People of SFU

People of SFU: Stories told as the dice roll – supporting students through gameplay

March 11, 2024
David Lindskoog, a registered clinical counsellor with SFU Health & Counselling, leads a session of his popular Dungeons & Worry Dragons.

Around here some people know him as David, while others know him as Dungeon Master. David Lindskoog is a registered clinical counsellor with SFU Health & Counselling who runs the ever-popular Dungeons & Worry Dragons — a counselling group that focuses on supporting positive mental health outcomes for students with social anxiety.

Lindskoog originally found himself at SFU for an internship and practicum after making his way from Edmonton to complete his Master of Arts in counselling psychology. After graduating, he went on his own “hero’s journey” before returning to SFU, where he’s enjoyed his role as a counsellor since 2018.

“It's an honour and privilege to be invited into a person’s life when they’re in a time of pain and vulnerability,” says Lindskoog. “To see them grow through this and feel that you’ve played a small part really affirms my faith in humanity.”

After connecting with students in his practice over time, Lindskoog noticed common themes around social anxiety and isolation that often challenges the nature of a talk-therapy relationship. When he himself returned to actively playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in 2017, he recognized the opportunity to inspire play and creativity in a comfortable and imaginative setting.

“Coming back to D&D as an experienced counsellor, I think it just became really obvious to me how so much of the game could lend itself to therapeutic application. It was a bit of an aha moment when I learned there was a group pioneering this practice.”

Lindskoog has since trained with the organization to become a certified therapeutic game master, and now he welcomes dozens of SFU students a year to his counselling group. He says that each term starts out a bit quiet, but as the game progresses and more thought is put in behind the scenes around gameplay, “stories are told, dice are rolled – there are moments of tension and laughter – and yes, silly voices.”

A self-proclaimed nerd, Lindskoog says he’s always had an interest in gaming, so it has been a natural shift to evolve into having therapeutic role-playing games as part of his practice. It has also encouraged him to embrace his more authentic self after shying away from his affinity for “geek culture” to appear more popular or mainstream in his youth. His role as Health & Counselling’s Dungeon Master is a mindful fusion of both his years of training as a gamer and also as a clinical counsellor – and he enjoys making therapy fun, a word that isn’t often used to describe it. He enjoys supporting students with their therapeutic goals while also introducing them to a new hobby.

“One story that I’ll always remember, is about a participant who came to me after a particularly emotional game scene in which their character received a tremendous amount of support from the group – and they said that they felt as though they were able to process feelings that they’d tried unsuccessfully for years to do in individual therapy.”

Lindskoog attributes his overall passion and success for providing creative and meaningful care to being part of an amazing team.

“At Health & Counselling, we work really hard to do the best job we can for SFU students, and we have such a talented, compassionate, supportive group of counsellors and staff. This environment makes it so much easier to bring my best and most creative self to work.”