Therapy games are games which are used in psychotherapy. They can be used in group and solo therapy, in a wide variety of settings and situations. Some therapists may specialize in utilizing games to work with their clients, as in the case of play therapists, while others may simply integrate games and play into their regular practice. Several companies manufacture games specifically designed for use in therapy, and therapists can also invent their own or repurpose regular games designed for play.
A number of functions in psychotherapy can be served by playing games. Games tend to get people to relax and loosen up, which can be beneficial, and they can also be used to create connections between therapist and patient or between patients working together in group therapy. Games can also be a way to gradually introduce people to psychotherapy, which can be useful when patients are resistant to psychotherapy or when they are struggling with the idea of seeking help for psychological issues.
In group therapy, therapy games are often used as icebreakers to introduce the members of the group to each other and to get them to connect. Games can also be useful for the therapist because they allow him or her to explore the dynamics of the group without being overt. The therapist may engage in the games with the patients, or act as a supervisor, directing the game play and observing. Since people tend to relax and act more naturally while playing games, whether they are board games or group physical activities, the games can provide a window into the attitudes and mental states of the group members.
In both solo and group therapy, games can also be used to explore specific therapeutic topics. Some people may feel more comfortable when difficult issues are presented through therapy games, and therapy games may allow them to work through complex emotions or intense feelings. Games can be used to create a safe space for the client in which there is no pressure to perform, and no right or wrong answer.
Physiotherapists can also use games. Psychologically, games can be very beneficial, and people who are struggling with physical problems may enjoy the opportunity to lighten up by playing a game, instead of focusing on more mundane physical therapy tasks. Games can also be used to teach skills in subtle ways, and to show patients that they can have fun while improving their physical condition. Therapy games may also be used as a cover to introduce physiotherapy patients to each other so that they can share their experiences and skills.