Wanting to be the Very Best: How the Pokémon Trading Card Game is a Trauma Healing Strategy

By November 16, 2016What works

At first glance, a group of people sitting around a table playing a collectible card game might not look like a trauma healing activity. It might look like a group of people having fun or, to some, wasting time. I can assure you, healing is occurring in that group.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG) is a newly introduced activity here at Adora. At first even I was skeptical of how it would be perceived. How might Pokémon TCG help students other than by giving them something to do in their fleeting precious down time? I struggled with these doubts even though I’m the one who introduced it. However, after taking one student to his first ever competitive (albeit small scale) tournament, I can see how it is a strategy to help students grow and heal from their trauma.

There are 6 tenants of Pokémon Organized Play. Each must be followed by all players. They are strikingly similar to the 4 rules here at Adora (three borrowed from TheraPlay): No Hurts, Have Fun, Stick Together, and Words Match Actions. The Pokémon Organized Play rules are: fun, fairness, honesty, respect, sportsmanship, and learning. Our students have to follow these rules every time they sit down to play a game of Pokémon TCG, whether they are around the kitchen table at home or out at a larger competitive event.

Making sure that fun is had by all is an important aspect of any game because it encourages players to keep trying.  Fairness, honesty, and respect help students learn to interact with others around them by teaching them—and helping them practice—the Golden Rule. Sportsmanship helps them see that they have to match their words with their actions in order to succeed in Pokémon TCG and in life.

Playing Pokémon TCG is also a great time for students to practice their social skills. When they are ready and want to go to a larger tournament than the gathering around the kitchen table, they get to interact with others of all ages in a positive, constructive manner. This game can help them learn skills to do just that.

During an actual game, quite a bit of the process for trauma healing takes place. Players have to know how to interact with the person sitting across the table from them. While placing counters and moving cards in sync with their opponent, an intricate dance of cardboard, dice, fingers, facial expressions, and emotion takes place. You have to learn to do things quickly, efficiently, and sometimes even with both hands at the same time! Players have to learn how to engage both sides of the brain at once in order to play the game.

The game can also help players deal with the eventuality that things don’t always go as we plan in life. While Pokémon TCG is in essence a skill based game there is a luck component in what card will come up to the top of the deck next. Players have to learn the skill of accepting a loss or setback and moving forward to the next play or game.

While playing Pokémon might just look like a fun pastime, the next time you see children or adults sitting down at a table to sling some cardboard, take a look at the growing and learning that is taking place. You might be surprised that wanting to become “the very best”, as the theme song says, can help everyone learn to become the best version of themselves.

By Jason Feeney

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