Dr. Katie Gordon on The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook

In the latest episode of Ego Check with The Id DM, I’m joined by Katie Gordon, Ph.D. as she talks about her new book, The Suicidal Thoughts Workbook: CBT Skills to Reduce Emotional Pain, Increase Hope, and Prevent Suicide. I spent the past few weeks reading through the text and have already started to include exercises from the workbook in my clinical practice.

Katie Gordon, Ph.D.

The book is wonderfully practical and conversational. It normalizes depressive symptoms including suicidal thoughts and provides the reader with detailed strategies to reduce suffering, find meaning and increase hope. Dr. Gordon talks about her initial interest in suicide research and how that evolved into writing the workbook. She describes how the tone of the book became more conversational with the reader over time and how the text has resonated with clinicians and patients since its release.

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Listen to the episode here:


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Breaking Up with Games That Never End

I seem to have quit Hearthstone.

Last month I traveled to visit family in New Jersey and my intentions were to be mindful and focus on quality time with my wife, son and extended family. Squeezing in Hearthstone games to knock out Daily or Weekly Quests did not seem aligned with the “quality family time” value so I took a break from opening up the app on my phone.

I have not opened Hearthstone in weeks and it feels – liberating.

Like more and more games in the past decade, Hearthstone is a game that never ends. One could say that Chess never ends either, though Chess does not have the allure of frequent expansions that promise new pieces and mechanics to revitalize the game. Hearthstone resides in a perpetual state of being…. there. I rarely played while sitting at a computer even though I dabbled here and there with streaming it. It’s been primarily a phone game for me – jamming games while on a walk, eating lunch, watching sports in the background, and likely between many other activities that I should have my full attention.

It’s fair to say Hearthstone became a habit (not an addiction), and that habit is now broken. Interfering with the behavioral chain has given me some space to decide if I want to return to the game. I still follow the same community of players and developers online and know a new expansion is on the horizon, which promises a new Tradeable mechanic that will introduce more deck-building strategy and in-game decision making. I find myself not terribly interested, and again that feels pretty good.

Similar to how I’m evaluating my relationship to tabletop roleplaying games, I’m examining what I get out of playing Hearthstone these days. There is a bit of fun to be had; it’s nice to win games and check off Quests. There has always been a nagging question with Hearthstone though, “To what end?” I had some fantasies about becoming a Hearthstone streaming personality and never seriously worked to make that happen. I’ve likely spent $1,000 or more on the game and my digital collection of cards is worthless; I cannot sell them or trade them in for anything else. That money did provide a good deal of entertainment over the years, though should I really devote so much time to playing the same game for a year – or five?

Or forever?

How and When to Cut Ties with a Game That Never Ends

My goal is not to decry Hearthstone; it remains a fine game and there are talented, dedicated people who are attempting to make it the best product it can be. After playing the game for years and achieving the goal of hitting Legend, the game feels stale TO ME. The repetition of expansion release, honing in on a deck or two to learn, absorbing changes to new and past cards, and hoping I had enough dust to field more than one competitive deck got increasingly expensive and frustrating. I stopped pre-ordering expansions over a year ago, and that also changed what I felt comfortable playing. Since I no longer had a collection that allowed me to field more than one competitive deck in Standard per expansion, I moved to Wild. It remained fun for some time though the returns were diminishing.

Continue reading “Breaking Up with Games That Never End”

Holiday Giveaway Bundle!

Happy Holidays!

I hope you are surviving in this difficult time and finding joy with family and friends however possible. As for me, I have been preparing to dive into a Tales From the Loop campaign with my new favorite character and embracing Christmas songs. I have also been concocting a way to raise more money for suicide prevention and clear out some space in my gaming closet.

Several years ago I teamed up with Limitless Adventures to publish No Assembly Required, a collection of 10 highly-detailed monster characters that could be used in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. The PDF continues to be sold for $5 and ALL of the money goes directly to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. You can see that we have raised nearly $4,000 since starting this endeavor in honor of my brother who ended his life in 2017.

No Assembly Required is still on sale and everyone that purchases a copy of the book between December 21st and December 24th of 2020 will be entering into a drawing to win ALL of the following:

That’s right, one lucky individual that already gets a holiday, feel-good boost from donating money for suicide prevention will win:

The books retail for nearly $200 combined plus you get a sweet dice bag! My hope is that we’ll raise more money for AFSP than it costs to ship everything to the eventual winner who will be selected on December 25th – CHRISTMAS!

If you purchase No Assembly Required, then at the very least you’ll have donated $5 to help prevent suicide AND get access to 10 vibrant and interesting monster characters that were conceptualized by me, illustrated wonderfully by Grant Gould, and brought to life in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons by Limitless Adventures.

