Why nerd therapy? Or how I stopped worrying about looking like a professional

Why use nerd therapy? It seems like a weird idea on the surface. But with the Marvel films and Star Wars movies being popular as ever and gaming no longer a niche thing for oddballs.

It could just be the synthwave aesthetic.

My passion for nerdy approaches to therapy begins with the understanding that for every person, we need a different approach to mental health. Not everything works for everyone, or every issue that they face. Developing and taking part in new and innovative approaches to supporting mental health is vital, and programs like “Mine-fulness with Mike”, and “Roll for Growth”, are my way of reaching out to people who may not get much out of traditional styles of therapy.

Mine-fulness with Mike uses Minecraft for therapeutic opportunities, social & emotional learning, and simply giving us a shared activity to enjoy during therapy.

In my early roles working with kids I learned quickly that if I just sat down in my Counsellor Shirt and used my Counsellor Words in my Counsellor Voice, sometimes I’d lose their attention or interest. I wouldn’t be able to make that important connection, and I’d just be another adult using adult words. Other children who had been exposed more to the system, would refuse to speak in the presence of a notepad and pen.

Roll for Growth uses a variety of team based storytelling games for group therapy and mental health support.

And it didn’t feel genuine to me, either! We’re encouraged to be authentic, and it took me awhile to be comfortable bringing being a total nerd to all of you, because I was worried it may not be “professional”. Eventually I realised that it didn’t matter so much if I was the very Avatar of Corporate Professionalism, even if I do suit a suit, if it’s not going to represent the authentic Mike in sessions. 

Not long after I started the Pop Culture Competence project, I was asked if I did nerdy therapy, and my first honest thought was “why don’t I do nerdy therapy?!”

After making Star Wars based Zones of Regulation & behaviour charts, I finally decided on looking more at nerdy therapy. Of course I was still studying and practising in traditional therapy, and I love acceptance & commitment training, and dialectical behaviour therapy, but I also wanted to create opportunities to reach people who normally may not respond well to 1:1 conversations. 

Roll for Growth now has Star Wars sessions!

Part of ending the stigma to me, is giving people, especially young people, a therapy experience they can engage with and enjoy. Part of how I measure success is willingness to engage, and willingness to return. 

For years I’ve talked in my personal life about the connective and therapeutic power of gaming, both at a table for games like D&D, and in games like World of Warcraft that can create a sense of inclusion and community. Games like Minecraft and Roblox can inspire creative thinking, and at the end of the day, Pokemon Go just wants us to go for a walk 🙂 

Part of what inspired me to become a counsellor was the phrase; “be who you needed when you were younger.” I’ve struggled with social anxiety, general anxiety, and depression. At the end of the day, I’m trying to find new ways to support people in need. And why not make it fun, and creative?

To find out more, send me a message, contact me via this site or contact me on social media @CounsellingWithMike.

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