  


Happy Holidays and keep on gaming!

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