3 Therapeutic Interventions for the Geek's Therapist
Working with geeky clientele? We have you covered.
Posted Oct 21, 2020
Guest post by Abraham Klein M.A., LPC.
Are you a therapist working with geeky clientele—people steeped in comic books, anime, video games, tabletop roleplaying games, etc.? Are you someone who is geeky, someone who holds a deep love of these media, and who struggles with mental illness? Are any geeky friends in your life struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or racing or intrusive thoughts? If you answered yes to any of these questions, here is a technique anyone can use, be you a professional counselor or simply someone who wants to get a better handle on your personal demons.
Dealing with the “Anxiety Lawyer” (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)
This technique is not limited to anxiety and can be applied to struggles such as anger, depression, or addiction. In my work as a therapist, I have primarily used it in the context of anxiety, as it is the context in which I created this technique. Think about your anxiety as a high-powered prosecution attorney: He (or she or they, depending on how you want to conceptualize them; when describing this, I often conceptualize and describe them based off of Manfred Von Karma from Phoenix Wright) is tall, imposing, wears expensive suits, drives a nice car, and exudes a strong air of “I’m better than you.” The judge and the jury always seem to love him for reasons beyond you, and he always has lots of terrible evidence that makes little to no sense. However, with his strong and imposing nature, the tone of his voice, and the way he spins every detail, they always seem to eat it up. You are the defense attorney—you’re Phoenix Wright, your favorite defense attorney and mine—and the cases in which you two do legal battle are our daily internal struggles: "This person just looked at me in a certain way; they must hate me,” or “I am a complete failure because I forgot to do the dishes,” or “The person I like hasn’t texted me back yet; they think I’m a total freak.” When a case is presented, such as “My friend Maria hates me,” we as the defense attorney begin to state our case that Maria is our friend, and as such there is no way she hates us, at which point our anxiety will begin to berate us, shout us down, mock us for ever even considering that such an idea may be even remotely true. Over time, as we continue to give in to him in case after case, anxiety comes to rule the courtroom, and we begin to feel helpless as we lose case after case. Such is the reality for people who struggle with anxiety.
Now you may be wondering, how do we deal with the anxiety lawyer? He rules the courtroom! The judge and the jury always take his side! True, he rules the courtroom now. To dethrone him, two things must be done.
1. Gather your evidence folder. Just like in the Phoenix Wright games, you don’t just play the role of a lawyer who goes into the courtroom and debates his opponent; you are a detective. You survey crime scenes, look for clues, interview witnesses, and put the important evidence you find into your evidence folder. This is something we as people often overlook in our own lives: We do not consciously fill and curate our mental evidence file. Things happen, and then they pass, and some of us rarely take note. It is important to make sure that when things happen that are relevant to your struggles, you make note of it, and put it in your evidence folder. For instance, if you fear you’re going to lose a friend because of a small mistake, and every time you do something wrong you feel your world crashing down and that the person is going to leave you for that one single issue, let the situation play out, and then take note of what happens. If it is indeed your anxiety catastrophizing, make note of this. Over time, you will build up evidence contradicting your fear that one little mistake is going to mean the end of your friendship. Which brings us to dealing with that anxiety lawyer...
2. Present your evidence in the court of your mind. Get ready to fight back. The anxiety lawyer is used to you not fighting back; they know they run the courtroom and any resistance that you put up will be crushed swiftly. Now that you have gathered your evidence, it is time to stand up to the anxiety lawyer. Shout OBJECTION right in his face, whip out your evidence folder, present your findings, and state your case. This is your turnabout. This is where you fight back. In the beginning, the lawyer will step up his efforts. He will be caught off guard after winning so much against you in the past, but he will make additional efforts to quash you. Do not let up. Continue pushing and presenting and objecting and making your case. Over time, you will start to win cases. The anxiety lawyer will lose his footing, become more haggard and disheveled, and lose much of his credibility with the judge and jury. In time he will no longer rule the courtroom; either you will rule, or you two will remain on equal footing. Either way, he will no longer be in charge, and you will be able to win cases. Granted, he will never go away: The anxiety lawyer will always be there. He might start showing up to cases with messy hair and his tie undone and his suit wrinkled, and he might not have the same air of arrogance that he used to, but he will always be there to argue against you. It’s not about eliminating him; it’s about knocking him off his high horse and learning to deal with him.
And never forget the most important word: OBJECTION.
Learn more about Leyline’s Geek Therapy Training and see our Geek Therapy book, Integrating Geek Culture Into Therapeutic Practice: The Clinician's Guide To Geek Therapy.