LARP armor expression maybe sounds a bit confusing, but we will make it more clear. If psychotherapy and personal development sound scary or too demanding for you, maybe you can give it a shoot if it includes LARP.
How is that possible? We found out the answer during the LARP Portal 8 Convention in Zagreb.
Psychologist and psychotherapist Elektra Diakolambrianou introduced us with the subject “LARP as a tool for personal development and psychotherapy”.
Let’s go on, step by step!
LARP in psychotherapy and personal development is a novelty. It’s a tool that can give people a chance to develop through active personal experience in a safe environment. Psychotherapy and psychology methods and experts can give support to LARP participants to feel safe, to understand better their experiences and emotions that appeared during LARP.
Some of the relevant theories and approaches that are used in implementing LARP in psychotherapy are Psychodrama, Sociodrama, Drama therapy, Gestalt therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Recreation Therapy, and Humanistic Therapy.
Every LARP participant gets new internalized “armors” through their own experience in LARP. In LARPs specialized for psychotherapy and personal development, participants often get/develop and internalize new insights, strengths, and skills for life at an even deeper level.
So, participants don’t get only temporary armor as a part of costumes but also, metaphorically speaking, invisible permanent armor as a part of their personality.
About Elektra Diakolambrianou
Elektra Diakolambrianou was born in Rhodes, Greece. She has a degree in Psychology, a post-graduate diploma in Person-Centered Counseling, and a professional certificate in Drama, Art, and Play Therapy.
She also gained experience in using LARP as a tool in psychotherapy, so it is not shocking that she provided an inspiring lecture and that we learned a lot from her.
Difference between personal development and psychotherapy
Elektra distinguished personal development and psychotherapy so we could understand better the whole subject.
Personal development is a conscious pursuit of personal growth by expanding self-awareness and knowledge and improving personal skills.
Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways.
To be more clear, every individual by going on psychotherapy is inevitably working on his personal development.
LARP as a tool in personal development
Elektra shared some personal changes and benefits that LARP participants experienced during and after LARP:
- Got to know themselves better
- Become more creative with better problem-solving skills
- Developed a better sense of community by improving social and communication skills and learning teamwork
- Developed a higher sense of empathy
- Got an opportunity for exploration of values, beliefs, ideologies
- Improved understanding and handling of the physical world/objects
- Developed artistic skills
They got Holistic development: physical, mental, emotional, creative, and social. These benefits are very common for every type of LARP. It depends on every participant how deep he is ready to go with his role-playing, and also on how LARP creators prepared the story and the environment.
The conclusion is that every participant, with his own unique experience, inevitably changes within the LARP – personal development exists in the LARP even if it was not the purpose.
Now we are going deeper. We are stepping from personal development into psychotherapy.
LARP as a tool in psychotherapy
LARP can offer participants a safe place to confront some personal issues in purpose to achieve higher life quality, but only through the professional guidance of psychotherapists.
We believe you have heard about sitting in the chair and talking to a psychotherapist as a form of psychotherapy. Painting and drawing as a tool in psychotherapy are also very popular.
But far fewer people have heard about LARP as a tool in psychotherapy.
Every relation between participants within a certain LARP role can become trigger even outside of psychotherapy LARP. We can assume that it is a greater chance for triggers (or at least more intense triggers) in psychotherapy and personal development LARPs because the goal is to confront participant.
LARP as a tool in psychotherapy can give people a chance to work on their behavior disorders, mental illness, or family relationship problems through personal experience. Psychotherapy experts are providing support to LARP participants to feel safe, to understand better their experiences and emotions that appeared, and to integrate new insights and experiences.
We will mention only a few psychotherapy LARP’s benefits for participants that Elektra shared:
- Self-awareness and self-exploration of abilities and limitations
- Self-generation of internal insight and transformation, creativity and problem-solving,
- Shared experience fosters community, teamwork, communication and social skills (collaborative storytelling) innovation
- Effect on physical, mental, emotional and social aspects
- Experimentation in a safe environment and without real-life restrictions and ramifications (behavior, expression, values, beliefs, ideology)
This way, LARP armor is inevitable.
Differences in LARP structure
There are some things that you should know while preparing LARP for psychotherapy.
- The setting should serve the purpose of an alibi.
- The scenario should be directly mirroring/facilitating – should enable the desired situation and theme
- In the rules, there should be a special focus on consent and emotional safety
- It’s crucial to focus with props on immersion
Few additional important notes are that you should create characters based on a detailed questionnaire (or other tools) filled by participants at least two weeks earlier. Always have one psychotherapist who will focus only on the process and at least one extra responsible for the emotional safety of all participants. It is also important to have in mind the possible downtime – if you have downtime it should be controlled.
Ending the LARP is a crucial part of LARP in psychotherapy
There are two very important steps in finishing LARP in psychotherapy: Deroling and Debriefing.
Deroling MUST be a step BEFORE Debriefing. If a participant didn’t come out of the role of the character he can’t go through an understanding, insights, self-reflection, and internalization phase.
Deroling is important because it provides participants:
- Disrobing themselves from the characters
- Transition to everyday existence
- Opportunity to deal with the paradoxical continuity of the “me” and “not-me”
- The psychological and critical distance between the extra-ordinary and the ordinary self
Usually, for these purposes, professionals in psychotherapy are using techniques from psychodrama, drama therapy, and acting.
Debriefing comes after Deroling and this LARP ending step provides to participants:
- Stimulation of self-reflection
- Consideration for alternative possibilities of being
- Facilitating verbalization of thoughts and feelings
- Mitigation of potential intense emotions and cognitive dissonance
- Clarification of meaning and underlining of the revelations/outcomes
To sum up this subject, LARP can be a useful tool even in psychotherapy and personal development. But only if you do it right, with experts educated in psychotherapy. Otherwise, it can be a traumatic experience both for participants and facilitator that are not experts in psychotherapy.
Personal development and psychotherapy suddenly don’t sound that hard and scary. LARP armor yourself for life!
For more detailed explanations watch the Geexus clip above!