By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—Matthew Kelley of Newton is incorporating a type of therapy that’s being used on both coasts that includes pop culture.
“Therapy’s kinda been the same for years and years,” he said, sitting at his business, Couch Co-op Counseling at 106 W. Broadway in Newton. “It’s pretty traditional. We’ve been using books, just texts and curriculum. We haven’t evolved like other fields have evolved. The concept is basically to change the way therapy works through things that they love, whether it’s comics, movies, superheroes.”
He said people have grown up identifying with superheroes.
“They’ve helped us through our lives whether we know it or not,” Kelley said.
One way Kelley said he can use that is to have the client create the character they wish to be in a game, like World of Warcraft or Dungeons and Dragons. In the games, people build characters who grow, learn new talents and skills and get stronger.
“Basically, the concept is utilizing all the things that we like, the characters, the different movies, music even and how we can incorporate that into the therapy world,” Kelley said.
He said many superheroes have had some type of trauma in their lives, which can help clients dealing with trauma. It helps them relate and aspire to follow the same path as their favorite superhero.
He also uses “WandaVision,” a TV show, which is about grief. He can use it to help people deal with grief.
Kelley said people see the sign at the front of his business and assume it’s all about video games.
“It’s not,” he said. “It’s about pop culture. It’s different mediums across the spectrum. Just using things that are preferred. When it’s something you actually like and get into the nitty gritty of who the character really is and how they develop, that’s where the therapy comes into play.”
Kelley said he’s always dabbled in this and that there’s an actual geek certification.
“I have had my private practice since 2018, I believe,” he said, adding he’s been in three or four locations and that before that, he’d been in the therapy field about 15 years.
The name for Kelley’s practice comes from when people are playing a video game in the same room; it’s called couch cooperative game play. He also incorporated the word “couch” into the name to play upon the stereotypical use of a couch for therapy in Hollywood movies.
Kelley said the images of storm troopers in his window have caught people’s eyes and people peer in the door.
Plans include possibly doing something for kids in the evenings, like with Dungeons and Dragons, although Kelley said a lot of his clients are not kids, and having a therapy dog.
One reason Kelley wanted to start this type of practice in Newton was to get people used to it being here. Even if they don’t go, it can get people to open their minds, he said.
“I’ve decided this is my niche,” he said, adding he’s worked well with people with autism and people with developmental disabilities.
He has clients from Wichita and El Dorado, and some come from an in-town agency. He also visits with people via computer.
Kelley, who’s lived in Newton for 11 years, said he worked at Prairie View from 2011-2013 in the crisis department and at the Arc of Sedgwick County as a case manager. He also was a school case manager.
“Then I decided it was time to work for myself,” he said.
Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Mondays through Wednesdays, and noon-5 p.m. on Thursdays. The hours can change, though, Kelley said, adding he can work with people on fees and can accept some insurance. To find out more about the business, what kinds of payments are accepted and the phone number, visit couchcoopcounseling.com.