Psychologist Uses Comics As Treatment For Patients

Dr. O’Connor practices psychology at Southeast Psych in Charlotte, NC. He has his patients read comic books and discuss various plot points with them. In a “Ask Me Anything” segment on a site called Reddit, he explained how a 17 year old gang member with a history of violence and substance abuse managed to point out a panel in the comic Irredemable, and made a very precise connection to how he felt about the world.

Even though the patients would rather read Marvel comics, O’Connor believes that DC comics have better elements. I think he feels this works better with DC because DC characters have more of an internal struggle it seems. The monologues for DC comics also are more oriented For example, one can connect with coping and loss like in Batman with his parent’s death. Another example can be with Superman and feeling alone, being one of the last of his kind. I feel that the patients want to read Marvel comics more because they seem to be more action oriented. While Marvel comics are more action oriented, they seem to lack more of the psychological elements that are needed for this instance. An exception could be the Planet Hulk storyline, patients who read this can feel a sense of being alienated, and feeling un-human. Another reason comic books would be a good idea to work with this is because comic books are easy to read. And with youth, this would be even a better reason for them to benefit from this.

Like what one in the comments pointed out, this indeed can be similar to Art Therapy. It differs in the sense that Art Therapy is used with the basis of making art. The main difference is that in this instance the therapy is done with looking at the art and the dialogue that goes along with it. So as you see, this is yet another good way to use comic books besides for just entertainment.




  2 comments for “Psychologist Uses Comics As Treatment For Patients

  1. nscarbro
    March 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I think this was fascinating! This would make a lot of sense why a psychologist would choose to have his youth read the comics and derive from it problems they can connect with. You also made a good point on literacy. A lot of young rural and city kids don’t pay enough attention to reading and literacy and comics are not only easy to read but the pictures, graphics, and the actions throughout make it “fun” to read for the kids. But, other than simply pointing out they can connect to a certain characters behaviors in a comic, how does reading it exactly help them heal? Or help the psychologist come to some sort of conclusion, or diagnosis? Maybe going through a step by step of a psychologists mind after a client has discussed the comic strip and how it changes, or helps him in his diagnosis or something. Also, I liked your breakdown on Marvel versus DC it gives me a lot to think about. I never really broke them down like that to see which has more action, and which has more psychological elements. Lastly, the picture that you chose goes perfectly with this article! Good read. Makes you think!

  2. phantommiria6
    March 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Maybe helping them “heal” isn’t so much the issue as helping the psychologist make a diagnosis. To me it seems like the patients are using the comics to form connections with characters/situations they identify with. I completely agree with NSCARBRO in that using comics is a great idea with children that may be under-developed or not respond well to literature. In this way, using comics would probably be a faster, better way to get to a diagnosis than simply handing the child a sheet of paper and saying mark your answers, do you feel like A or B? Using comics probably also helps the psychologist see more of someone’s individualism rather than just a scientific paper-test result, because the options aren’t as limited and would be more specific to the person viewing them. Using comics might also be considered “fun” for the kids, and they are more likely to have a positive association with the experience instead of associating a psychology visit as “work” because someone makes them fill out forms or take tests.

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