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  • Writer's pictureCassidy Russell

Leveling Up IRL

Recently a couple of my clients in session reported feeling overwhelmed. It’s pretty understandable to be overwhelmed, especially right now. But both seemed to take it as a moral failing on their part. Like if they were failures for not being able to do something they felt they should be doing. 

What’s a therapist to do?

If you said make up a metaphor that the therapist now plans to use for most of her other clients then you would be correct.

What’s the basics for the metaphor? Video games. Specifically RPG’s. Games where grinding for experience tends to be pretty important.

Both clients were in over their heads because they took a peak at an area that was too high a level for them. 

It happens sometimes. We get turned around or we think we’ll be fine and then we wander into an area or boss fight that we just aren’t ready for. When that’s the case there’s no harm in failing or using all your resources; potions, power-ups, what have you (support systems, coping skills, etc) to make it through. It’s easy to feel frustrated in that situation. But it’s a learning experience. The lesson tends to be, it’s time to focus on leveling up.

How do you level up? By tackling a lower level area or enemy.

Oh you mean how do you level up in real life? Well it’s a matter of mapping out your goal and what it would take to accomplish that goal. For help mapping out your goal check out this worksheet I created that can be purchased through this link.

Let’s use the example of getting good grades in school.

Regular monsters:

Class work

Minor homework assignments


Mini bosses:

Major homework assignments (Term papers or projects)


Final bosses:


By completing the class work and other smaller assignments you build up experience in the form of having points in the grade book and it helps solidify the knowledge from the class to help with the bigger assignments. By battling the weaker ‘monsters’ you are put in a much better position to battle that final boss.

Many goals can be broken down in a similar way. A task may seem big, but it’s made up of a bunch of smaller parts. Even goals that are huge can be broken down.

Next time you feel overwhelmed, ask yourself if you are at the right level and if not, what ‘enemies’ you need to battle to get yourself there.


Authored by Cassidy Russell LMFT

Cassidy Russell is a proud host of Therapy for Nerds and has a private practice with the focus on utilizing pop culture to help teens.

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