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Therapeutic games are designed to address certain psychological issues through structured play scenarios. These games are most often used with children, but versions may be employed by adults. Some therapeutic games are used in a formal clinical setting and are based on formal psychological research. Other varieties are available as consumer products and have not generally been evaluated by the scientific community. Game therapy can be used to allow patients to work through issues, or to foster certain sorts of behavior.
One of the most important uses of therapeutic games is in facilitating communication with children. Children often have an easier time expressing themselves and communicating through play than through more formal conversation. Some games take advantage of this fact and are designed to facilitate the communication of feelings or experiences that might otherwise be very difficult for children to articulate and which the children might not even consciously understand.
Formal play therapy often includes elements of role play. Psychologists can use carefully-structured games and scenarios to elicit feelings about traumatic experiences such as abuse or the breakup of a family. In many cases, these games allow several children to interact under observation as children typically interact more freely with one another than with adults, especially unfamiliar adults.
In some cases, psychologists may use therapeutic games to teach coping skills or to mitigate some destructive patterns of behavior. Games have been developed and used in a clinical setting to reduce the impact of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This condition makes it difficult for students to retain focus on any particular task or object. Therapeutic games have been used with some success to train children to be better able to focus, using a progressive system of challenges and rewards.
Other therapeutic games have been designed to allow children to cope with other specific psychological needs and issues. Some games make it easy and acceptable for children to express anger, which they might not otherwise be able to process. Games can allow children to learn skills FOR dealING with stress or building self-confidence by imagining and then drawing on internal symbols of strength.
Parents may also opt to select therapeutic games from the marketplace for use with children. These games are less carefully-researched than the games used in a formal therapeutic setting, but may still confer benefits. Games of this sort are designed to address a wide variety of personal and behavioral issues. Some are meant to teach self-respect, others are meant to enhance empathy or improve attention.