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RPG Recreation Therapy Hypothetical Scenario - Bipolar Clients in Complex Interpersonal Interactions

by Hawke Robinson published Jun 20, 2015 05:05 PM, last modified Feb 05, 2023 12:22 PM
As we continue through the course on Recreation Therapy for People with Disabilities at Eastern Washington University, we have various assignments to write up hypothetical scenarios with hypothetical clients. This is one with several types of scenarios with hypothetical bipolar clients using tabletop role-playing gaming as the core activity. This is a high level overview, rather than a detailed activity analysis.

Complex Interpersonal Interactions

Population type: Bipolar clients currently treated by medication and other support, that will participate in tabletop role-playing gaming as the core recreational activity.
Focus on using Role-playing games as core activity, since this is an exceptionally strong tool for working on interpersonal interactions.

Forming Relationships

Need to find others with the same interests. For example other Role-playing gamers interested in tabletop RPG. Let’s say they are all known to be diagnosed with bi-polar of one type or another. 

The clients are all being treated, but still need to improve some of their social interaction skills. Through the game hoping to develop skills to self-regulate when around others, whether in a manic swing or down swing. Even if on medication these swings can still exist to a lesser degree, the medications may minimize the swings from being harmfully extreme, but the clients may still have smaller swings that may not get them fired from a job, but may make it difficult to maintain long term friendships/relationships because of inappropriate interactions when on a high or low end of a swing.

The participants also may need to be interested in the same game systems, and often the same game settings, genres such as science fiction versus fantasy, mystery versus horror, etc. as well as sometimes specific campaign settings, for example Arthurian versus Star Wars, or Mystery! versus Call of Cthulhu or Supernatural. 

Though not required to have identical interests, the more similarities the participants share, the better chance for a stronger connection with the others, and more likely to be tolerant of the others in the interest of continuing the game sessions. You probably do not want several players that love sci-fi but hate fantasy, and then a few other players that feel the inverse. In such a case, might want to go with a more neutral setting, lets say they all have some enjoyment of Westerns, so use that as the common ground for the setting instead.

The participants need to overcome the initial awkwardness of properly greeting initially complete strangers, but that fortunately have at least the common interest of the game. 

Regulating Behaviors Within Interactions

Over time as they get to know each other at game sessions, even at the beginning, in a group of participants there can be VERY strong personality differences that need to be worked with. Some will have more overbearing or argumentative interests, while others will have more reserved or passive approaches. Each participant will have to work out what is the correct way to approach the other participants in a way that will be conducive to the glow of the activity, rather than interrupt and distract from the flow.


Some members of the group may be experiencing a minor downswing, while others on the upswing. Understanding about the others being in a different place, and being tolerant and patient with the other in waiting for decisions and responses. Or if one is more up, and being impulsive at the risk of the imaginary adventuring group, the other group members knowing how to help dissuade that player/character from acting on the impulse, and listening to the others, in a way that doesn’t make the player defensive.

Terminating Relationships

Every group has participants come and go over time. Some times there is a pre-planned end determined in advance for everyone, or specific individuals, sometimes other reasons lead to the need for participants to leave. Or if the group is completely voluntary, a participant may decide that this particular activity or group just isn’t their “cup of tea”. They need to know how to considerately express their desire to leave, or their reasons why they are considering leaving. If they decide to leave, doing so in a congenial fashion, and not in a “flaming out” way by making a scene, or sending mass flame mail, etc.