The Psychotherapeutic Magic of Larp

The Psychotherapeutic Magic of Larp

The fact that larp has psychotherapeutic and transformative potential is certainly not an arcane knowledge in the larp world. Many, if not all, larpers know experientially that even the kinds of larp that are designed to be strictly recreational contribute to one’s growth and personal development. Through larping we get to know ourselves better, we develop our creative and innovative thinking, we become better problem-solvers. We enhance our empathy, improve our social and communication skills, learn teamwork, and increase our sense of community. We explore different values, beliefs, ideologies, ways of behaviour and expression. We develop multidimensional artistic skills and gain better understanding and handling of the physical world. Through larp, we develop holistically: on a physical, mental, emotional, creative, and social level.[1]Elektra Diakolambrianou, “The Use of Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) in Personal Development, Therapy and Education” (presentation, Smart Psi National Conference, Bucharest, Romania, 24/11/2018).

Yet how does the psychotherapeutic magic of larp work? What are the mechanics behind this transformative experience? Are the processes and elements at play different when personal development happens informally in a recreational larp, as to when a larp is formally designed for psychotherapeutic purposes? What makes larp a valid and effective methodological tool in the hands of a mental health professional?

The current article will make an attempt at answering these questions by:

(a) exploring characters and stories in larp as psychotherapeutic material,

(b) analyzing the role of empathy in the embodiment and function of larp characters, as well as

(c) the connections between larp and some of its most adjacent psychotherapeutic methodologies (psychodrama-sociodrama, dramatherapy, narrative psychotherapy).

Finally, it will conclude in:

(d) discussing how techniques of the above-mentioned approaches can be used to design and use larps as tools in psychotherapy.

The words "I want to evolve" on top of an abstract colorful painting

Photos from a mixed-media art project on personal development through creativity. Photo by Elektra Diakolambrianou.

Stories and Characters as Psychotherapeutic Material

Humans create and share stories in order to make sense of their world. Every story told in the world – be it a folk tale, a bedtime story, or a personal narrative – is a participatory experience and a journey of inner and outer exploration for both the teller and the listener.[2]Alida Gersie and Nancy King, Storymaking in Education and Therapy, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1990), 23-24. Psychotherapy as a process could not be any different; storytelling is a core element in the therapist’s room, as clients present themselves in various characters and roles, and share their stories in order to make sense of themselves, their problems and their lives.[3]Kevin Burns, “The Therapy Game: Nordic Larp, Psychotherapy, and Player Safety”, in Wyrd Con Companion 2014, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman, (Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2014), 28-29. In fact, what essentially differentiates the various approaches of psychotherapy from one another is the lens through which they interpret, understand and use these stories and the characters within them in order to understand the client and facilitate his transformation and change. So, from a psychological point of view, where do these stories and characters come from, and what do they mean?

Larp literature has often used the Jungian perspective of archetypes to answer this question. Carl Jung defined archetypes as universal symbols and personality patterns, deriving from shared “archaic remnants” and “primordial images” within our collective unconscious.[4]Carl Gustav Jung, Man and His Symbols, (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 27-59 Whitney “Strix” Beltrán has examined in great detail the relationship between larp, archetypes and depth psychology in her work “Yearning for the Hero Within: Live-Action Role-Playing as Engagement with Mythical Archetypes,” where she analyzes and discusses larp as an answer to the societal need for myth in the Western civilization.[5]Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, “Yearning for the Hero Within: Live Action Role-Playing as Engagement with Mythical Archetypes,” in Wyrd Con Companion 2012, edited by Aaron Vanek and Sarah Lynne Bowman (Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2012), 91-98. Sarah Lynne Bowman similarly studies immersion in role-playing games through the perspective of the Jungian theory.[6]Sarah Lynne Bowman, “Jungian Theory and Immersion in Role-playing Games,” in Immersive Gameplay: Essays on Participatory Media and Role-playing, edited by Evan Torner and William J. White (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012), 31-51. Kevin Burns discusses active imagination (a technique developed by Jung to explore the archetypes in the realm of the collective unconscious) as a process closely related to larp, and highlights how the exploration of archetypes through larp can facilitate personal growth and cultural richness.[7]Burns, “The Therapy Game”, 29-37 And lastly, Beltrán has beautifully used the Jungian perspective as a lens for understanding the complexes and group processes in larp communities.[8]Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, “Shadow Work: A Jungian Perspective on the Underside of Live Action Role-Play in the United States.”, in The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2013, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman and Aaron Vanek, (Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2013), 94-101.

Given the extensive work already existing in the field of Jungian theory, I will not revisit ground already covered, but will instead attempt to discuss the issue at hand from a different perspective: that of the person-centred approach to psychotherapy. By doing so, I am not proposing an alternative to the archetypal paradigm, but rather suggesting a supplementary view, more focused on the self-concept and its phenomenological representation in the here-and-now of the individual experience.

Configurations of Self: A Person-Centered Perspective

The person-centred approach, developed by Carl Rogers in the early 1940s, views the person as an organism, a holistic entity where the biological, psychological and social aspects of existence are intertwined and inseparable. Each organism is believed to have an inherent actualizing tendency, an internal force that promotes the organism’s survival, differentiation and evolution.[9]Carl Rogers, ”Theory of Personality and Behaviour”, in Client-Centered Therapy – Its current  practice, implications and theory, (London: Constable, 1951), 481-533. The concept of self (our sense of who we are) within this framework is just a part of the organism; it consists of the elements of our internal and external experiences that we view as relating to us. This self-concept, however, is often distorted by our conditions of worth (our perception of what our environment and the important “others” in our lives expect from us to accept us and regard us positively); and this can lead to us only allowing parts of our real genuine self to enter our self-awareness and get integrated into our self-image, while other parts of us (the ones that are negatively regarded or not acceptable by our environment) are suppressed, distorted or denied.[10]Carl Rogers, “A Theory of Therapy, Personality, and Interpersonal Relationships, as Developed in the Client-Centred Framework”, The Carl Rogers Reader, ed. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson, (London: Constable, 1959), 236 – 257.

In addition to that, the concept of personality is not viewed by the person-centred approach as an entity that is stable, unidimensional and harmoniously integrated. On the contrary, according to later theorists like Mearns and Thorne,[11]Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne, “The nature of configuration within self”, in Person-Centred Therapy Today, (London: Sage, 2000), 101-119. the self is a mosaic of configurations: a range of differentiated self-concepts (alternative personalities, if you wish) that appear in different circumstances. Each of these configurations of self represents a coherent pattern of feelings, thoughts and behaviours, and each one has different needs, desires and views of the world. According to the situational circumstances, different configurations arise within us, even in the course of a common day, without us necessarily being aware of the process. The coexistence of these configurations within us can be harmonious and functional, or a cause of constant conflict and distress, depending on many factors relating to our life experiences, personality structure and levels of self-awareness.[12]Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne, “Person-centred therapy with configurations of self”, in Person-Centred Therapy Today, (London: Sage, 2000), 120-143.

