You'll jump back and forth between two game situations:
"In session": in the office, you play "the shrink" (strategic/narrative gameplay).
"Inception": in the patient's head, you play "Shrinky" (action/exploration gameplay).
You start "in session", as a therapist in his office.
In front of you, there's Paul, the patient you take care of. You need to find out why his days are so damn hard. You have no weapons, no super powers, but your ears, brain, and mouth.
The dialogue. Your main goal is to know more about Paul. About his story and his current issues. Then you may be able to link them together. Listen carefully to your patient, until you have an opportunity to interact.
The interaction box. During a session, you'll have to choose how to react. Each choice generates its own effect on the dialogue, your empathy level, and Paul's homeostasis.
Empathy level. It shows how well you feel and understand your patient. The more empathy you have, the more your choices will positively impact Paul's homeostasis. Keeping silent often increases empathy, whereas too many interpretations in a row may decrease it.
Paul's homeostasis. It represents how your patient feels, and is influenced by your interaction choices and empathy level. It's also about strategy and ressource management! However, if Paul feels bad, it doesn't mean that you're wrong. It may even have interesting consequences. Trust your instincts!
A few examples of how your reactions can influence Paul's homeostasis (though nothing is 100% predictable):
"Reassure" may increase Paul's wellness.
"Keep silent" too much could increase his anguish.
"Interpret" at the right time will boost his trust, whereas many interpretations in a row increases Paul's passivity.
"Provoke" unnecessarily generates hostility, but produces reflexivity used at the right time.
When you complete one of the Homeostasis gauge, a breach opens.
You can fill any feeling gauge to open a breach, but the one you choose will influence where Shrinky will land on inception mode. Positive feelings are on the left, whereas negative ones are on the right.
If you choose to go in, you'll raid Paul's psyche. Homeostasis gauge levels will be translated as scores for Shrinky, determining his life points, time spent in Paul's psyche, and the enemies' level.
Ok, you just opened a breach and chose to go in. You're taken to another dimension of the game: inception mode. You are now in Paul's head, and play Shrinky, the representation he has of you.
You are in exploratory mission. You have to collect some informations that could not be delivered by Paul in session. These psychic datas can be unconscient, or protected by some strong defense devices (like bosses or enigmas): Paul can't talk about them yet, so you can try to access them this way, which will free his talk for the concerned topic.
You will come across people, memories, weird objects, frozen emotions, phobias, fantasies, etc. All possible mental items populating people's psyches. Each area matches one of Paul's specific mental trait. When visiting them again, you may notice that they change, according to what you found out in session.
And much more !
The playable ground is very wide. It contains different areas separated by enigmas, keys, secret passages, and bosses. Your investigation "in session" may unlock some of these accesses, while your exploration in "inception" mode may influence Paul's reactions during the sessions.
"The castration forest"
"The depressive core"
"The sewage system"
"The fantasy moon"
So what's the goal?
Your goal, as a shrink, is to end the therapy and let Paul stand on his own two feet. To understand Paul's story, you will have to investigate, both in sessions and during inceptions. Each part of the game will feed the other one.
But you'll do it your way.