Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, as well as a (mad?) scientist and a full time geek. She uses Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and trauma. Her hobbies include a moonlight walk on the beach, reading, and plotting to take over the world.
Did you ever want to be a Superhero? Did you ever wish you could put on your cape, drive your Batmobile into the TARDIS, and fly aboard the Serenity to defeat the Death Eaters and destroy The One Ring? If your answer to any part of the previous questions was a tear-eyed “yes,” there is probably a very good reason for that. It seems that we are actually designed to respond to stories. For thousands of years we have used stories to illustrate bravery, loyalty, moral and immoral behaviors, learning how to behave and how not to behave.
Scientists are now discovering that using stories and fictional characters can help us in many ways. For example, using Greek Mythology, war Veterans were better able to retell their trauma stories, which is necessary for trauma recovery. In addition, recent studies show that stories like Harry Potter are helping readers reduce prejudice and practice acceptance of diversity. Psychologists and counselors are now starting to incorporate Superheroes and other fictional characters into therapy in order to help patients overcome struggles with depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.
Why are Superheroes now starting to be used in therapy? (Though a better question for many of us, is why haven’t they been doing that all along.) The reason for using Superheroes, as well as Sci-Fi and fantasy characters, in therapy is that many of us have a hard time understanding our own emotions. It might be difficult for many of us to process a painful loss or understand why we might be feeling depressed; however, reading about Bruce Wayne’s experience of seeing his parents get murdered in front of him can make it easier for us to understand the death of a loved one.
Have you ever had an experience where you might have been feeling depressed and eventhough you were surrounded by people, felt that you were alone. Or worse yet, have you ever felt that if you opened up to someone, they wouldn’t understand you or would make fun of you? Chances are that your answers here were yes since this is actually a pretty common experience. Although many of us feel this way, we usually don’t talk about it. Now, was there ever a moment when you were reading a comic book or watching a TV show and you saw a character that was going through the exact same thing as you were? How did you feel then?
For many of us, finding people and comic book characters that experience the same thing as we are, can be validating and sometimes even healing. There is actual scientific evidence that being connected with other people improves our physical and mental health and I would guess that connecting with our favorite comic books, TV Shows, movies, and other elements of geek culture has a similar effect.
Psychologists and counselors who are using Superhero Therapy to treat anxiety, depression, and trauma are usually incorporating Superheroes into therapies that have been supported by science to treat these conditions. These therapies usually include cognitive behavioral therapy, rational emotive behavioral therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. The essential goal of these therapies is to give you the necessary tools that you need to become the very kind of person (or Superhero) that you want to be.
More information about Superhero Therapy can be found on this YouTube video or on www.superhero-therapy.com.
If you have any additional questions for Dr. Janina Scarlet about Superhero Therapy, she can be reached by email: SuperheroTherapy.com or on Twitter: @shadowquill
Live long and may The Force be ever in your favor. Allons-Y!