Taking all the above into consideration, we can develop a view on characters in larp that is not far from the Jungian perspective, but slightly more focused on the here-and-now experience of the player than on their collective subconscious: When we create characters and stories that are consciously more on the close-to-home scale, we are essentially staying closer to our self-image and our symbolized experiences. Although we do not drift far from our comfort zone, this may still hold therapeutic value if it allows us to explore our self-concept and our internalized behavioural patterns (i.e. the behaviours that align with our conditions of worth). And most importantly to gain more insight and understanding as to how and why these have been formed within us, in what instances they arise, and how they influence our interactions with others. The further we drift away from our comfort zone and into a range of characters and stories that (at least seemingly) appear to be far from our self-image, the therapeutic value of the “material” is increasing, as we may be exploring the uncharted waters of parts of our real self that have been suppressed or denied, or we may be experimenting with alternative ways of being that can more easily arise in the safe environment that alibi provides us with during larp. Essentially, according to the person-centred perspective, what we will be portraying and exploring will always be some configuration(s) of our self, which can either be more close to our awareness and self-image or further away from it, depending on the level of challenge we chose to present ourselves with each time.

The Role of Empathy in Larp

Although there is a broad range of definitions of empathy as well as various empathy types recognized by theorists (cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, somatic empathy, situational empathy),[13]Hannah Read, “A Typology of Empathy and its many Moral Forms”, Philosophy Compass 14 (10), (2019) https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12623 I will be here referring to empathy as our ability to understand another person’s feelings and/or experiences from within that person’s own frame of reference – in less scientific terms, our ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.[14]Carl Rogers, “Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being”, in A Way of Being, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980), 137-163. Studies in developmental psychology,[15]Martin Hoffman, Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). as well as neurobiology,[16]Mbemba Jabbi, Marte Swart and Christian Keysers, “Empathy for positive and negative emotions in the gustatory cortex”. NeuroImage, 34 (4): (2007), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.10.032 show that all people are born with the inherent capacity for empathy (as it is linked with neuronic systems in our brains called “the mirror neuron system”), although the level of its development can be differentiated by parameters such as upbringing, life experiences, personality structure and psychophysiological factors. Thus, to some extent, every one of us can potentially perceive the world as another person sees it,[17]Jerold Bozarth, “Beyond Reflection: Emergent Modes of Empathy”, in Client-Centered Therapy & The Person Centered Approach, eds Ronald Levant and John Schlien, (NY: Praeger, 1984), 59-75. and that is why we can all larp.

Indeed, the role of empathy in larp is to a certain degree self-evident, as it is our empathic ability that allows us to impersonate a character; the extent to which we can empathize with our character will determine the depth of our immersion and our ability to roleplay as that character. But at the same time, larp is also enhancing our empathic abilities; theatre and theatrical techniques have been used as an essential part of empathy training for at least two decades now in the fields of medical, clinical and activist communities, with relevant studies showing that theatre as a medium not only produces, induces and grows empathy for the actors, but also for the spectators.[18]Maia Kinney-Petrucha, “The Play’s the Thing: Theater as an ideal Empathy Playground”, (2017). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317318081_The_Play’s_the_Thing_Theater_as_an_Ideal_Empathy_Playground In other words, the more we impersonate larp characters that are seemingly different from us, and the more we interact with other players impersonating such characters, the more our capacity for empathy increases. The importance of this needs to be emphasized, as it goes beyond the simple development of a social skill through larp but is indeed a factor of mental well-being on its own.

To better understand its significance, let us revisit the person-centred psychotherapeutic approach. According to Carl Rogers, there are six conditions in the context of a therapeutic setting that are necessary and sufficient to bring about therapeutic change: psychological contact, incongruence (on behalf of the client), congruence/authenticity (on behalf of the therapist), empathy, unconditional positive regard, and sufficient communication of the latter two. Therefore, from a person-centred perspective, in a setting/relationship where all these conditions are present, the person can safely grow, examining his self-image and its conditions of worth, broadening his perceptual field, increasing his self-awareness and positive self-regard, and thus becoming more functional and open to experience.[19]Carl Rogers, “Conditions which Constitute a Growth Promoting Climate”, in The Carl Rogers Reader, ed. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson, (London: Constable, 1986), 135-147.

One could argue that in some larps all the above-mentioned therapeutic conditions can potentially be present (and we will revisit this in the section about ‘larp design for psychotherapeutic purposes’). For the time being, I will focus on empathy as one of the therapeutic conditions, even in the case of a larp where the remaining five conditions are not occurring. The development of empathy will, even in the absence of the other conditions, enhance the personal growth of the player in numerous psychotherapeutic ways:

  • Empathy dissolves alienation, by connecting us to others and to the human experience as a whole.
  • Empathy promotes inclusion and related values, as it is very difficult to enter the perceptual world of another without valuing it, or without ending up valuing it.
  • Empathy reduces judgmentalism (towards others and self), thus raising the person’s acceptance and self-acceptance.
  • An empathic internal environment will create more safety for self-exploration, thus fostering the ability to integrate more configurations into the self-concept.
  • Empathy allows the flow of experiencing (for self and others) to be unblocked, thus unblocking essentially our actualizing tendency.
  • Empathy is a vital element of effective communication in interpersonal and intergroup interactions.[20]Elisabeth Freire, “Empathy”, in M. Cooper, M. O’Hara, P. Schmid & G. Wyatt (eds), The Handbook of Person-Centred Psychotherapy and Counselling, ed. Mick Cooper, Maureen O’Hara, Peter Schmid and Gill Wyatt, (New York: Palgrave Mc Millan, 2007).

Connections Between Larp and the Psychotherapeutic Process

Although every psychotherapeutic approach could potentially be linked to larp,[21]Eirik Fatland, “A History of Larp – Larpwriter Summer School 2014,” Fantasiforbundet, published on August 3, 2014, Youtube video, 48:10, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf_gej5Pxkg I will here refer to the ones whose techniques are, from my viewpoint, more closely linked to larp as a process. Given the theatrical nature of larp, the most obvious connections would be to the approaches of psychodrama-sociodrama and drama therapy. Added to that, I will also discuss its affiliations with narrative psychotherapy.