Please consider entering the contest and spreading the word (although I realize spreading the word dilutes your chances of winning; it’s the holiday season – help us out!)

Good luck!

Day #1 as a Suicide Survivor

Monday, June 26, 2017

My mother and her husband had flown into Minnesota from New Jersey on June 21st to see their latest grandson. My wife and I were trying to entertain them while also managing our son, Hugo, who was not even six-months old yet. We had all been attempting to contact my brother during those days and he was proving difficult to pin down by either text or telephone call. I sent him a text the night before because I was worried about him, “Busy weekend?”

I wish I would have included more thoughts – something like, “Busy weekend? We miss talking to you. Give us a call.” Or, “Are you alright? Is there anything we can do to help?” But I didn’t write any of those things. I had attempted some calls during my mom’s visit and he did not answer. It was a nice visit with my mom and her husband over the weekend, and we spoke about my brother often. She was also worried about him, and was encouraging him to get help and take medication as prescribed by his doctor. I mentioned that it seemed like he was avoiding us, and I was annoyed by that.

I should have known….

It was Monday and my mom planned to be in town for a few more days.; she and her husband agreed to stay at the house and take care of Hugo while my wife and I went to work. I had a busy day with four patients scheduled and a supervision session with our program’s postdoctoral fellow. Once in the office, I worked with a patient and then met with the fellow, who was consistently prepared and on top of things each week. The next patient was new to me and I went through the intake process with the individual. I had to write my notes for the early patients, and get ready for the afternoon.

The day was zipping along.

Things started to go sideways later in the morning when a close friend from high school, Chait, called me. Chait asked me if he could pass along my number to our mutual friend, Jazmyn, that I dated briefly in college. The only time I communicated with her these days was if I bumped into her while visiting New Jersey or exchanged a pleasantry on Facebook. I found it odd that she was asking for me, and my buddy is known to pull stunts from time to time for chuckles, so I figured he was joking.

Chait insisted he was not joking – and I got a bad feeling.

Continue reading “Day #1 as a Suicide Survivor”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Kelly Carlin on Legacy, Purpose & Resilience

I have been fortunate to be allowed to work from home since late March. During that time, I have thrown myself into a variety of home-based activities as my congenital heart condition gives me good reason to engage in social distancing to avoid exposure to coronavirus. First, our yard has never looked better! Second, I have been able to consume more slices of media that I otherwise might have missed and one such program was Laughing Matters: Carlin’s Legacy.

The program was released on George Carlin’s birthday (May 12th), and supports the National Comedy Center. The program seemed orchestrated by Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter, and she speaks about the process of donating his copious notes and writings to the National Comedy Center and carrying his legacy forward. I have followed Kelly on social media for quite some time and have always been intrigued by her. After watching Laughing Matters I thought, “Wow, it would be fascinating to speak with her!”

Kelly Carlin
Kelly Carlin

After reaching out and learning she was interested in joining me on my Ego Check podcast, I did what any anxious person with a background in research and therapy would do – I prepared and took notes! I read her memoir, A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George, which was published in 2015. I watched her one-woman show, Driven to Distraction, and listened to some of her podcast episodes, which are informed by her life history and masters degree in Jungian Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

I also revisited the performances from her father that certainly shaped my perspective about the world as a child in the 1980s and teenager in the 1990s. I grew up going to Catholic School and had a strict father that died suddenly in the line of duty as a New Jersey State Trooper when I was eight-years-old. The strict bedtimes gave way to staying up late, watching David Letterman (and reruns of Hart to Hart if I couldn’t fall asleep) and listening to my brother’s cassette tapes. One of the tapes I fondly recall listening to was George Carlin’s Classic Gold, a two-tape compilation of various routines and were hilarious and encouraged my brain to be skeptical of conventional wisdom.

If I were to make a Top 10 List of reasons why I gravitated toward a career in psychology and helping people, George Carlin and his quest to cleave through life’s bullshit is probably on that list.

My brother and I delighted in George Carlin performances such as Carlin on Campus and Jammin’ in New York. We knew the Greatest Cheer Ever word-for-word and would laugh uproariously while quoting Airline Announcements. Those routines were a shared language for my brother and our friends, and anything that my brother and I shared took on extra meaning and significance after his suicide in 2017. I have wondered how the concept of legacy may have kept my brother from living a meaningful life with joy, and I attempt to shape my own legacy with my son (age 3) by writing him emails that he can open when he’s 18-years-old or so…. that’s of course if we’re all still on the planet at that time, “Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away!”

So the opportunity to speak with Kelly Carlin about legacy seemed too good to be true. It did happen though!

