Michael Markham '16 Headshot

Undergraduate Program

Michael Markham '16

Social Work

Creating New Ways to Cope

Michael Markham ’16 is currently working towards obtaining his LISW (Licensed Independent Social Worker). Markham’s work is unique and innovative; he is exploring the use of tabletop gaming as a therapy approach.

MMU: What initially attracted you to Mount Mercy’s social work program?

MM: Initially, I was drawn to MMU because the mentors I surrounded myself with had either attended the social work program at the school, or they touted MMU’s ability to mold college kids into solid social workers. 

MMU: You’re currently working towards your LISW. Tell us about your work in exploring the benefits of gaming as a therapy technique.

MM: My desire to pursue gaming as a therapeutic modality is fundamentally shaped by my belief in the importance of play across the lifespan. Working as a newer therapist, I realized the importance of joining with the client to form a therapeutic alliance. My initial efforts into “geek therapy” were in service of this goal. Eventually my interest in melding geek culture with elements of therapy grew. I realized tabletop role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons contained components of narrative-therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). D&D is a game rooted in goal development, skill building, and role playing; all within the safe environment of the game-table. I believe I can reach a population that may not find traditional therapy approaches a fit for them.

MMU: Did any experiences you had in college help to inspire what you’re working on now?

MM:  My internships while a student at MMU taught me that I could bring my passions to my social work practice. That the truer I was to myself and how I wanted to practice, the more genuine I presented to clients through my practice. This realization gave me the courage to follow my passions, and to the work I am currently developing.

The truer I was to myself and how I wanted to practice, the more genuine I presented to clients through my practice.

Michael Markham '16
Social Work

MMU: What’s your favorite Mount Mercy memory?

MM: I enjoyed my internships immensely, particularly my internship at the Department of Corrections Community Based Services in the 6th Judicial District. I enjoyed so many opportunities interning there, which had a hand in shaping my core practicing philosophy. My favorite memory as an intern with the DOC was when I did a ride along with an officer from the high-risk unit one night. I was able to see the opportunities that the officer had to improve the lives of the recently paroled by looking for opportunities to meet the unmet needs of people re-entering our communities after serving prison sentences. 

MMU: What does a Mount Mercy education mean to you?

MM: I always believed a social worker must be open to any opportunity that comes their way, to “stay curious,” as a mentor of mine would say, and to seek out learning experiences in non-traditional settings for social workers. The social work program at MMU facilitated a learning environment where I could both learn the nuts and bolts of generalist practice and seek out non-traditional internships to make my own.

The social work program at MMU facilitated a learning environment where I could both learn the nuts and bolts of generalist practice and seek out non-traditional internships to make my own.

Michael Markham '16
Social Work

MMU: Do you have any advice for current Mount Mercy social work students?

MM:  Stay curious and be open to new experiences. There are a multitude of ways to bring yourself to your social work education and practice, don’t be afraid to pursue your own unique brand. I have learned that true learning occurs outside our comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and learn something new, it has benefitted my career immensely.  

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