Interview with Dr. Denisse Morales

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Today we have an interview with Dr. Denisse Morales. She has a cool blog called Shrinks and Geeks. She’s a psychologist, a geek, and an occasional cosplayer. She writes about psychology, anime, and pop culture. I’ve been dragged to her blog because she analyses fictional characters and shows in a fascinating way. Plus, she loves D&D.

Pepi: In your blog you talk about fandoms and pop culture related to psychology. How did you come to matching both?

Dr. Denisse Morales: I am a huge fan of many things, and some of these fandoms have been with me most of my life (Star Wars!). Because I studied psychology, I at times would think about how certain characters came to be the way they are. The first one I remember analyzing more thoroughly was a character named Artemis Entreri, from the D&D fandom. He is not a good guy, but he was one of my favorite characters. The more I read about him, the more intrigued I became. I wanted to sit down and have a clinical interview with him! Of course, I had to settle for gathering as much info from the literature, examine it, and form a conceptualization of him. It sounds so nerdy, but at the time I was just very excited about doing it. Then I just continued with other characters from other things.

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P: Do you use them in your work?

DDM: I used to work a lot with children and teenagers, and I often used superheroes, whether it was in conversation or real action figures in play therapy with younger clients. Superheroes can be used to connect with a client, but also as metaphors or as an exercise in problem solving. For example, I may ask, “What might Spiderman do in this situation?” Superheroes are great because they have their strengths and challenges too. They are not perfect, and I think that is a great conversation to have with someone who is having a hard time or being hard on themselves. I have also used anime, and other popular TV shows in similar ways, by discussing what a client’s favorite character might be, what they like about that character, and what might the character do in certain situations. This can start a conversation as to what the client’s own strengths are and how they can use them in their recovery. In the past, I have also used video games in a similar way. The way I see it is, these are stories that mean something to the client. I want to find out what these stories mean to my client, why, and how I can use it to their benefit in therapy.

P: How do you think D&D can help psychologists and patients?

DDM: I think that role play within a semi-structured setting can provide a safe space for people to practice interacting with others, use and read social cues, engage in strategic thinking, and try to solve problems, all of which are important aspects of just going through life. Some psychologists and other mental health professionals are successfully using D&D in therapy. Although I have never done so myself, I do sometimes use some aspects of D&D to serve as metaphors. For example, sometimes I use the metaphor of a Bag of Holding, which can fit many, many items that you can carry with you wherever you go, to discuss our personal baggage that we each carry with us. In our metaphorical Bag of Holding, we have space for all the positive experiences and all the negative experiences that we have ever had, but we also have space for all the future positive and negative experiences that we will continue to have. If we think of our experiences in those terms, it might help us realize that even when we are carrying things we don’t want to carry, we still have enough room in our lives for everything else. We can make room for these unwanted experiences and still have meaningful lives.

P: How do you think shows like Jessica Jones or Supernatural can help with different issues? For example, Jessica Jones S1 talks about partner violence. Do you think they help people to give a shot to therapy?

DDM: I would hope so. Supernatural and Jessica Jones are two good examples of shows that depict pretty big issues that are important to bring to societal awareness. Sometimes, we might see a character like Jessica Jones, who has experienced trauma and drinks a lot, and we might recognize that in ourselves, and maybe that brings some people to take that step toward getting help.

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P: Do you think fictional characters can help you in being aware of something that worries you?

DDM: Absolutely. I think sometimes we might see something in a character and either we like it or we don’t, and maybe those things are a reflection of something we like or don’t like in ourselves.

P: What’s your favorite fandom? And your favorite character?

DDM: I have a few favorites! Currently I am very much into Supernatural, D&D, and Asian dramas. My favorite SPN character is Dean Winchester as portrayed by Jensen Ackles. There are so many things about him that I relate to, and many things that I admire. I think Dean has sacrificed so much for his family, and he seems to give everything he has most of the time, most of the time putting others first. I also experience him as a very real and genuine character. You usually know what Dean is thinking or what he’s about. I can’t say that I have a favorite character in D&D literature, and I am only recently into Asian dramas, so I don’t have a favorite yet.

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P: You face a huge dragon at the entrance of a dungeon stronghold. He’s impossibly powerful, and it will most likely kill you. But, you roll the dice and…

DDM: … you realize that the dragon is a manifestation of your worst fears and anxieties! You also realize that as your anxiety and fear grow, the dragon seems to become larger and more powerful. You do the unthinkable. You close your eyes! You take a deep breath. You exhale slowly. You feel your body slowly calming down. You remind yourself that *you* control this dragon. You realize that the dragon is trying to keep you from the unknown stuff inside that dungeon stronghold. Maybe it’s trying to protect you. Nevertheless, you take another deep breath, you open your eyes, you stand up straight, you firmly tell the dragon to step aside, and you walk on right through that entrance with your head held high. 🙂

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Copyright: Images on this post made by dePepi with a (C) Dr.Denisse Morales picture / Memes & Gifs (C) by their owners.

About pepi

A Geek Girl interested in Geek Anthropology, comic books, books, Superheroes and discovering all about pop culture.

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