Mental health professionals are using computer games, simulations in their counseling of youth


Online platforms will become more integral to professional counselors and their clients.

Almost a year has passed since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 school children and six school staff members were killed. It is an unfortunate reality that danger can enter the very classrooms where we send our children to learn and play.

In the wake of such horrific tragedies, we must focus our attention on providing mental health services for children and adolescents. Working with this particular population is not unfamiliar to our professional counseling members. Many of our members specifically work with children and adolescents and realize the benefits therapy can have for their young clients.

With traumatic events such as Sandy Hook affecting our children, it is vital for mental health professionals to cater treatment to youth. Technology is one solution. Today, 78 percent of teens have a cell phone; one out of four teens has a tablet computer; and nine out of ten teens have a computer or have access to one at home, according to The Pew Research Center.

Technology will never fade—it will only evolve. It dominates the lives of the young and continues to become an integral tool in many professions, including professional counseling. Today, professional counselors are exploring how to incorporate modern technology into their work, specifically with young students.

At the 2012 American Counseling Association Annual Conference, there were various sessions exploring the ethical use and best practices for using social media and virtual worlds in counseling. The American Counseling Association’s experts, including those working in the ACA’s Cyber Task Force, predict that online platforms will become more integral to professional counselors and their clients.

(Next page: The role of virtual role-playing and computer games in student counseling)