I am a therapist who clinically specializes in working with anxiety & writes academically about the intersection of video games and mental health. I also have a passion for de-stigmatizing therapy, challenging therapeutic cliches, and breaking...
My name is Ryan, but I go by Dr_Mick in online spaces. I'm a marriage and family therapist in the state of Illinois in the United States. I have a PhD in human development and a MS in marriage and family therapy. I am also an approved supervisor and a clinical lecturer of psychology at a local university.
My clinical specialty includes working with all types of anxiety, with couples, and with clients who play video games. I also write academically about video gaming's impact on individuals and relationships.
I'm passionate about de-stigmatizing therapy, and about challenging assumptions about therapists. Therapists should be approachable and relatable - after all, we are people too!
Feel free to ask me anything about therapy, finding resources, mental health, video gaming, or whatever else is on your mind! The views expressed in this AmA are my own and do not represent anything other than my own experience.
Relatedly - I recently combined my love of video games with my desire to help people find a starting point for accessing mental health resources and support by hosting a Twitch channel titled [Game] Sessions with a Therapist. Though I cannot ethically provide therapy services on my stream channel, I can (and do) answer general questions, provide general guidance, help find resources, as well as talk about all sorts of things from anxiety to depression to relationship health and more. My goal is to build a community where people can feel supported by me and other viewers, and where they can chat in a space that's more accessible and relatable.
I stream nightly at 11:30pm CDT but also at other random times during the week if I get the time. If you've ever wanted the opportunity to talk to a therapist in a more casual environment, stop by - I'd love to chat with you!
Twitch channel: twitch.tv/dr_mick
edit: WOW. This blew up and I am SO grateful that so many are open to talking about this. I'm doing my best to answer questions as fast as I can! Stop by the stream - I'm live right now answering questions verbally as well!
edit 2: this has been absolutely incredible. Seriously. I want to get to every single one of you but you would not believe how swamped my inbox is! be patient with me please! And if you'd like to ask me directly, stop by the stream this evening and every evening at 11:30pm central time! This thread proves that mental health is worth talking about, that it matters, and that having a community and open forum for it is desired and needed!!!
A final edit: as you can imagine, my inbox is still swamped. It'll take forever for me to respond to each message, so I am going to make this edit to answer a few common-thread questions I've received:
- How do I find a therapist?: Referrals from friends and family or people you trust are a great start. If those are not available I suggest a resource such as psychologytoday.com, which can help you narrow your search. If you are looking for affordable counseling, check if there are any nearby universities with sliding scale clinics where you could see a student (btw, there's some preliminary research that suggests there is little variance in outcomes from working with students versus seasoned clinicians). Sliding scale, for those who do not know, is when a therapist adjust their fee based on your gross or net income. Some therapists keep a "pro bono" or sliding scale case on their caseload, so it never hurts to ask. Also, many therapists are willing to set up brief, free consultations prior to treatment to see if it will be a good fit on both ends.
- How do I get over [x] or handle my [x]? This is obviously a case-by-case basis. If you do not currently see a therapist, I would encourage you to seek one out who can properly assess and work with you/tailor therapy to fit your needs. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for anxiety, depression, etc. It takes work, and can be a difficult, yet worthwhile journey that is made easier through the support of a mental health professional. There is NO shame in seeking out a therapist - it is a sign of strength, courage, and vulnerability.
- How do I convince [x] to go to therapy?: At the end of the day, unless you're a parent responsible for a minor, you cannot "force" a person into therapy. However, I encourage everyone experiencing this issue to take time to listen to the potential shame and vulnerability around the suggestion. Suggesting therapy to a person often brings these feelings up, and they are worthy of listening to. Be supportive, warm, and compassionate, and hear their concerns. That might invite a more effective conversation :)
- How do I know if my video gaming is a real problem? If you believe that it is, I encourage you to find a therapist who indicates that they have familiarity or interest in video gaming/ working with clients who play them. They can do a full assessment for something like Gaming Disorder. Quantity is not part of the criteria for a diagnosis such as that. If you're interested in reading more about my perspective, check out this Op-Ed I wrote for the Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-videogames-disorder-gamers-mental-health-world-health-organization-0629-story.html
- Am I doing this to promote my stream more than talk about mental health? No. My Twitch channel is the platform that I can share this information through, though. The response has showed me that it's a group of people who have been wanting the space. I'm truly thankful for all of my followers and subscribers, but it's something I would be doing anyway. I truly am passionate about helping people break down their barriers to seeking the help of a therapist. It's something every one of us could use, whether healthy, struggling, or having an experience anywhere in-between.
- How do I know which therapist is right for me? If you are seeking family or couple therapy (or poly therapy for the poly folks out there), a marriage/couple & family therapist is my recommendation. If you're interested in medication, seek out a reputable psychiatrist. You can also seek out social workers, clinical psychologists, or mental health counselors - they all exist to help!
- Where can I get a list of Dr. Mick's and others' writings about video gaming? I don't have my writings aggregated - however, if you join my Twitch channel's Discord channel, I have a thread with my writings as well as other mental health resources. It's also a wonderful community ripe with incredible discussions. Google Scholar is also an excellent resource - make sure you look at the impact factors of journals you find video game/mental health info in - the higher the number, the more reputable.
- How do I become a therapist? In the United States, graduate school is the way to go. Before determining which path, sit down and be honest with yourself about what modality (individual,couple,families) you are interested in working with, what kinds of issues (severe mental illness, psychosis, depression, anxiety, etc.) and in what contexts (agencies, private practice, schools, etc.) because that will dictate which mental health profession is right for you. If you go the MFT route, make sure you attend a COAMFTE-accredited school! There are also online options you can look into if you'd like to learn from home. And there is no age requirement, min or max - plenty of people change careers to become therapists!
Unfortunately, I cannot respond to inquiries for specific therapeutic advice or guidance, as I am bound by an ethical code and state licensure protocols. I will say, that based on the questions I've received, the need for more mental health care, de-stigmatization, and accessibility is totally necessary and will hopefully be welcomed in the coming months and years. De-stigmatizing therapy starts with all of us - if a person is struggling, be compassionate. Avoid playing into the notion that therapy is for the weak. It's for the strong. Many amazing therapists are out there ready and willing to help. And, if you don't feel a connection with your therapist, shop around! It should feel like the right fit.
I'm still working my way through my inbox, and will respond to those who I can over the coming days. If you'd like to ask me directly, join me and an amazingly supportive community at my stream - I'm on (pretty much) every night!
Thank you all for showing how much this matters. Let's keep the conversation going!!