Crusader Man(1)

Recently, and frequently, I have heard colleagues describe me as being on “a crusade” about video games and technology.  On no occasion has it been used in an attempt to speak positively about my work, but it did get me reflecting on crusades in general.

In many ways, the term Crusade has always been used with an air of critique and generalization.  The most famous “Crusade” in medieval Europe was actually never named that by the people living in it; the term crusader began to be used 400 years after the fact.  Some famous crusades, such as the Children’s Crusade, may actually never have happened.  Additionally, there were actually numerous Crusades spanning 200 years rather than just one long one and they had both positive and negative far-reaching impacts on the world.  They fostered both genocide and the arts, opened trade routes and disease vectors, and were in short as complex, violent, and impacting as most human endeavors.

I have had some difficulty embracing the identity of crusader when used by colleagues, because it is often a passive aggressive dig at my work.  They can’t quite get away with calling me militant or intolerant in polite circles, but they do float out these ideas when considering my take on video games, technology and therapy “unbalanced” and “evangelical.”  Lately I have been reminded that it is not just me who has to deal with this–for some reason many mental health professionals tend to single out any one of us who gets too “passionate” about one element of the work.  I had a consultee recently begin to describe his practice vision, grow very excited and then check himself with me as if somehow that excitement was an unseemly thing in a therapist.  Here he was describing something that made him revolutionary and special, and that was somewhat suspect.

The mental health and education systems in the United States beat down many, patients and therapists, alike.  Rather than an expansive fount of creativity, the mind is seen as a widget traveling on a conveyor belt with hundreds of other widgets to be stamped with a DSM-V label or pathology so insurance companies will dole out money and providers dole out care.  I have overheard young clinicians spend hours talking with each other about what code to use and not once mention what it feels like to sit in the room with a patient or wonder what is going on in their inner world.  And when we do talk about mindfulness, we often talk about it in an over-scripted way that implies a specific time, place and type of activity that is “mindful,” rather than see that mindfulness is a stance we can take with any activity, including, yes, video games.

One of the reasons that social media is so powerful is that each of us experiences the feeling of being alone in life. It is this, our yearning for the imagined other, that makes social media so compelling. Whether we feel alone in our sadness, bewilderment, pride or confusion, we long to call out to the other. The parent wondering if she is doing a good enough job, the adolescent unnerved by the changes in his very body, the student who just aced her exam, the toddler who just fell and is looking up to his parent: Each of us at some time needs to call out to the imagined other to help us know how we are in the world, and help us realize ourselves.  So, yes, I am passionate and on several crusades, and since this is my blog I get to write about them.  They are varied in size and scope and sometimes tangentially connected.  Here are a few soundbites from the Crusade:

Video Games and Play Therapy.  I tell as many clinicians I can that if you want to do play therapy in the 21st century, start using 21st century play.

Video Games are Social Media, and Everyone is Playing.  The only reason you don’t have patients who tell you they game is because you don’t ask them.  Young, old, male, female, Xbox, smartphone, the overwhelming majority of people play something several times a week, often online and in highly social ways.

Let Smartphones and Laptops in Your Office.  If you want to meet your clients where they are at, let them show you their life in social media.  Bemoaning that Facebook is unraveling the fabric of society doesn’t change the reality that the majority of your patients use it.

Education Needs to Change.  We need to make more room for the quirky student, the adult distance learner, and the team player.  We are training people to work in the 20th Century, and then blaming them when they function poorly in the 21st.

Starting Your Own Business is Risky and Rewarding.  Therapists are often unwilling to spend any time or money to launch their own practice, and buy into what I call the “hazing” model:  Work long hours for low pay at your “main” job, sublet a tiny space, and when you’ve had enough lumps you too will get to have a private practice.

Not All Ideas are Great, But ANYONE Can Have a Great Idea.  Years of working with children and adults who learn differently has taught me that this is possible.  Anyone, regardless of race, class, orientation, learning ability, or past history is capable of having a great idea.  To rule someone out is a violence you do to their very humanity.  So stop it.

Look, we live in such an exciting and enriching time, and we could so much more with our lives if we could embrace more of that.  Sure it means change and fear, and yes, there are lots of obstacles.  We have a lot of work to do.  But let’s stop siloing down in our own little offices or classrooms regurgitating the same old APA-style blah blah, and let’s stop training future generations to be automatons of despair.  Let’s stop peer-reviewing everything and privileging those few who play the academic game with expertise.  Of course we don’t have to do away with everything in academia and health care but we can certainly make room for diversity, passion, and expansive thinking.  And if you can’t do that, the least you can do is not rain on the parades of those of us who are taking risks, the crusades we are on aren’t of the genocidal variety.

I don’t like being the recipient of these sorts of microaggressions, but I am so grateful that I have things I care passionately about.  My life of the mind and soul is so important to me, and ultimately it is not for me to decide whether my ideas are great or my crusade is just.  You can call me a crusader, but as Maya Angelou said,

my description cannot
fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world

What about you?  What crusade are you on?  What makes you passionate?  Who is the next right person to talk about it with?


Interested in setting up a consult for your practice?  I have some openings come March.  Like this post? I can speak in person too, check out the Press Kit for Public Speaking info. And, for only $4.99 you can buy my book. You can also Subscribe to the Epic Newsletter!


  1. Awesome post Mike. I am not a gamer, but I have worked with kids and teens for years who are. One of my specialties is autism spectrum disorder and understand that many of my clients are avid gamers. I always invite them to bring in their laptops, ipads and whatever else they want so that they can show me what it is that they love, that they find fulfilling and fascinating. I like to learn what they are doing so I can see more of their world, ASD or not. I also loved your post on selfies. I can learn so much about a client from looking at their Facebook profile or following them on Twitter. Mindfulness is a major part of my practice It’s a brave new world!

  2. Let them call it what they want, crusade or no crusade, I continue to find your ideas refreshing, and inspiring.

  3. Love this post! I just “discovered” your blog and am so inspired. I JUST finished grad school (like, this week) and have started a coaching practice for creative people that I intend to expand to therapy once I am licensed. I’m a musician (I actually play in a VGM band – Random Battles) and am on my own crusade to help other creative people create beautiful lives. I am an MFT who is drawn to postmodern thinking and I found it difficult to have my perspective heard during my internship at a public mental health clinic. The medical model is certainly NOT a systemic point of view. As I’m beginning the long slog that is the licensure process, I’ve lost a little steam. This has totally given me energy for MY practice. Love it. Rock on.

  4. Wonderful post. I am seriously considering creating a CEU course for helping therapists help participants safely and effectively use social media for positive change. Not only children, but adults benefit when their therapists understand how their electronic tools enhance their lives.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.