Psychodrama – Sociodrama

According to Eirik Fatland’s lecture on the history of larp, the lineage of modern larp can be linked to the invention of psychodrama by Jacob Levy Moreno in the early 1920s. Psychodrama probably does not need long introductions; it is a widely used and known psychotherapeutic approach, and more precisely a method of exploring internal conflicts by dramatically reconstructing them in a group setting, usually under the direction of a trained psychodramatist. In his own words, Moreno describes it as “an action method” and “a scientific exploration of truth through dramatic art”.[22]Jacob Levy Moreno, Psychodrama Volume 1, (New York: Beacon House, 1946), 37-44.  His improvisational and political approach to theatre (rooted in his earlier groundbreaking work in his Theatre of Spontaneity) is evident not only in his theory of psychodrama but also in his later work on sociodrama, a method used for groups to reenact and explore social situations of conflict and oppression (which would in the 1970s become the cradle for Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed).[23]Beliza Castillo, “Psicodrama, Sociodrama y Teatro del Oprimido de Augusto Boal: Analogías y Diferencias,” Revista de Estudios Culturales 26 (26), (2013), 117-139.

Theory-wise, the strongest connection link between larp and psychodrama is Moreno’s approach of the dramatic role as an acting and interacting entity, something that humans actively embody and not passively wear, contrary to the paradigm of his time that viewed dramatic roles cognitively, as a part of the self that has been absorbed by the mind.[24]Robert Landy, Persona and Performance: The Meaning of Role in Drama, Therapy and Everyday Life, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1993), 52-54. On the other hand, a major difference between larp and psychodrama can be located in the methodological directivity of the latter; although spontaneity is necessary and desired in the content that participants bring and the way they engage with it in the psychodramatic session, the director (psychodramatist) is leading the process by instructing and guiding them through selected exercises and techniques.[25]Sue Jennings and Ase Minde, Art Therapy and Dramatherapy: Masks of the Soul, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1993), 28-31.

I would, however, argue that many of the techniques used in psychodrama and sociodrama occur in larp as conscious or unconscious player choices, despite the usual lack of directivity of larp as a medium. Let us take a close look to a few of the most commonly used psychodramatic techniques[26]Ana Cruz, Celia Sales, Paula Alves and Gabriela Moita, “The Core Techniques of Morenian Psychodrama: A Systematic Review of Literature”, Frontiers in Psychology 9 (1263), (2018) https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01263 and give some input to when and how they can be observed in a larp framework:

  • Role reversal: The participant steps out of their own role/self and takes on the role of a significant person in their life.
  • Mirroring: The participant becomes an observer while auxiliary egos (other participants) reenact an event they have previously described or acted out, so the participant can watch.
  • Doubling: Another group member adopts the participant’s behaviour, expressing any emotions or thoughts that they believe the participant has.
  • Soliloquy: The participant shares inner thoughts and feelings with the audience.

Role reversal can often be observed in larp when players end up creating or receiving a character that shares personality or backstory characteristics with a real person in their lives. As in psychodrama, this can build empathy and shed light on obscure relationship dynamics, as the player moves a step closer to perceiving the world through the eyes of that person.

Mirroring and doubling are “services” that, knowingly or not, other characters can provide to the player during a larp. Without necessarily intending to or even realizing it, other players may as characters embody personality traits that the player portrays out-of-game, may create scenes that are close-to-home for the player’s real-life experiences, or may express emotions that the player can relate to. When this happens, it can provide the player with an opportunity for self-awareness, self-compassion, as well as constructive self-analysis through a safe distance (see also next section: drama therapeutic empathy and distancing).

Lastly, soliloquy often occurs during the game when characters decide to open up to others in-game, but most importantly is a crucial element of the debriefing. As in psychodrama, this sharing, and generally the time allocated for group discussions about the in-game events, gives the opportunity for the meaning of the feelings and emotions that have come to light to be processed, thus essentially allowing transformation to occur.

Woman leading her companion through the Wieliczka salt mine in Poland.

Woman leading her companion through the Wieliczka salt mine in Poland. Photo by Nikola Sekulic.

Drama Therapy

Drama Therapy is a broad term, referring to the application of the art of drama in various frameworks and settings with the aim of creating a therapeutic, remedial and useful experience for the participants.[27]Sue Jennings, Introduction to Dramatherapy: Theatre and Healing – Ariadne’s Ball of Thread, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998), 39-40. There are countless exercises and techniques used in dramatherapy, as it serves more like a methodological framework than as a concrete therapeutic paradigm; however, there are certain concepts that apply generally in its various implementations, and here we will focus specifically on those. In his book “Drama as Therapy – Theatre as Living,”[28]Phil Jones, Drama as Therapy – Theatre as Living, (London: Routledge, 1996), 166-196. dramatherapist Phil Jones identifies and describes nine core processes that occur in dramatherapy, thus explaining its psychotherapeutic effectiveness. I will shortly discuss each of them, arguing how all of them can be found in a larp, therefore rendering it a therapeutic medium:

Dramatic Projection

Dramatic projection is the process through which people project aspects of themselves and their experiences onto theatrical and dramatic material, thus externalizing internal conflicts. This way, a relationship is built between their deeper internal states and the external dramatic formation, rendering self-exploration and therapeutic change possible through the dramatization of the projected material. Dramatic expression creates a new representation of this material, mediating a dramatic dialogue between the material and its external expression, providing the person with the opportunity to create a new relationship with it and reintegrate it within that context.

In larp, dramatic projection of inner material can happen consciously when we intently choose to play close to home, or subconsciously when we end up in one way or another portraying some configuration of ourselves. Following the argumentation of the person-centred approach, some level of dramatic projection is inevitable, and what varies is the degree to which we are aware of our process of projection.

Therapeutic Performance Process

The therapeutic performance includes the process of identifying the needs for expression of specific aspects that a person would like to explore. Turning that material into a performance is in itself therapeutic, as the person may take on different roles in the process, changing their viewpoint on the situation and allowing themselves to experience their creativity and relate to their issues through it. Thus change can occur through engaging with the problematic material from a different perspective, experimenting, and breaking the feeling of being trapped in the problem.

The identification of our needs for expression starts at the moment we choose to participate in a larp, or choose to play a specific character in it. Again, the extent to which this process is a conscious or subconscious one may vary, at least in larps that would be categorized as recreational.

Drama Therapeutic Empathy and Distancing

Empathy and distancing in drama therapy are two distinct but correlating processes, that refer both to active participants and to “witnesses” of the dramatic material. In accordance with the previous analysis of empathy, dramatherapeutic empathy encourages the resonance of feelings and the intense emotional involvement, making the development of empathic responses therapeutic for people in and out of the drama therapy room. Parallelly, distancing encourages a way of involvement that is orientated more towards thinking, reflection and opinion forming. It allows the person to engage with the material using critical thinking, and therefore to form a meta-perspective on it. The two processes can occur interchangeably or simultaneously, creating a dynamic of therapeutic change through their interaction, and giving the person the opportunity to develop holistically.

