#TheOTShow: Eating sushi, building railroads and surviving the zombie apocalypse: using the new generation of board games in forensic mental health

I was recently approached about presenting at this year’s OT Show in Birmingham. My thoughts immediately darted to a new board games group I was trialling in the medium secure unit where I work. And each time I came up with a different idea, I felt the magnetic pull back to board games.

I’ve often asked myself why the idea of using board games in forensic mental health appeals to me so strongly. Is it because board games encourage you to focus your attention on something outside of yourself? That they provide a vehicle for interaction with others? The challenge or the immediacy of feedback they provide? The clarity of rules? Or because they have the potential to absorb you into a different reality, where you can experiment with different personas or ways of dealing with situations? Board games are awesome for all these reasons and more. And, even though I was an avid board gamer before trialling this group, the benefits of this group – both for assessment, and the outcomes individuals experienced – surprised me.

You can find the abstract for my session below. The presentation will take place on 22nd November 2018 11:15-12:00 at the NEC in Birmingham.

“Eating sushi, building railroads and surviving the zombie apocalypse: using the new generation of board games in forensic mental health”


Board games are experiencing a resurgence in popularity amongst adults – particularly millennials (Graham, 2016) – and the modern selection of games is constantly growing. Board games provide a way to connect with others through a shared activity, and social groups dedicated to board gaming are sprouting up across the world.

With this in mind, the medium secure unit at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust launched a twelve-week structured intervention group using engagement in modern board games both as “means” (intervention – Gray, 1998, pg. 358) and “end” (desired outcome/goal – pg. 357). Playing a different game each week, group participants (‘players’) are introduced to a range of game mechanics and types. Not only does this increase occupational understanding, but it also provides valuable opportunities for players to explore and develop their interests, skills, preferences and self efficacy.

This presentation will provide an overview of the group structure, and will include a case study highlighting outcomes from the intervention. The focus throughout the programme is on translating the occupation out of the group environment and into players’ individual contexts, and the presentation will explore practical ways to do so.

It is anticipated that this session will be of particular interest to clinicians and students working in mental health settings, however it may also be applicable to other clinical areas.


Graham, L (2016) ‘Millenials are driving the board games revival’, CNBC, 22 December [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 14 April 2018)

Gray, J. (1998) ‘Putting occupation into practice: Occupation as ends, occupation as means’, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 52(5), 354-364




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s