Weaving in her psychological training, Kelly speaks about her journey toward finding her own meaning while also managing the weight of her father’s legacy. She discusses basking in his glow as a child and feeling trapped in his shadow as an adult, “There wasn’t space for another Carlin on stage when my dad was alive.” She explores how we all go through confusion about our self-identity and how she pursued graduate education in psychology to further understand herself and the world around her.

She talks about the powerful forces of “shame and greed” that hold us back and how we can overcome those forces to led meaningful lives, “I had to want the outcome of being seen and heard more than my fear of failure.”

I feel quite fortunate to have had this conversation with Kelly. I hope you find some meaning in it as well.

Listen to the episode here:

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And please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements and take a look at my Patreon.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Megan Connell, PsyD on D&D as Therapy and Creative Burnout

Megan Connell, PsyD

Dr. Connell comes back to Ego Check to (first appearance was in 2017) talk about the developments in the therapeutic use of Dungeons & Dragons in therapy. She talks about how the game allows players to achieve personal growth through exposure.

She offers insights into how to manage an improv-heavy campaign and discusses the use of several resources that she have found useful to handle the stress of running multiple campaigns. We talk about balancing a professional life with hobby goals and values, and explore how to navigate the fatigue and burnout that can arise from generating content.

Enjoy the 57th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

Listen here!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Elizabeth & Jared Kilmer on Therapeutic D&D for Veterans

Jared & Elizabeth Kilmer

I’m joined by Elizabeth Kilmer (soon-to-be PhD) and Jared Kilmer, PhD this week as they discuss their use of Dungeons & Dragons in clinical settings with military veterans. They present how the therapy gaming groups are structured and the themes that come up during gameplay. They present examples from past sessions including stories of how veterans have processed through challenging emotional content with the help of in-game situations. They talk about their ambitions and plans to gather more data about their therapeutic D&D approach with veterans, and how they might expand this in the future with other populations.

Enjoy the 55th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

Listen here!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

High School Legacies & The Resonance of Cobra Kai

Folks, strap in because the following article is going to connect some threads that may leave you thinking, “Wow, he’s really thinking too much about Cobra Kai.” In fact, I already received this feedback a few months ago while writing about my enjoyment of the show on Facebook:

Cobra Kai The OC

I was seven-years-old when The Karate Kid was released in 1984, and like many others I grew up with it being a touchstone movie of my childhood. I certainly saw The Karate Kid Part II in the movie theater and I enjoyed various callbacks to the series in pop culture over the years such as Sweep The Leg by No More Kings and the video essay presenting the case that Daniel was the real bully in the original film. And I still get fired up whenever I hear ‘You’re The Best Around’ by Joe Esposito.

Resurrecting those characters and that franchise over 30 years later should not work. It did not work out well (for some) in Star Wars last month, and as Randal remarks in Clerks, “Let the past be the past.” And yet, Cobra Kai works on multiple levels and I remain delightfully dumbfounded by how effective it is. In an era of sequels, reboots and retcons, Cobra Kai manages to pay homage to the source material and give a slight wink to the audience while also taking the current premise seriously.

How do they manage this feat? And why did this show resonate with me?

Continue reading “High School Legacies & The Resonance of Cobra Kai”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Dr. Rachel Kowert on Video Games & Mental Health

Dr. Rachel Kowert
Rachel Kowert, PhD

Dr. Rachel Kowert is a psychologist with years of published research examining the mental health effects of video games. She details how her research has NOT supported a variety of commonly-held and spread myths about video games. She discusses her role as Research Director for Take This, whose mission is to decrease stigma while increasing the support for mental health in the game-enthusiast community and inside the game industry. She talks about her history as a video game player and how she manages her personal use of games and that of her young children.

Enjoy the 55th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Elisabeth de Kleer on D&D Behind Bars

Elisabeth de Kleer
Elisabeth de Kleer

Elisabeth de Kleer is an award-winning documentary producer and director that has experience working in the true crime genre. She has been working for the past two years on the subject of Dungeons & Dragons in prisons, and is attempting to Kickstart a documentary on this subject. She joins me to talk about the inspiration for this project and shares some of the stories from the 100s of inmates and prison personnel that she has interviewed thus far. We also discuss the purpose of prison, and the challenges that exist for reintegrating back into society.

I share with her my background as a survivor of a violent crime as my father was shot and killed in the line of duty when I was eight-years-old, and we discuss the murky waters of how society deals with individuals that commit violent crimes after they have served their time in prison. We explore the potential rehabilitative powers of D&D for inmates, and the extraordinary lengths they have gone to play the game while incarcerated.

Enjoy the 52nd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.