Essentially, when we are talking about drama therapeutic empathy and distancing, we are talking about immersion and aesthetic distance / meta-reflection. Their degree may vary depending on the larp and its design, but the balance and shifting between them is in the end what allows the player to develop and achieve self-growth through larp.[29]Hilda Levin, “Metareflection”, in What Do We Do When We Play? The Player Experience in Nordic Larp, edited by Eleanor Saitta (Finland: Solmukohta 2020), 62-74.

Personification and Impersonation

Personification (representing personality characteristics or aspects using objects in a dramatic way) and impersonation (creating a persona by adopting and portraying characters and roles) are two techniques through which people can express their inner material while exploring the meaning these processes have for them during and/or after their development. They provide a concrete focus point for expression and exploration: the participants have the possibility to experience how it is to be someone else or themselves while playing someone else. Opportunities for the transformation of the inner material are created, as the fictional world that is being built can allow the freedom for explorations that would be judged or denied in real life.

Both processes are necessary for any kind of larp to take place, with the importance of each to vary according to the type of the larp and its design. They are the psychological processes that explain how characters, costumes and props function in larp, and provide the safe frame (alibi) in which larp (and transformation through it) can happen.

Interactive Audience and Witnessing

Participants in drama therapy can become an audience to others but also themselves through a framework of deep self-awareness and development. Thus they start to witness their experiences, empowering their ability to work on issues in a different way and from a different angle. To be witnessed can be therapeutic in itself, as it can be experienced as acceptance and reinforcement. Moreover, projecting part of themselves or the experience on others in the audience can assist the drama therapeutic process by providing more opportunities for material expression. The witnessing process is interactive, without formal boundaries between actors and audience, leading to a powerful dynamic in the group experience and support.

Although interactive witnessing in dramatherapy may seemingly look very different from a larp on the surface, it is essentially the same core process that lies within the interactivity of larp as a medium. Playing together with others makes us constantly shift from witnessing to being witnessed. Other players’ larp performances can be equally valuable for our personal growth; and their interacting with our performances functions as an accepting environment in which we can explore ourselves.

Embodiment

Embodiment refers to the (actual or envisioned) physical expression of personal material, and generally to the connection that the participants form with that material in the here-and-now. The relationship between the body and the identity of the person makes the body use in drama therapy of vital importance for the nature and the intensity of the participant’s engagement. The participants can engage themselves in the development of their bodies’ capacities; they can unleash powerful therapeutic dynamics by adopting a different body identity; and they can explore the personal, social and political forces that influence their bodies.

The significance of the role of the body in larp is increasing in the last years, rendering the process of embodiment more important, recognized and discussed. The power of embodiment can especially be witnessed in larps where players can, through their characters, explore playing with age, gender and disabilities. However, it can be also witnessed in the most common Anglo-Saxon larp, where the players need to physically and accurately embody their characters’ abilities or inabilities.

Playing

Through the element of play, a playful atmosphere and a playful relationship with reality are created, in which the attitude towards facts, consequences and dominant ideas can be flexible and creative. This offers participants the ability to adopt an equally playful and experimental attitude towards themselves and their life experiences. Play, as part of the drama and the expressive continuum, becomes a symbolic, improvisational and creative language. Its therapeutic value also has a developmental aspect, as play can, on one hand, promote the cognitive, emotional and interpersonal development, while on the other hand, it can also be a means of returning to former developmental stages, in order to revisit an obstacle or trauma through different eyes.

The element of play needs no introductions when discussed in the context of larp. Play, as a context and process, allows us to be someone else during a larp, as well as to explore what being this someone else means for us. The larp setting and alibi create a framework where this play can be more or less free, and certainly free from real-life consequences, thus allowing us not only to transform but also to reconnect with our inner child.

Life-Drama Connection

The connection between drama and life can be evidently direct or seemingly indirect, and it can be a conscious process for the participant, or a more spontaneous and unaware one. Often the life-drama connection only becomes evident after the dramatization is over. For some participants, it is the experience of the drama itself (and not a cognitive realization) that becomes the link between dramatization and life, and this can also happen (consciously or unconsciously) during the dramatization itself. It is of utmost importance that the drama therapy framework can be connected to real-life without being a part of it; this is what brings freedom for real action in the drama therapy space.

The life-drama connection process can sometimes happen within playtime, with meta-reflection allowing for revelations and aha moments to occur while we are playing. However, it is mostly facilitated and supported during the debriefing, thus rendering the debriefing a vital part of any larp.

Transformation

Transformation is the end result, as well as a multidimensional process itself. Life events are transformed into dramatized representations. People are transformed into roles and characters. Real-life experiences and patterns of experiencing are transformed through the language of drama into an alternate experimental reality. The participation in the drama itself, and the emerging artists in the participants, lead to a transformation of identities, perceptions and emotions. And real-life relations are experienced as transformative in the here-and-now of the drama therapeutic group and framework.

This transformation, closely linked with bleed processes, is what essentially renders the player a changed person after taking part in a larp. It is the result of all the above-mentioned processes, actualized through the immersive experience, and rendered possible through the alibi of the fictional world. The potential of self-growth may vary on many factors already mentioned, as well as on the quality of the debriefing. However, even a slight or subconscious transformation is still something the player leaves the larp with, knowingly or not.

Narrative Psychotherapy

Taking a few steps outside the realm of expressive art therapies, let us visit another psychotherapeutic approach that can be connected to larp as a process: Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy, developed in the 1970s and 1980s by Michael White and David Epston, that focuses on the stories (narratives) we develop and carry with us through our lives. Through these stories, we give meaning to our experiences, life events and interactions, while at the same time they influence our self-perception and world views.[30]Catrina Brown and Tod Augusta-Scott, Narrative Therapy: Making Meaning, Making Lives. (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 2007), 18-22. According to the narrative therapy perspective, reality is not objective but socially constructed, and thus having narratives is our way of maintaining and organizing our personal reality and making sense of our experiences. Although our narratives are usually multiple and multidimensional, we often carry one that is more dominant over the rest. When our dominant story is problematic, in the sense that it is becoming an obstacle to our personal growth and change, this can be the cause of emotional pain, distress and dysfunctionality. Such a dominant story may derive from judgemental and/or negative external evaluation that has been internalized, as well as from societal and systemic sources of influence and pressure. This internalization may make us perceive our problems/issues as personal defining attributes and lead us to think we “are” the problem, while at the same time unwillingly following behavioural patterns that reproduce the dominant story in the form of a self-fulfilling prophecy.[31]Jill Freedman and Gene Combs, Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities, (New York: Norton, 1996), 22-41.

