Roll for Growth, Social Skills & Social Anxiety

During a session last week, one of my participants mentioned how much he enjoys this style of counselling. “This is really fun, and I like being able to tell my story.” Not only that, the group are fully engaged through the whole session. That’s why I’m so passionate about this form of therapy: for them, it hardly feels like therapy, but they’re having the full effect of a therapeutic session.

Roll for Growth is a style of play therapy which uses storytelling games built on teamwork. I have written a story, and the players form a team, and must work together to overcome challenges and obstacles in the story. They must also navigate social scenarios, such as meeting new people, resolving disagreements between friends, working as a team, and developing interpersonal effectiveness.

These sessions can be used for developing social skills, managing shyness and social anxiety.

The game provides a safe space for practising these skills through the medium of roleplay, and allows for gameified feedback. The facilitator (me), will respond appropriately to conversation and social interactions.

The players sit around a table, and work collaboratively to achieve their goals.

Social traits such as charisma and persuasion are part of the game, with allocated skill values and the chance to roll dice to determine outcomes. In Roll for Growth sessions, players may forgo a dice roll entirely if they can provide demonstrable skill or effectiveness in these areas.

I’ll post an example of some dialogue below. The player is a wizard, trying to obtain a magical gem from the facilitator, who is a ranger.

Ex. 1: Using dice for outcomes.

Player: “Hi! Can I have that gem?”
Facilitator: “Roll for persuasion.”
The player would then roll a twenty-sided die, the result of which would affect the outcome of this request, with higher numbers resulting in a higher likelihood of success. In our example here, the player has rolled an 11, which is unsuccessful. A score of 15 would be required to obtain the gem from the ranger in this case, because it’s valuable, but not a precious heirloom or something the ranger isn’t allowed to give away. This would be okay in a regular game, but less fun for those engaged in roleplay or a Roll for Growth session.

Ex. 2: Roll for Growth
Player (as the Ranger): “Give me the gem.”
Facilitator: “Excuse me, Wizard? I don’t know who you are. Are you trying to rob me?”
Facilitator (out of character): “Try again. Convince me.”

Player: “Hello there! My name is Danielus and I am a wizard! I am in need of gems for my quest to defeat the Dark Lord. What could I do in order to get the gem?”

Facilitator (as the Ranger): “Good afternoon, Danielus! I am Daveiken, a ranger, and it is also my quest to see the end of the Dark Lord’s tyranny! You may have the gem if it would help bring peace back to the kingdom.”

In the Roll for Growth model, the player used interpersonal effectiveness; a solid introduction, a succinct purpose, and an honest question. In this scenario, the player has done a good enough job of engaging the facilitator, that I’d bypass the dice roll and allow them to have the gem for their quest. Although their first attempt failed, they were allowed a second chance to practice their interpersonal skills.

By doing this in the game environment, players don’t need to take criticism to heart, as they are acting as their character. However, they can learn vicariously through this character, and Danielus the Wizard can be safely used to explore a world and try out new skills.

In addition to putting players in social situations to test their interpersonal effectiveness, players must work as a team to overcome challenges and puzzles, as well as make decisions for the team. I integrate a variety of team building and rapport-developing activities into the story in order to facilitate team cohesion and interaction between players.

For a lot of the people I work with, in practice and in school, social situations can be a struggle. This leads them to avoid socialising out of discomfort and shyness. Roll for Growth sessions can facilitate social learning and social skills experimentation, in the therapeutic space, without fear of humiliation or judgement

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