If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

A superhero therapist uses comic book movies to help people grapple with their sexual orientation and PTSD - here's how

Dr. Janina Scarlet shares how comic book movies can help you find your inner truth.

Dr. Janina Scarlet
Image credit: Superhero Therapy website

One of the great things about San Diego Comic-Con is how it can help you see things through a new lens. Some people might dismiss comic book films as mindless entertainment or escapism, but during the the 2023 convention I attended a panel that might change your perspective. Multiverse of Marvel: Secret Invasion, Across the Spider-Verse, and Loki Too was a panel that focused on mental health.

The panel was filled with various mental health professionals, including Dr. Janina Scarlet. “I’m a clinical psychologist, an author, and a full-time geek. I specialize in incorporating pop culture elements into therapy to help folks with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dr. Scarlet said.

Dr. Scarlet has a website, podcast, and book devoted to superhero therapy. She told the panel that her patients have been able to discover their true selves, thanks to superhero media. Comic book films are a big part of her therapy practice, and it has resonated with her patients.

All superheroes have origin stories, but what about superhero therapists? During the panel Dr. Scarlet shared her backstory, and how it has shaped her as a mental health professional.

“Growing up, I never quite felt like I fit in. Growing up in Ukraine during the Soviet Union time, there was no word for bisexual. In fact, there was this stereotype about how there’s no sex in the Soviet Union. There was no term like pansexual or anything, so I was growing up thinking that I was a freak and there was something wrong with me,” Dr. Scarlet recalled.

“Seeing films in the United States and seeing the representations of various characters with a variety of sexual orientations, characters who were going through difficulties with trauma – it gave me a vocabulary, and it gave me a vehicle and a mirror for understanding my experience. And now, as somebody whose home country is at war, watching television shows dealing with trauma and war is also allowing me to make sense of that experience,” she continued.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s WandaVision, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Avengers, or something else. We sometimes lack the vocabulary to express our truth, and that is where fiction comes in. It gives us the strength and the vocabulary that we need to express what our hearts can’t quite say. This is where we learn the truth, and if a television show or movie is done well, that is where we learn about ourselves, and the truth that we’re not quite ready to tell others.”

I left the panel with a renewed love for the comic book medium. Geek media is more than entertainment, it’s self-care. Every day fans are using their favorite heroes to discover their truths and confront their personal traumas.

Want to know what's coming up next in pop culture? Check out our guides to upcoming movies, upcoming TV shows, upcoming comics, and upcoming comic conventions. If you're looking for specific franchises or genres, we have all the upcoming MCU, upcoming Star Wars, upcoming Star Trek, and upcoming DC movies & TV for you. If you're a fan of superheroes and not specific to just Marvel or DC, we have overall guides to all the upcoming superhero movies and upcoming superhero TV shows (and new seasons) as well.

About Comic-Con International: San Diego 2023



Visit the event page
Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.


Want to join the discussion? Please activate your account first.
Visit Reedpop ID if you need to resend the confirmation email.

View Comments (0)

Find out how we conduct our review by reading our review policy