To help achieve emotional and mental well-being, narrative therapy focuses on people’s stories, with the aim of exploring them, understanding them, and eventually challenging them with alternative healthier narratives. This is achieved with a range of techniques (often referred to as conversation maps) that aim to separate the person from their problem, to deconstruct unhelpful meanings, and to give the person the agency to construct their own narratives and ways of being and experiencing:[32]Michael White, Maps of narrative practice, (New York: Norton, 2007), 9-144.

  • Putting together the narrative: A primary task in narrative therapy, that helps the person become aware of their stories, explore their origin and identify the values and meaning they carry.
  • Externalizing conversations: To separate people’s identities from their problems, narrative therapy employs the process of externalization, which allows people to distance themselves from their relationships with problematic narratives and become observers of themselves.
  • Deconstruction: It is used to help people gain clarity about their narratives, especially in cases where a dominant story has been carried for so long that it overwhelms the person and creates overgeneralizations.
  • Unique outcomes: When a narrative is experienced as stable and concrete, it can overshadow many aspects of our lives and render us stuck in it and unable to consider alternative narratives. A narrative therapist can assist by challenging the story, offering alternative views, and exploring information that is within us but is not allowed to gain value if it does not fit into the dominant story.
  • Re-authoring identity: People are assisted by the therapist to create new narratives for themselves, more genuinely meaningful and accurate to their own existential experience.[33]Michael White and David Epston, Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, (New York: Norton, 1990), 58-82.

All these processes are relevant to the character and story creation that takes place within a larp. Players are constructing a narrative when they create content in larp, with dominant stories often being reproduced through bleed and its many aspects.[34]Ane Marie Anderson and Karete Jacobsen Meland, “Bleed as a Skill”, in What Do We Do When We Play? The Player Experience in Nordic Larp, edited by Eleanor Saitta, (Finland: Solmukohta 2020), 53-58. The game play itself can function as a kind of narrative psychotherapist at this point; the embodiment of character can function as an externalizing conversation, often also providing unique outcomes, as we are not playing alone but with other people who may at any point challenge our dominant narrative, knowingly or not. Moreover, a transformative larp experience can on its own provide us with revelations that allow us to become aware of our narratives and deconstruct them, leading to one or more re-authored identities (essentially any character embodiment is to some extent a re-authored identity). However, the role of the debriefing in facilitating the actualization of all these processes and their therapeutic potential is crucial, also often supported by pre-larp workshops for character creation (see next section for more details).

Images of books, tea kettles, and Eiffel Tower statues next to the words "I want to expand my horizons"

Photos from a mixed-media art project on personal development through creativity. Photo by Elektra Diakolambrianou.

Larp Design for Psychotherapeutic Process

I would like to start this section by pointing out something that is often not obvious: When designing a larp for psychotherapeutic purposes, it is vital to have at least one mental health professional in the designers’ and/or organizers’ team. As Maury Elizabeth Brown very thoroughly analyzes in her article “Pulling the trigger on player agency: How psychological intrusions in larps affect game play,”[35]Maury Elizabeth Brown, “Pulling the Trigger on Player Agency: How Psychological Intrusions in Larps Affect Game Play”, in Wyrd Con Companion 2014, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman (Los Angeles, CA: Myrd Con, 2014), 96-111 larps can contain triggering content even if they do not intend to do so, and this is something that needs to be carefully handled by organizers. Particularly in the case of psychotherapeutic larps, where the triggering is intended, the contribution of a professional will be essential both in designing / curating the larp within a theoretical and practitioner-oriented framework focused on mental well-being and relevant processes, as well as in providing emotional safety and emergency care if needed during its implementation (briefing, gameplay and debriefing). Moreover, especially in case the psychotherapeutic larp in question is aimed to address specific mental health issues / themes (e.g. grief, abuse, trauma etc), or is targeted at specific participant groups (e.g. people with personality, anxiety, mood disorders), a deep scientific understanding of these issues and/or participants is a  necessary element of the larp design.

Having said that, this section aims at providing some ideas and potential guidelines either for mental health professionals that would like to use larp as a psychotherapeutic medium, or for larp designers that wish to collaborate with a mental health professional to direct their larps towards the field of psychotherapy. Keeping in mind all the psychological and psychotherapeutic processes previously analyzed in the article, I will attempt to indicate the points of the larp design process that can transform the larp into a formal psychotherapeutic tool.[36]Elektra Diakolambrianou, “Larp as a Tool for Personal Development and Psychotherapy” (presentation, PoRtaL 8 Interntational LARP Convention, Zagreb, Croatia, 8/3/2020).

Designing the World

  • When the intention is to immerse participants in a specific psychological theme, the setting is there to serve the purpose of the alibi. To ensure the optimal balance of drama therapeutic empathy and distancing (see section about dramatherapy), the created world should effectively mask into a fictional setting a situation that may, for many of the participants, be close to home. The distance between the real-life situation and the fictional situation should be carefully evaluated, and playtests are essential for receiving feedback on whether a functional and meaningful balance has been achieved, or whether the setting should be “moved” closer to reality or further away from it. Essentially what has to be decided at this point is the appropriate level of immersion that the designers intend the players to experience, with emotional safety in mind.
  • Within the designed setting, the scenario / plot of the game has to be designed carefully to portray the desired processes that the larp intends to bring to the surface. This can be achieved either by a more railroaded design that provides direct mirroring of a real-life situation, or by a more abstract and/or sandbox design in which the intended situations / themes can be enabled or facilitated. At this point, it is essential for the larp designers to decide how much they would like the players’ experience to be guided or freely created (this may also vary according to the psychotherapeutic approach they want to adopt, with some approaches being fundamentally more directive or non-directive than others), and make design choices accordingly.
  • Props and scenography should be there to support the above-mentioned design choices, as well as the level of immersion that is considered as desired and healthy for the specific larp purposes. A 360` illusion approach with rich costumes and props will increase the immersion and drama therapeutic empathy. A more abstract, blackbox or chamber larp approach will probably provide more drama therapeutic distancing. Another thing to be taken into consideration is the potential need for stimuli management in the case of a player target group with relevant difficulties.
  • While an indoor larp venue can provide more possibilities for managing the space and its use and function (also for purposes of safety), the therapeutic potential of the outdoors needs to be taken into account and possibly considered. Experiential data from adventure therapy,[37]Michael Gass, Adventure in Therapy: Therapeutic Applications of Adventure Programming in Mental Health Settings, (Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education, 1993), 153-160. wilderness therapy,[38]Keith Russell, John Hendee, Dianne Phillips-Miller,. 2000. “How wilderness therapy works: an examination of the wilderness therapy process to treat adolescents with behavioral problems and addictions”, in Wilderness Science in a Time of Change Conference Proceedings – Volume 3: Wilderness as a Place for Scientific Inquiry edited by Stephen McCool (UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2000), 207-217. and outdoor experiential therapy[39]Alan Ewert, Bryan McCormick & Alison Voight, “Outdoor experiential therapies: Implications for TR practice”, Therapeutic Recreation Journal 35(2), (2001), 107–122. underline the added therapeutic value that nature and the outdoors can offer.

