The Atlantic

The Therapeutic Potential of Stanning

“Superhero therapy” encourages people to think like their favorite movie characters. It seems to work.
Source: AFP Contributor / Getty

Janina Scarlet knew she finally had a way to connect with her patient when the girl began talking about Veronica Mars. At a recent American Psychological Association conference, Scarlet, a psychologist at San Diego’s Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, recounted how the 15-year-old at first had trouble speaking about past trauma. In sessions, her parents did most of the talking. In fact, the only thing the girl would talk about was the TV show starring Kristen Bell.

On the show, Mars, a high-school student who moonlights as a detective, gets put through the teenage wringer. In the show’s first episodes, she gets date-raped, dumped by her boyfriend, and alienated by her friends. Scarlet said her teen patient felt connected to Mars, almost as though the character understood her. So one night after seeing the girl, Scarlet went home and binged a full season of Veronica Mars. When she met with the girl again, they talked about her depression, and Scarlet asked her how she thought Mars would handle the situation. The girl suggested Mars would make a speech.

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