Guest Blog by Elijah Irving M.A.
This article, in conjunction with the others, in Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy by Lawrence C. Rubin, has a useful analysis of why the utilization of superheroes and villains could be beneficial in addiction treatment. Essentially, it is Narrative Therapy, which Smith & Kirby eloquently preface their modality of SUD Superhero and Supervillain Activity with (p.136).
The use of Narrative therapy is very insightful, both for the therapist and the client. The therapist walks with the client recreating their story of self-proclaimed weaknesses to strength. Narrative therapy helps the client retell their story from an objective lens, in a way which gives the client the power, reflection and conviction of their own story. They no longer giving society the power to tell them who they are before or interim of sobriety and recovery. The struggles of supervillain and superheroes give us a sense that they have humanistic attributes like us. This makes them relatable especially under the guise of a metaphor in their lives. Once the client can personify their addiction and not internalize it, the power becomes displaced. Therefore, making the addiction an extension outside of self. Making a more realistic entity to contend with.
This exercise supplies a detailed orientation of how to create the superhero and villain for the client in nine sections. The nine sections are as follows: Basic Information (gender, age and race), Physical Appearance, Unique Features, Weapons, Gadgets and Vehicles, Partners, sidekicks/henchmen, Powers, Weaknesses, Motivation and Symbol (p.138). This exercise could be utilized with clients that work well with Narrative Therapy or have an interest in entertaining the idea of a superhero and supervillain with in themselves. What follows the exercise is a case example of a client that utilized the mentioned activity. Which gives some context on how this exercise is used and the result of the exercise.
Alternative uses of this Narrative Therapy style could be used. For example, from other films and stories. The only issue there is if the client knows of that film or story in order to develop meaning and understanding. But a film or story that the client does not know, could easily become a suggestion for discussion for the next session.