Mechanics and Rules

  • If game mechanics and rules exist generally in larps to provide safety, this needs to be furthermore emphasized in the case of psychotherapeutic larps. Careful design choices need to be made about whether specific actions will acquire a deeper psychological meaning if embodied more physically, or if the emotional safety requires them to be portrayed through more gamified mechanics. Playtests can once more be valuable in fine-tuning these elements.
  • Special attention should be generally given to elements of physical touch, intimacy, acts of violence (of any form). In the case of specific player groups, these elements may expand to other areas, like stimuli management or specific actions / situations that are potential triggers.
  • The rules should therefore be very well-curated, specific and player-friendly when it comes to consent (in and out of game), emotional and physical safety words, emergency handling, and trigger warnings.

Characters and NPCs

  • The designers have a choice to make about whether the larp will better serve its purpose with the characters being pre-written, or created by the players. This may depend on logistical and organizational factors, but also on the intended player target group. In both cases, there are ways to foster emotional safety as well as the psychotherapeutic effectiveness of the larp, as described below.
  • In case the characters are pre-written, it would be useful for their backstories and backgrounds to be created and/or curated using real-life relevant material (e.g. real-life stories and/or case studies, diagnostic criteria and experiential research data).
  • Proper assignment of pre-written characters to players can be assisted by the use of short personality questionnaires or similar tools that the players need to fill in before the larp. The use of such tools can provide the organizers with information regarding the players’ profiles, as well as how much they are willing to step out of their comfort zone, or what kinds of situations and/or emotions they are comfortable with experiencing in-game. If the larp design allows it, it would also be useful to give each player the opportunity to choose from 2-3 characters that match his profile and/or survey choices.
  • In case the characters are to be written by the players themselves, it would be good for this to happen during a pre-larp workshop, facilitated ideally by a mental health professional who will assist the players to make emotionally safe but meaningful choices in the character creation. In this process, it is essential to keep in mind the already mentioned balance between drama therapeutic empathy and distancing, as well as the narrative psychotherapy processes of narrative construction and deconstruction, externalization and unique outcomes.
  • When it comes to NPCs, in psychotherapeutic larp they are expected not only to serve as plot-pushing mechanisms, but to also act as facilitators in a setting of expressive arts therapy. Given that it may be difficult to recruit mental health professionals for all the NPC roles, a functional solution would be to have at least one GM in the game who is a mental health professional, and have the NPCs carefully trained and/or briefed by this person before the game runs. It is also useful to have another mental health professional as an emotional safety arbiter (in-game as an NPC, or in the off-game area), so that the GM can monitor the whole process and game dynamic, while the arbiter can tend to individual needs if they occur, or intervene to ensure emotional safety.

Briefing – Playtime / Downtime – Deroling / Debriefing

  • Depending on the larp theme and the players’ profiles, the briefing should be extensive, carefully facilitated, and possibly involve relevant pre-larp workshops. It is essential for the rules to be well-understood to ensure emotional safety, with special attention given to elements mentioned before.
  • Generally, one-off events are more functional than campaigns in psychotherapeutic larp, as it is essential for the experience to be framed in a safe environment that downtime between events cannot securely provide.
  • Depending on the game duration and intensity, it may be useful to have off-game breaks, either by having intermissions in the playtime, or by providing the players with the opportunity to spend some time in a quiet room / off-game area when they feel they need it.
  • Careful attention should be given to deroling, as it is important for the players to disrobe themselves from their characters, especially in the context of a psychotherapeutic larp. It would be good to include here some deroling exercises, possibly in the form of rituals. Particularly in the case of specific player groups, one has to take into consideration that they may need more time and further facilitation to successfully transition from their characters and the game back to reality.
  • The debriefing is namely the most important part of the whole larp experience from a therapeutic point of view. It is where the players are supported to gain a psychological and critical distance between the extra-ordinary and the ordinary self, and make the desired life-drama connections. At this point, a mental health professional with experience in group therapy and/or facilitation would be well-equipped to lead a debriefing session that provides the participants with therapeutic value. Through stimulation for self-reflection and facilitation for verbalizing thoughts and feelings, the potential intense emotions and/or cognitive dissonances can be mitigated, the revelations and self-exploration outcomes symbolicized and outlined, and their meaning clarified. This way, the participants can become aware of their configurations of self, reauthor their identities and narratives, and consider new possibilities of being by allowing the transformative experience of the larp to be actualized.
  • It is at this point significant to revisit the necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change, previously described at the section about empathy. These conditions very likely will not all occur during the larp, but they have to exist during the debriefing in order to form the therapeutic climate and safe environment where all the above-mentioned meaningful outcomes can take place. The debriefing facilitator needs to not only embody and model these conditions, but also carefully guide the participants into being themselves empathetic, congruent and non-judgemental during the discussion and feedback that the debriefing may include.
Phoro of a clock with the words Timne and the phrase "I want to become a better person."

Photos from a mixed-media art project on personal development through creativity. Photo by Elektra Diakolambrianou.

Epilogue

This article intended to contribute in deciphering the psychotherapeutic magic of larp, and I hope it has offered the readers some theoretical and practitioner-based frameworks through which to better understand the therapeutic processes and elements in larp and larp design. However, I hope it did not kill the magic; science often does that, and we are often witnesses of the ever ongoing battle between science and magic in larp as well. We all need magic, and that’s essentially why we larp. Therefore, I hope that the readers will be able to compartmentalize all the knowledge gained from this article in the meta-reflection corner of their brains, while allowing the immersion to fill the rest of their minds with transformative magic.

References

Anderson, Ane Marie, and Karete Jacobsen Meland. “Bleed as a Skill.” In What Do We Do When We Play? The Player Experience in Nordic Larp, edited by Eleanor Saitta, 53-58. Finland: Solmukohta, 2020.

Beltrán, Whitney “Strix.” “Yearning for the Hero Within: Live-Action Role-Playing as Engagement with Mythical Archetypes.” In Wyrd Con Companion 2012, edited by Aaron Vanek and Sarah Lynne Bowman, 91-98. Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2012.

Beltrán, Whitney “Strix.” “Shadow Work: A Jungian Perspective on the Underside of Live Action Role-Play in the United States.” In The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2013, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman and Aaron Vanek, 94-101. Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2013.

Bowman, Sarah Lynne. “Jungian Theory and Immersion in Role-playing Games.” In Immersive Gameplay: Essays on Participatory Media and Role-playing, edited by Evan Torner and William J. White, 31-51. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.

