TrainTool: lifelike role-playing video games

Sometimes a hobby comes in handy. Take Reinier Kreutzkamp, lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, who trains students in clinical skills. A cinephile since childhood, he also develops audiovisual material for training courses, including an innovative program called Dealing with Extreme Emotions. The video role plays using TrainTool software teach students to deal with real-life situations in a professional manner.

The program revolves around managing stress and extreme emotions in situations borrowed from clinical reality. What started out as pioneering work won the International E-Learning Award 2021. “Back in the early 1990s, when I left the clinic to focus on education, I started making pedagogical films,” says Reinier Kreutzkamp, who works at the Department of Clinical Psychological Science. “In the last few years my faith in the educational value of film has really borne out.”

Reinier Kreutzkamp is a lecturer in the Department of Clinical Psychological Science at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience at Maastricht University. He studied Personality Theory and Clinical Psychology at Utrecht University. Between 1981 and 1992 he also worked as a behavioural therapist at the Academic Anxiety Centre in Maastricht.

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Christmas with patients

Kreutzkamp’s clinical experience stretches all the way back to his childhood. Although his accent suggests otherwise, he was born and raised in Heerlen, near the Welterhof psychiatric centre (now Mondriaan), where his father was a psychiatrist. “I've been going there all my life. We often celebrated Christmas there, together with the patients. I worked there during the holidays. I basically grew up surrounded by psychiatric patients and professional caregivers. So it wasn’t a great leap, deciding to study psychology in Utrecht. After I graduated I moved to Maastricht University and have had the same employer for 40 years now. Never regretted a day.”

“In 2015,” he continues, “we started working with this innovative program, TrainTool, figuring we could use it to give students exactly what we thought they needed: practical experience in a setting indistinguishable from reality. Besides its pedagogical advantages, TrainTool enables us to reach more students and to save time. It’s an efficient and imaginative approach, very much in line with the current zeitgeist.”

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Teamwork

Kreutzkamp emphasises that it is a team effort, together with faculty colleagues and the specialists from TrainTool. The conversation is shot through with his enthusiasm for the cinematic method. For someone who has always sought out academic challenges, it comes as no surprise that after his impending retirement he has no intention of sitting around twiddling his thumbs. “I plan to take a screenwriting course in Hasselt; I’m looking forward to that. I’ve enjoyed filming since I was a kid. Telling stories in pictures never gets boring. I’m fascinated by semiotics: the meaning of images.”

Which movies most appeal to him? “Obviously I’m fascinated by psychological themes. The often surrealistic images in old films—the French New Wave from the 50s and 60s by directors like Truffaut, Godard and Buñuel—really capture my imagination. Those films have many layers of meaning; they captivate me to this day. When it comes to films featuring a pathological state of mind, I find psychosis, with its perceptual disturbances and private realities, the most interesting. A Beautiful Mind, which explores the line between genius and madness, is just fantastic. Good films, including in their pedagogical application, have the power to touch people, move them, shed light on the other. Insight, understanding and empathy are important qualities, both in life and in my work.”

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