By Tim Stevens
Madeline Berry presents as a female in late adolescence of average physical fitness. Currently, the client is enrolled in the so-called “Avengers Academy” where she is seeking to master her “powers,” the ability to change her body into various gaseous forms. She asserts that this is in order to fulfill a personal goal of being a hero and to do so in a way that is safe and responsible.
This motivation initially led her to join what she believed to the Initiative when invited by Norman Osborn. In reality, Osborn had tricked her into a situation that allowed him to experiment on her extensively without the knowledge of anyone not connected to the project. The experimentation was more akin to torture, but Berry seems largely recovered from the psychological traumas of the experience. She has demonstrated great resilience in this way.
Unfortunately, the experiments altered her body chemistry in such a way that she is slowly dissipating. This is what the client identifies as her target concern: coming to term with this essentially terminal diagnosis.
While clearly someone dedicated to making a mark on the world—as evidenced by her acceptance of Osborn’s offer and current enrollment in the Academy—she has become even more driven to do so. As such, she often engages in hasty decision making, resulting in risking and under-informed choices that do not necessarily reflect her personal values. This is, of course, further exasperated by her age as the teen years are often times of impetuous judgments even without a terminal illness or time away from home further fueling the problem. Many teens are able to acknowledge their errors later and recognize they are part of the process of finding oneself. Berry, however, exhibits perfectionist tendencies and therefore tries to overcompensate following decisions she is admonished for. Most recently this was demonstrated when she utilized a piece of equipment she was not trained on and brought back the cosmic being know as Korvac.
Currently she and this writer are working on principles of radical acceptance, development of stronger sense of self and self-esteem, and learning to tolerate personal mistakes rather than to overcorrect in an attempt to ease her distress and earn the attention and affection of those she views as teachers and role models. If and when her health begins to markedly decrease, therapy will shift more towards preparation for and acceptance of death with grace and dignity. At this time, however, with the possibility of a cure raised by her instructor, Doctor Henry Pym, this writer is focusing on managing expectations and being able to stand setbacks and disappointments regarding the cure.
Madeline Berry will return for follow-up sessions with Doctors Christos Gage, Tom Raney, Billy Tan, and Sean Chen on April 20 and May 4. Details on the session will be available for review under file names AVENGERS ACADEMY #12 and #13, respectively, on those days.
Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens, MA is a Practicum Trainee at a Federal Correctional Institute and a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Consultant.