Bozarth, Jerold. “Beyond Reflection: Emergent Modes of Empathy.” In Client-Centered Therapy & The Person-Centered Approach, eds Ronald Levant and John Schlien, 59-75. NY: Praeger, 1984.

Brown, Catrina, and Tod Augusta-Scott. Narrative Therapy: Making Meaning, Making Lives. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 2007.

Brown, Maury Elizabeth. “Pulling the Trigger on Player Agency: How Psychological Intrusions in Larps Affect Game Play.” In Wyrd Con Companion 2014, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman, 96-111. Los Angeles, CA: Myrd Con, 2014.

Burns, Kevin. “The Therapy Game: Nordic Larp, Psychotherapy, and Player Safety.” In Wyrd Con Companion 2014, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman, 28-29. Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2014.

Castillo, Beliza. “Psicodrama, Sociodrama y Teatro del Oprimido de Augusto Boal: Analogías y Diferencias.” Revista de Estudios Culturales 26 (26), (2013), 117-139.

Cruz, Ana, Celia Sales, Paula Alves and Gabriela Moita. “The Core Techniques of Morenian Psychodrama: A Systematic Review of Literature.” Frontiers in Psychology 9 (1263), (2018) https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01263

Diakolambrianou, Elektra. “The Use of Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) in Personal Development, Therapy and Education.” Presentation at Smart Psi National Conference, Bucharest, Romania, 24/11/2018.

Diakolambrianou, Elektra. “Larp as a Tool for Personal Development and Psychotherapy.” Presentation at PoRtaL 8 Interntational LARP Convention, Zagreb, Croatia, 8/3/2020).

Ewert, Alan, Bryan McCormick and Alison Voight. “Outdoor Experiential Therapies: Implications for TR Practice.” Therapeutic Recreation Journal 35(2), (2001), 107–122.

Fatland, Eirik. “A History of Larp – Larpwriter Summer School 2014.” Fantasiforbundet, published on August 3, 2014, Youtube video, 48:10, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf_gej5Pxkg

Freedman, Jill, and Gene Combs. Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities. New York: Norton, 1996.

Freire, Elisabeth. “Empathy.” In M. Cooper, M. O’Hara, P. Schmid & G. Wyatt (eds), The Handbook of Person-Centred Psychotherapy and Counselling, ed. Mick Cooper, Maureen O’Hara, Peter Schmid and Gill Wyatt. New York: Palgrave Mc Millan, 2007.

Gass, Michael. Adventure in Therapy: Therapeutic Applications of Adventure Programming in Mental Health Settings. Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education, 1993.

Gersie, Alida, and Nancy King. Storymaking in Education and Therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1990.

Hoffman, Martin. Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Jabbi, Mbemba, Marte Swart and Christian Keysers. “Empathy for Positive and Negative Emotions in the Gustatory Cortex.” NeuroImage, 34 (4): (2007), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.10.032

Jennings, Sue, and Ase Minde. Art Therapy and Dramatherapy: Masks of the Soul. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1993.

Jennings, Sue. Introduction to Dramatherapy: Theatre and Healing – Ariadne’s Ball of Thread. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998. 

Jones, Phil. Drama as Therapy – Theatre as Living. London: Routledge, 1996.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Man and His Symbols. New York: Doubleday, 1964.

Kinney-Petrucha, Maia. “The Play’s the Thing: Theater as an Ideal Empathy Playground”, (2017).

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317318081_The_Play’s_the_Thing_Theater_as_an_Ideal_Empathy_Playground

Landy, Robert. Persona and Performance: The Meaning of Role in Drama, Therapy and Everyday Life. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1993.

Levin, Hilda. “Metareflection.” In What Do We Do When We Play? The Player Experience in Nordic Larp, edited by Eleanor Saitta, 62-74. Finland: Solmukohta, 2020.

Mearns, Dave, and Brian Thorne. “The Nature of Configuration within Self.” in Person-Centred Therapy Today, 101-119. London: Sage, 2000.

Mearns, Dave, and Brian Thorne, “Person-centred Therapy with Configurations of Self.” in Person-Centred Therapy Today, 120-143. London: Sage, 2000.

Moreno, Jacob Levy. Psychodrama Volume 1. New York: Beacon House, 1946.

Read, Hannah. “A Typology of Empathy and its many Moral Forms.” Philosophy Compass 14 (10), (2019) https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12623

Rogers, Carl. ”Theory of Personality and Behaviour.” In Client-Centered Therapy – Its current practice, implications and theory, 481-533. London: Constable, 1951.

Rogers, Carl. “A Theory of Therapy, Personality, and Interpersonal Relationships, as Developed in the Client-Centred Framework.” In The Carl Rogers Reader, ed. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson, 236 – 257. London: Constable, 1959.

Rogers, Carl. “Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being.” In A Way of Being, 137-163. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.

Rogers, Carl. “Conditions which Constitute a Growth-Promoting Climate.” In The Carl Rogers Reader, ed. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson, 135-147. London: Constable, 1986.

Russell, Keith, John Hendee, Dianne Phillips-Miller. “How Wilderness Therapy Works: An Examination of the Wilderness Therapy Process to Treat Adolescents with Behavioral Problems and Addictions.” In Wilderness Science in a Time of Change Conference Proceedings – Volume 3: Wilderness as a Place for Scientific Inquiry, edited by Stephen McCool, 207-217. UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2000.

White, Michael, and David Epston. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: Norton, 1990.

White, Michael. Maps of narrative practice. New York: Norton, 2007.

Cover photo: Girl with a leaf on her hair overlooking a river in South Poland. Photo by Elektra Diakolambrianou.

This article will be published in the upcoming companion book Book of Magic and is published here with permission. Please cite this text as:

Diakolambrianou, Elektra. “The Psychotherapeutic Magic of Larp.” In Book of Magic, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021. (In press).

