ACT and Superhero Therapy

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

bSci21Media, LLC

Our sense of self is a critical component in our psychological wellbeing.  Behaviorally, we discuss our “selves” or acts of “selfing” in terms of diectic relations – relational frames between YOU and I.  A coherent sense of self, or “knowing who you are”, can give you direction in life.  Sometimes, such as after the experience of a traumatic event, our diectics may shift, and we may have the experience of “drifting” through life without a clear direction.

One clinical psychologist, Dr. Janina Scarlet, incorporates diectics into her Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) work in a unique way – called “Superhero Therapy.”  She noted on Self.com “Superhero therapy seeks to help people like Bruce Wayne, only in real life—people who have experienced a devastating loss, or a traumatic experience, who struggle with debilitating depression or overwhelming anxiety to help define and understand their own origin stories.”

She went on to say that people tend to feel lonely after experiencing painful events, become critical of ourselves, and isolate ourselves when we need interpersonal connection the most.  By relating one’s own experiences to the those of someone else, even if they are fictional characters, one can come to terms with their own pain.  From a process standpoint, we might say that the “selfing” involved here helps transform the functions of the traumatic event to help people move on in valued directions.

To read more about Dr. Scarlet’s work, be sure to read the full article, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world, bSci21.org.  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at todd.ward@bsci21.org

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