Healing With Heroes!

Psychologists have a new method of therapy for treating their patients, and it’s somewhat unorthodox: superheroes! For therapists, superheroes are more than just entertainment; they’re an effective way of understanding and analysing your deepest fears. Therapists are doing everything they can to bring this concept to the fore. From presenting the unique approach at conferences to training psychology students in the technique, they’re working to ensure that comic book treatment gains recognition and becomes a mainstream form of therapy.

Not only does it get the kids excited, but it’s also been observed that young patients look forward to this kind of therapy. It helps them express their emotions and reveal their underlying psychological issues. Therapists have documented the challenges that heroes and villains went through and overcame, like facing fear, being different, or losing a loved one, which helps them implement these concepts in their sessions.

Raisa Bhatia, psychologist at Hope Trust, Hyderabad, has experience with this new therapy concept. When asked about how and in what ways people identify with comics, especially superheroes, she replied pronto, “Most people see themselves in their favourite superheroes, because they aspire to be so much more than what they are. Superheroes embody those virtues that everyone admires, and people want to inculcate these qualities in them. So it’s very common for people to have superheroes as role models, even though they’re fictional.”

Raisa continued with how therapists go about this type of treatment. “In therapy, we assist clients to identify the personality traits that are problematic and learn the skills that can help change them.” She continues, “Fictional characters also sometimes serve as role models for clients for emulating those personality attributes he or she feels lacking in them. Thus, we motivate the client by chalking out their goals in a systematic manner for the purpose of bringing changes to their personality.”

But the comic book treatment is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Raisa adds, “It is important to note that the superheroes the client chooses should be important to them, which makes it easier for the therapist to deal with the client at their level, facilitating further rapport that is essential for effective therapy.”

However, due to a generational divide of older professionals, not everyone is open to the idea of using games or comics in therapy. But since there have been qualitative studies conducted on this concept, with convincing results, there are some quantitative studies being done to put some additional data behind it. However, the American Psychological Association does not currently recognise comic book therapy, as it is not evidence-based. Although some doctors actively apply things like comics and video games to their approach, the concept is still in its nascent stage.

Nonetheless, more therapists are trying to integrate metaphoric play and imaginative and creative storytelling with their work. This programme is more focused on creating comics to help deal with emotions. Since the 1930s, people of all ages have not only been reading their favourite comic books, but have also imagined themselves as superheroes – either in Batman’s cape or shooting Spider

Man-like webs from their wrists. It doesn’t really matter if the stories have supernatural elements or a gripping plot; you’re somehow drawn to the characters and narratives of these comics because they’re connected to universal human emotions. And by tapping into your experiences with them, you may better understand yourself and the way you look at the world.     - Sumana