UAE: Video games can help children cooperate during psychotherapy, says expert

While it could be viewed as aggressive play, it is, in fact, different from actual aggression because 'of its lack of intent or attempt to injure a live person'


Lamya Tawfik

Published: Wed 7 Dec 2022, 7:04 PM

Last updated: Wed 7 Dec 2022, 7:11 PM

There’s more to video games than meets the eye. According to a mental health specialist, video games can be used to help children and adolescents cooperate more and even be enthusiastic about psychotherapy sessions.

Dr Horacio Hojman, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour from the Alpert Medical School at Brown University and a faculty member at the Boston Pscyhoanalytic Society and Institute spoke to attendees of the International Association for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) Congress on how to harness the power of video games with their young clients.

While it could be viewed as aggressive play, Dr Hojman said that it is, in fact, different from actual aggression because “of its lack of intent or attempt to injure a live person”.

“Popular evidence of negative effects on aggression and video game addiction should be reserved only for children and adolescents who are excessive users of video games, and it does not mean that they cannot be used as contemporary tools for the development of a psychotherapeutic relationship,” he said.

In therapeutic settings, he said that video games can be a helpful tool in the psychotherapist’s toolbox starting from being used as icebreakers, to being used to build rapport.

“A therapist can also discover the child’s repertoire of problem-solving strategies. They are also useful in releasing aggression and control, and can show the therapist the child’s joy of victory, and frustrations of defeat,” he said.

A spirit of cooperation can also be fostered between the therapist and the child while gaming.

“When a child starts playing with a video game during therapy, the therapist main concern should not be to repress its use, but rather to seek to understand whether the child is having an emotional experience, a genuinely joyful and meaningful one,” he said.

Video games, Dr Hojman argued, have many benefits for children. The joy of playing games, for instance, is an important emotional benefit according to Dr Hojman. “They also provide children with opportunities to negotiate society’s rules and roles while allowing them to confront danger, feelings of fear and anxiety, mastery and defeat, power and powerlessness in a digital world that can arouse fear, but ultimately is safe,” he said.


Cognitively, they can help them, for instance, in developing and fine-tuning their problem-solving skills. “This is because they take time to gather information, evaluate options, formulate a plan and consider changing strategies or goals before proceeding further,” he said.

Another benefit for video games is that it trains players on acquiring incremental intelligence, according to Dr Hojman. “Video gaming is an ideal training ground for the acquisition of incremental intelligence as they provide players concrete and immediate feedback other specific players have made,” he said.

In his final remarks, Dr Hojman urged the attendees to pay attention to the impact of video games on the development of the ego, sense of self and unconscious processes during treatment.

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