Why adults flock to this kind of therapy speaks volumes about the importance of superhero stories—and the nature of the psyche itself.
[Janina] Scarlet now brands herself a “superhero therapist” on her website. She brandishes a sword and shield in her headshot. At the end of therapy sessions with new clients, she usually interviews them about their pop-culture interests. … Scarlet says people often seek her out because they have intense fandoms and want to incorporate them into therapy.
The basic practice of introducing characters from pop culture into therapy isn’t especially new. … In psychology, these are known as “social surrogates,” or the non-friends whom we nevertheless treat as friends. These surrogates, one study notes, lead “to an experience of belongingness even when no real, bona-fide belongingness has been experienced.”
Fictional characters often go on missions to hunt demons, solve mysteries, or fight whatever lies in their path. In a related way, therapists often help clients overcome life’s obstacles by, say, encouraging them to challenge unhelpful thoughts or tell their partners what they really want. Seeing your favorite characters do versions of that, even if on a more cosmic scale, can be motivating.
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