CARBONDALE — Dani LaPlant has found a way for their nerdiness to help others.
LaPlant, a counselor for Centerstone, implemented a new program in fall 2020 that links their two worlds: role-playing games and therapy. LaPlant told The Southern they had seen the ways friends on the autism spectrum had been helped by playing role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. That, along with learning about other therapeutic programs that use the same character-building, dice-rolling mechanics as DnD, inspired LaPlant to create Centerstone’s virtual Dungeons & Dragons Therapy Group.
Dungeons & Dragons is a role-playing game in which players build characters and work as a team to navigate the “dungeon,” or world created by a neutral host, called a dungeon master. Players role dice to see the outcomes of their decisions.
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A Centerstone news release from Feb. 2 said the program will be available online to adults in substance use disorder and/or mental health services at Centerstone. In that news release, LaPlant explained the benefit to clients.
“A D&D group provides a safe environment for people to talk through and process relationship issues, grievances and successes, and can even help boost self-esteem,” they said.
LaPlant told The Southern that therapy using DnD as a foundation weaves together both cognitive and dialectical forms of behavioral therapies. The news release said the game provides an opportunity for increased mindfulness, as players think through their decisions as their characters rather than as themselves.
LaPlant said they take personal details from clients’ histories and weave them into the story they create. It could be something as simple as a place they may miss visiting during quarantine, or even difficult life situations they may want to revisit from a different angle.
As to building a character — the basis of any Dungeons & Dragons campaign — LaPlant said they left the process somewhat open. If players had an old character from previous DnD experience, they are welcome to bring them along as long as they meet the parameters of the campaign they built. But, clients are free to make a brand-new character based on themselves or one that is entirely invented.
But, LaPlant said, unlike a traditional game, characters are relatively safe in the Centerstone campaign.
“In this, they’re not dying,” they said. LaPlant explained if a battle goes amiss, a character may be briefly removed from play, but will come back to rejoin the campaign.
Though they have not run a Dungeons & Dragons game before, years of experience playing and planning campaigns have helped LaPlant build the fantasy world players experience.
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Though not the first of its kind in the country — LaPlant pointed to other Dungeons & Dragons therapy groups in bigger cities — they said it is unique here.
“I’m trying to take things that would normally be a progressive, really sought-after type of service to provide for this level of community intervention,” they said. LaPlant said they didn’t want clients to miss the benefits of this kind of therapy just because they don’t live in a big city or have a lot of money.
The current group is small, with about four regular players. But LaPlant looks forward to growing the program and welcomes players of all experience levels.
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