References

References
1Elektra Diakolambrianou, “The Use of Live Action Role-Playing (LARP) in Personal Development, Therapy and Education” (presentation, Smart Psi National Conference, Bucharest, Romania, 24/11/2018).
2Alida Gersie and Nancy King, Storymaking in Education and Therapy, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1990), 23-24.
3Kevin Burns, “The Therapy Game: Nordic Larp, Psychotherapy, and Player Safety”, in Wyrd Con Companion 2014, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman, (Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2014), 28-29.
4Carl Gustav Jung, Man and His Symbols, (New York: Doubleday, 1964), 27-59
5Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, “Yearning for the Hero Within: Live Action Role-Playing as Engagement with Mythical Archetypes,” in Wyrd Con Companion 2012, edited by Aaron Vanek and Sarah Lynne Bowman (Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2012), 91-98.
6Sarah Lynne Bowman, “Jungian Theory and Immersion in Role-playing Games,” in Immersive Gameplay: Essays on Participatory Media and Role-playing, edited by Evan Torner and William J. White (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012), 31-51.
7Burns, “The Therapy Game”, 29-37
8Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, “Shadow Work: A Jungian Perspective on the Underside of Live Action Role-Play in the United States.”, in The Wyrd Con Companion Book 2013, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman and Aaron Vanek, (Los Angeles, CA: Wyrd Con, 2013), 94-101.
9Carl Rogers, ”Theory of Personality and Behaviour”, in Client-Centered Therapy – Its current  practice, implications and theory, (London: Constable, 1951), 481-533.
10Carl Rogers, “A Theory of Therapy, Personality, and Interpersonal Relationships, as Developed in the Client-Centred Framework”, The Carl Rogers Reader, ed. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson, (London: Constable, 1959), 236 – 257.
11Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne, “The nature of configuration within self”, in Person-Centred Therapy Today, (London: Sage, 2000), 101-119.
12Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne, “Person-centred therapy with configurations of self”, in Person-Centred Therapy Today, (London: Sage, 2000), 120-143.
13Hannah Read, “A Typology of Empathy and its many Moral Forms”, Philosophy Compass 14 (10), (2019) https://doi.org/10.1111/phc3.12623
14Carl Rogers, “Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being”, in A Way of Being, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980), 137-163.
15Martin Hoffman, Empathy and Moral Development: Implications for Caring and Justice, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
16Mbemba Jabbi, Marte Swart and Christian Keysers, “Empathy for positive and negative emotions in the gustatory cortex”. NeuroImage, 34 (4): (2007), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.10.032
17Jerold Bozarth, “Beyond Reflection: Emergent Modes of Empathy”, in Client-Centered Therapy & The Person Centered Approach, eds Ronald Levant and John Schlien, (NY: Praeger, 1984), 59-75.
18Maia Kinney-Petrucha, “The Play’s the Thing: Theater as an ideal Empathy Playground”, (2017). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317318081_The_Play’s_the_Thing_Theater_as_an_Ideal_Empathy_Playground
19Carl Rogers, “Conditions which Constitute a Growth Promoting Climate”, in The Carl Rogers Reader, ed. Howard Kirschenbaum and Valerie Henderson, (London: Constable, 1986), 135-147.
20Elisabeth Freire, “Empathy”, in M. Cooper, M. O’Hara, P. Schmid & G. Wyatt (eds), The Handbook of Person-Centred Psychotherapy and Counselling, ed. Mick Cooper, Maureen O’Hara, Peter Schmid and Gill Wyatt, (New York: Palgrave Mc Millan, 2007).
21Eirik Fatland, “A History of Larp – Larpwriter Summer School 2014,” Fantasiforbundet, published on August 3, 2014, Youtube video, 48:10, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf_gej5Pxkg
22Jacob Levy Moreno, Psychodrama Volume 1, (New York: Beacon House, 1946), 37-44.
23Beliza Castillo, “Psicodrama, Sociodrama y Teatro del Oprimido de Augusto Boal: Analogías y Diferencias,” Revista de Estudios Culturales 26 (26), (2013), 117-139.
24Robert Landy, Persona and Performance: The Meaning of Role in Drama, Therapy and Everyday Life, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1993), 52-54.
25Sue Jennings and Ase Minde, Art Therapy and Dramatherapy: Masks of the Soul, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1993), 28-31.
26Ana Cruz, Celia Sales, Paula Alves and Gabriela Moita, “The Core Techniques of Morenian Psychodrama: A Systematic Review of Literature”, Frontiers in Psychology 9 (1263), (2018) https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01263
27Sue Jennings, Introduction to Dramatherapy: Theatre and Healing – Ariadne’s Ball of Thread, (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998), 39-40.
28Phil Jones, Drama as Therapy – Theatre as Living, (London: Routledge, 1996), 166-196.
29Hilda Levin, “Metareflection”, in What Do We Do When We Play? The Player Experience in Nordic Larp, edited by Eleanor Saitta (Finland: Solmukohta 2020), 62-74.
30Catrina Brown and Tod Augusta-Scott, Narrative Therapy: Making Meaning, Making Lives. (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 2007), 18-22.
31Jill Freedman and Gene Combs, Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities, (New York: Norton, 1996), 22-41.
32Michael White, Maps of narrative practice, (New York: Norton, 2007), 9-144.
33Michael White and David Epston, Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, (New York: Norton, 1990), 58-82.
34Ane Marie Anderson and Karete Jacobsen Meland, “Bleed as a Skill”, in What Do We Do When We Play? The Player Experience in Nordic Larp, edited by Eleanor Saitta, (Finland: Solmukohta 2020), 53-58.
35Maury Elizabeth Brown, “Pulling the Trigger on Player Agency: How Psychological Intrusions in Larps Affect Game Play”, in Wyrd Con Companion 2014, edited by Sarah Lynne Bowman (Los Angeles, CA: Myrd Con, 2014), 96-111
36Elektra Diakolambrianou, “Larp as a Tool for Personal Development and Psychotherapy” (presentation, PoRtaL 8 Interntational LARP Convention, Zagreb, Croatia, 8/3/2020).
37Michael Gass, Adventure in Therapy: Therapeutic Applications of Adventure Programming in Mental Health Settings, (Boulder, CO: Association for Experiential Education, 1993), 153-160.
38Keith Russell, John Hendee, Dianne Phillips-Miller,. 2000. “How wilderness therapy works: an examination of the wilderness therapy process to treat adolescents with behavioral problems and addictions”, in Wilderness Science in a Time of Change Conference Proceedings – Volume 3: Wilderness as a Place for Scientific Inquiry edited by Stephen McCool (UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2000), 207-217.
39Alan Ewert, Bryan McCormick & Alison Voight, “Outdoor experiential therapies: Implications for TR practice”, Therapeutic Recreation Journal 35(2), (2001), 107–122.

Authors

Elektra Diakolambrianou
Elektra Diakolambrianou (born 1984) is a Greek psychologist and researcher with post-graduate studies in person-centred psychotherapy, art therapy, and social psychology. She works as a psychotherapist, a lecturer at the Institution for Counseling and Psychological Studies in Athens, as well as an associate psychotherapist and researcher at NGOs that work with refugees, migrants and ex-convicts. Her journey in larp began in 2017, soon leading her to explore the psychotherapeutic, educational and political dimensions of larp. Since 2019 she is a member and co-founder of LARPifiers, a Greek-based larp designer non-profit company, where she works as a larp designer, organizer, and project manager for various larp-related projects within the Erasmus+ framework.
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