Connecting with mental health patients through telehealth games

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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW)- Dr. Michael Schulein, a psychologist with Marshfield Health Systems, works exclusively with teenage boys dealing with mental health problems. At the end of every in-person session, he plays a game of some sort with his patients to help them unwind.

A game of Connect Four over video chat with Marshfield Health psychologist Dr. Michael Schulein in Marshfield, Wisconsin, on April 24, 2020. (WSAW)

That hasn't changed now that he's had to do all appointments virtually.

Dr. Schulein is now ending all of his sessions with a game of Connect Four over video chat. He numbers the columns, and the game is on.

So far, it's been a smash hit.

“The funniest thing with this is, these patients who are very technology savvy, suddenly their face fills the screen as they're playing,” said Dr. Schulein. “And they've focused in, and you can tell that it worked.”

“It completely put away the stressful topics or feelings we had been working on in the therapy. They shifted into the play, and then they were able to leave the session relaxed, which is really important."

Dr. Schulein also said another benefit of the virtual appointments is that patients feel more comfortable at home.

He says they open up more about stressful topics. Some like to show off their house, and especially their pets, which he says are very important to the mental health of many patients.