St. Luke’s therapist Jason Frei uses his inner geek to connect with his young patients.
Frei is certified in an innovative type of therapy, called geek therapy, which references video games, comic books, hero shows and anime, to encourage interaction and build trust. One of his ideas was accepted for a recently produced Geek Therapy Card Deck used by behavioral health professionals, teachers and parents to enhance communication with children and teens.
Frei, St. Luke’s clinical coordinator, School Based Behavioral Health (YESS!), has been working on becoming certified in geek therapy for about a year. But he has used topics considered by many people to be “geeky” for about 25 years. Describing himself as a 100% geek, Frei has been interested in fantasy and science fiction for as long as he can remember. His particular interest, or fandom, is comic books. Although more mainstream recently due to the popularity of Marvel’s and DC Comics’ movies and TV shows, for many years comic books were a refuge for kids who were picked on by their peers. They identified with the heroes, many of whom had hard lives, were bullied or who were outsiders.
He talks about characters and story lines to engage his patients and help them gain awareness about their own emotions and practice self-control. For example, his suggestion that was accepted for the card deck designed by Geek Therapeutics – the organization that provides certification for Geek Therapy – says:
Lots of superheroes wear armor to protect themselves from different attacks. If you were a superhero what would your armor protect yourself from? And explain how it would repel those attacks?
Using the cards, Frei allows patients to consider the concept and think about how they might react in a stressful situation. He shared an example of how it can work. During a recent therapy session, a patient, who often feels bullied, told Frei that he had been playing a tabletop game with his family when he became angry because his sister picked on him and called him a loser. Normally the teen would have flipped the board. This time, however, he went to his room and envisioned putting on this armor and seeing his sister’s words bouncing off the breastplate. It calmed him down enabling him to return to the game.