I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about the return of NBC’s Heroes (now rebooted and re-titled Heroes: Reborn). It’s got me thinking about one of my favorite therapeutic questions: “if you could have any superpower, what would it be?” This question can be used to help clients set concrete goals, as the obvious follow-up for the therapist is “how would you use that power to solve your problem?”
It’s only fair that I answer this question myself. I think the most useful power (or “ability” in the world of Heroes: Reborn) for myself, as a therapist, would be the ability to read people’s minds**. One of the most important skills for a therapist is to see events from their client’s perspective, and what could be more helpful than being able to read minds to do it?
A client’s answer to the “ability” question can provide a wealth of helpful information for a therapist. The chosen ability can give insight into how the client perceives him or herself, or possibly help identify an area of perceived weakness. For example, does a woman who wants to be the strongest person in the world currently perceive herself to be in a position of weakness? Does the person who wants to fly see goals as higher than currently attainable, and is she held down by being earthbound? How can I collaborate with the client to expand the scope of their unique story and help them reach their goals?
But more than that, it can help a client with goal setting and help them express what their world might look like if they could use their ability to help themselves. “If I was the strongest person in the world, I would feel like I could take on a bully,” a child might tell me. “And if he stopped bothering me, I would be able to eat my lunch in peace.” This gives me a concrete idea about what the child might be struggling with and some insight into where the bullying might be occurring. Though I am (currently) unable to bestow abilities, I can collaborate with the client to figure out which skills from their actual skillset can be applied to the problem.
What about you? What “ability” would you like to have and how would you use it?
**Full disclosure: the real reason I want to be able to read minds is so I can find out what in the world the creators of Heroes were thinking during seasons 3 and 4 of the old series. No, seriously.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture