Morgan Mannweiler is a student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling graduate program at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She is specializing in Child Counseling and currently completing her clinical internship at Girls’ Place, a non-profit that provides free mental health services at their childcare facility. Morgan plans to apply to Clinical and Counseling Psychology doctoral programs this year.

Q: How did you find out about Mightier?

Morgan: I took a research methods course last year and knew that this was something I wanted to pursue further. I interned at a non-profit in South Florida as their Data Collection Coordinator and joined the Pediatric Behavioral Health Lab within UF’s Clinical Psychology department, but I was seeking additional opportunities. Around this time, my clinical supervisor at Girls’ Place heard about Mightier from a family member. She was extremely interested in adding it to our repertoire of services. Knowing that I was looking for additional research opportunities, she suggested I incorporate Mightier into my independent research study. I began talking to professors on campus and designing my study. And then I hit the ground running.

Q: What population do you work with at Girls’ Place?

Morgan: It tends to be individuals from lower socioeconomic statuses. Most of the girls are African-American, and almost all of them attend public school. BrainPower, a grant- funded program that provides free mental health services, is available to every girl and her family. The family can request services, or staff members identify girls that are likely to benefit from extra support. This summer we added Mightier as one of our free services. The families were extremely responsive. It’s been wonderful to add on this service and reach more girls.

Q: What’s the age group and what are the types of issues and diagnoses they’re facing?

Morgan: Children ages five to fifteen can attend Girls’ Place. The study was limited to girls ages seven to twelve. We see a wide range of presenting issues. Some common concerns include chronic illness, low self-esteem, changes in guardianship, grief, and peer conflict. We also see diagnoses like anxiety, depression, adjustment disorder, and PTSD.

Q: What was the study like?

Morgan: I enrolled 74 participants and ended up with complete data for 56 child-caregiver dyads. The girls and their caregivers completed the Behavior and Feelings Survey. Additionally, caregivers completed the Parental Stress Scale and the Emotion Regulation Checklist. The girls were randomly assigned to the experimental or control group. Individuals in the experimental group played Mightier for six weeks. All the girls and their caregivers completed the assessments again upon completion. The girls are signed up by week for camp, not for the whole summer. This meant that ensuring girls were signed up for the appropriate weeks of the study really limited the population.

Q: What were the inclusion criteria?

Morgan: They would play for 30 minutes a week. With field trips, the girls’ having different schedules, and only having two tablets, it was difficult to be able to increase that time.

Q: How much playtime a week?

Morgan: They would play for 30 minutes a week. With field trips, the girls’ having different schedules, and only having two tablets, it was difficult to be able to increase that time. 

Q: How did the girls like it?

Morgan: They loved it! I was the most popular person at Girls’ Place this summer. I would have multiple girls asking, “Is it my turn to play this week?!” before I was able to even enter the building. It was a big hit. I still have girls asking me to play. We’re now figuring out the best way to continue [using Mightier]. Ideally, we’d like to use it as a calm-down technique. For instance, some girls sit in the front office when they’re having a difficult time controlling their emotions. This would be a good opportunity to use Mightier to de-escalate. Another opportunity would be when children ask to sit in the front office if their classroom is too loud, which can be the case for girls with a trauma history. 

Q: How do you feel Mightier worked for girls with trauma?

Morgan: I think that it was extremely beneficial. We gave the girls the option to wear headphones or play without volume. A commonality I see, especially with my clients with trauma histories, is that their main trigger is loud noises. Whether that’s being in a classroom that’s too loud or toys that are too loud, having the ability to control the volume and choose whether or not to wear the headphones was a key factor in their ability to use it. And then having the autonomy to choose which game they wanted wanted to play was beneficial. In terms of my individual clients, the ones with trauma histories asked most often to play Mightier at the end of sessions. 

Q: Why do you think they were the ones who asked for it most often

Morgan: All children, especially those with a trauma history, greatly benefit from having a consistent routine. We would have a regular session for 35-40 minutes and then wrap up with 10-15 minutes of Mightier. Working through trauma can be exhausting for a child, especially revisiting deeply rooted emotions while creating a trauma narrative. We often say that you don’t want to “unzip” an issue without having time to return closer to baseline. Mightier was helpful as a de-escalation tool while also building skills that could be used after session.

Q: Do you have any anecdotal stories that stand out?

Morgan: One time in the playroom I had two girls on tablets next to each other. They were playing the same game and discussing their progress. I heard them getting more and more excited about a certain level. One girl looked at her screen and saw lavalings creeping in. She said,“I don’t know why they’re coming in! I’m not mad right now!” And the other girl said, “Take your deep breaths — you’re getting too excited! Excited can bring lavalings, too.” It was really special to watch them not only learning the concepts but also relaying them to each other in their own language.

Q: Any stories from your individual sessions?

Morgan: I have one client who’s on the older end of our range. She has an extensive trauma history and we had worked on grounding techniques like progressive muscle relaxation. She needed to add these skills to her tool box, but it was getting to a point where she was overwhelmed by the number of options. She was having a hard time choosing when to use each one. Mightier helped her break it down and use deep breathing consistently as her coping mechanism. And then the game slowly added in crossing your heart and things like that. It was helpful how consistent it was and how it didn’t overwhelm her with options. 

Q: What’s your general take-away from using Mightier at Girls’ Place?

Morgan: I think it’s extremely valuable to demonstrate to children how technology can be used in  non-traditional ways. It’s educational while keeping it fun and refreshing. And competitive also! Girls were always battling to see who could earn more acorns. Or if they earned a rare lavaling, it was a very big deal and they would be bragging all day about it. It was fun that the language of Girls’ Place changed. It was normal to hear girls talking about lavalings and deep breathing.

Q: What would you want a professional who’s never tried Mightier to know about it?

Morgan: In today’s society, it’s dangerous how much children, and their caregivers, are reliant on technology. It is refreshing to have something that can excite a child by giving them 30 minutes on the tablet while also greatly benefiting them by teaching them important life skills. We don’t give children enough credit for how much they absorb and how much knowledge they can quickly learn. It was fascinating to watch how rapidly they caught on and how they implemented these skills in other areas of their lives.