1st Edition

Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy
A Guide for Mental Health Professionals

Edited By

Lawrence C. Rubin

ISBN 9781138613270
Published July 16, 2019 by Routledge
342 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

Through rich and research-grounded clinical applications, Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy explores creative techniques for integrating superhero stories and metaphors in clinical work with children, adolescents, adults and families. Each chapter draws on the latest empirically supported approaches and techniques to address a wide range of clinical challenges in individual, family and group settings. The chapters also explore important contextual issues of race, gender, culture, age and ethnicity and provide case studies and practical tips that clinicians can use to support clients on their healing journey.

Table of Contents

About the Editor

About the Contributors

Foreword: Superheroes Matter, Villains Too

Josué Cardona

Introduction: Superheroes, Past, Present and Future

Lawrence C. Rubin

Part I Superheroes, Super Theories

1. Flourishing After the Origin Story: Using Positive Psychology to Explore Well-being in Superheroes and Supervillains

Sophia Ansari and Christina M. Scott

2. Alter Egos and Hidden Strengths: The Powers of Superheroes in Child-Centered Play Therapy

LaTrice L. Dowtin

3. Control, Corruption, and Destruction, Oh My! The Role of Villains in Experiential Play Therapy®

Justin D. Kruse and Joyce Arendt

4. The Healing Power of Superhero Stories: Bibliotherapy and Comic Books

Yoav Cohen-Manor

Part II Using Heroes and Superheroes to Treat Specific Disorders

5. I Like Them Because They Are Fast and Strong: The Use of Superheroes in Play Therapy with a Latency-Age Boy with Developmental Coordination Disorder

Aimee Loth Rozum 

6. Using Spidey Senses During the Storm of Anxiety

Janina Scarlet

7. Superhero or Villain? Merging Play Therapy with CBT for Children with Autism

Roz Casey

8. Superheroes and Villains in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder

Michael Smith and Carol Kirby

Part III Strength in Numbers: Superhero Teams

9. I Can Be a Super Friend! Using Scripted Story to Promote Social Emotional Skills for Young Children with Problem Behaviors

Judith Lester

10. Stronger Together: The Family as a Super Hero Team

Steve Kuniak

11. El Diablo: What His Role in the Suicide Squad Teaches Children about Emotion Regulation and the Power of Connection

Rachel Hutnick

12. Using the Avengers to Influence the Self-Actualization Process for Children

Brenna Hicks

Part IV Villains Rise to the Challenge of Helping

13. No Joking Matter—Villains are People, Too: Working with the School Bully

Meredith Nealy Starling

14. Brain Food: Integrating IPNB & Zombies with Diverse Populations

Robyn Joy Park

15. How Secrets Influenced Relationships for Harry Potter Heroes and Villains: Parallels in Contextual Family Therapy

Sarah D. Stauffer and April D. Pachuta

Part V Superheroes at the Intersection

16. Female Superheroes: Raising a New Generation of Girls and Boys

Lara Taylor Kester

17. Beyond Canon: Therapeutic Fanfiction and the Queer Hero’s Journey

Larisa A. Garski and Justine Mastin

18. The Black Panther Lives: Marveling at the Internal Working Models of Self in Young Black Children Through Play

LaTrice L. Dowtin and Mawule A. Sevon

19. Un-Masking the Alter Ego: Fear and Freedom in the Affirmation of the Inner Hero

Kory Martin


Lawrence C. Rubin


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Lawrence C. Rubin, PhD, ABPP, LMHC, RPT-S, is a Professor of Counselor Education at St. Thomas University, where he directs the Mental Health Counseling Program, and an Adjunct Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He maintains a private practice as a psychologist, counselor, and play therapist, specializing in children, teens and families, and is widely published on the subjects of counseling and popular culture. Dr. Rubin is also the editor of Psychotherapy.net.


"Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy will be a welcome addition to any child or family therapist’s professional bookshelf. Editor Larry Rubin and his expert coauthors provide a how-to for applying a broad range of today’s colorful and complex characters to the demands of our increasingly diverse clinical caseloads. Just as importantly, the chapters explain how to integrate superhero mythology with contemporary, evidence-based, gold-standard psychotherapeutic approaches like CBT, behavioral treatment, and positive psychology."Alan M. "Woody" Schwitzer, PhD, licensed psychologist and professor of counseling at Old Dominion University

"Dr. Rubin has provided us with a marvelous compendium of timely, diverse, and powerful therapeutic interventions. Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy is an essential resource for mental health professionals working with young—as well as not so young—clients for whom superheroes and villains are an integral part of their personal mythology. As clinicians it is imperative that we genuinely understand the personal mythology that our clients present to us via their play, their words, and their actions, as that is what opens the window into their world and allows us to join them on their journey. What an amazing gift to us all!"Loretta Gallo-Lopez, LMHC, RPT-S, RDT-BCT, clinical director of Focus Academy and clinician in private practice

"Once again, Larry Rubin has put together a powerful group of authors that provide a fresh and enthusiastic therapeutic approach coupled with relevant case studies that offer effective techniques for use of a medium that is relatable to all humans, especially young people. Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy is a valuable therapeutic tool that no practitioner working with young people should be without!"Kevin B. Hull, PhD, core faculty member in counselor education at Liberty University and clinician in private practice