Assessing Clients with Video Games – Guest Blog

Michael Ehrig, MA

Gathering Clinical Data

A crucial aspect of therapy is the therapist’s ability to assess the client. This assessment allows the therapist to gain insight into the client’s presenting issue(s). The therapist gathers data on the client’s affect, mood, and motor skills among others. The goal of the assessment is to utilize the data gathered to diagnose and create a treatment plan with measurable goals to identify the effectiveness of the treatment. Therapists are continuously assessing in session as well as from session to session to measure progression or regression. have strong verbal skills while others may not.

Video Games

Video games provide unique opportunities for assessments. Ceranoglu (2010) argued the use of video games in psychotherapy is beneficial to building a relationship, evaluating a child’s cognitive processing style, and elaboration and clarification of conflicts. Video game play provides intense situations due to audio and visual effects, the emotional nature of the play, and the identification with characters that may bring the client and therapist together as they share similar affective states (Ceranoglu, 2010). After the relationship is established, the importance of the client’s cognitive processing style is crucial for the therapist to assess. Video game play provide a variety of measurable behaviors such as memory, motor and planning skills, visuospatial, and frustration tolerance among others (Ceranoglu, 2010). Furthermore, the therapist can assess the client’s emotional regulation and reactions to play going well or if the play is not going the way the client intended. The therapist can measure the child’s ability to work through conflict by watching the client’s self-talk, planning, and frustration tolerance. This information provides insight for the therapist to include in diagnosing and treatment planning.

Clients who struggle with verbalization and articulating conflicts in the therapeutic process may find it easier to verbalize conflicts through video game play (Ceranoglu, 2010). Video game play can facilitate insight for the therapist through the use of body positioning between the therapist and client sitting side by side allowing the client to feel free to express themselves without direct eye contact with the therapist as well as the client’s choice of game and game mode (Ceranoglu, 2010). The client’s choice of game may show the client’s inner processes to provide elaboration and clarification for the therapist. For example, a client may choose to play an aggression game to express and verbalize inner frustration or conflict. A client may choose to play an adventure game where they can modify the content such as building or destroying objects. These choices may represent a deeper meaning for the client that may not be obtained through other therapeutic approaches. The game mode is another opportunity for a therapist to gauge a client’s inner thinking. Game modes allude to a single player mode where the client is only playing, a player versus player mode (client vs. therapist), or a client and therapist team versus the computer. The selection of modes may represent different meanings or situations a client may be experiencing.

Ceranoglu, A., T. (2010) Video Games in Psychotherapy. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 141-146. doi:10.1037/a0019439