By Tim Stevens
Peter Parker presents as an adolescent male in above average physical shape. He is attending sessions with the writer as part of an agreement with the governmental agency S.H.I.E.L.D. In order to continue to operate in his costumed identity as Spider-Man, he is undergoing therapy and training sessions by Steven Rogers (Captain America), Anthony Stark (Iron Man), and Thorlief Golmen (Thor). The stated purpose of these sessions is to verify the client’s current mental status and to promote his long-term mental health by establishing a “toolbox” of coping skills.
In session, Parker initially presents as most would expect a boy of his age to. He is largely respectful, although he bristles when the writer becomes too directive. However, as the relationship has built, the client has revealed to himself to be considerably more mature than the average high school student. This is likely to be attributed to the level of violence and tragedy he has been exposed to over the course of the past few years.
These moments can be fleeting as the client uses humor extensively as a defense mechanism. In some aspects of life, this no doubt serves him well. He confesses it is especially effective in reducing his anxiety while in combat. In therapy, and in life, though, it distances him from his own emotions. As a short-term solution, this can be useful. Over time, though, these emotions can build and be expressed in unhealthy ways unless they are processed.
It should be noted, however, that this is not always the case. Individuals all have varying reservoirs of resilience. Not everyone who experiences war, for instance, develops PTSD. That said the sheer amount of chaos in the client’s life, especially given his age, would be taxing for even those with the strongest of natural resiliency. The use of humor in this context would seem to indicate that those feelings are being denied, ignored, or held at bay, not that he has properly confronted and processed them.
When the writer has broached this topic with the client, Parker has admitted that he sees some accuracy in that assessment. Still, he remains resistant to letting go of the defense method while in session and he “automatically” uses it without being fully conscious that he is doing so. This is where therapy must focus for now because until the client lets go of this, the therapeutic relationship will remain shallow and new, healthier coping skills difficult to enact.
Peter Parker will next meet with Doctors Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley on June 22. Please refer to file ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #160 for further information on that session.
Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens, MA is a Practicum Trainee at a Federal Correctional Institute and a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Consultant who has experience working with clients with trauma histories and resulting difficulties with regulating emotions.