I am a therapist. I am also a fan. I have been a fan for much longer than I have been a therapist, and my relationship with fandom is one that has provided me with a lot of rewarding experiences over the years. On Saturday, I will be presenting at my first ever fan convention on the topic of parasocial relationships and fandom, and it will be the first time the therapist and the fan parts of my life will converge in ways that I never would have thought in the earlier days of my fannish life.
Reflecting back on my experiences in counselling and therapy, I have never mentioned fandom to any of my counsellors or therapists. This is in spite of the fact that I have been an active participant in fandom since I first joined the Red Dwarf Fan Club aged around 15. Back in those days, interaction with the fandom was done via mail with a quarterly fanzine and with fellow fans I befriended from the penpal listings in the zine and exchanged hand-written paper letters.
Even when I joined online fandom spaces in the early 2000s, where I spent much of my downtime chatting with other fans on messageboards and engaging with fanworks, I didn’t share that part of myself with my therapists. I was extremely careful about keeping my online fandom identity separate from my ‘real’ identity, even though engaging in fandom was the time when I felt the most authentically myself.
Working with clients can take a variety of forms, and is a place where I try at all times to be the fullest, most authentic version of myself. I want to offer clients the ability to have that for themselves too, and to bring things that are important about themselves and their identities and activities into our work. Games, TV, films, books, comics, and cartoons or anime are all incredibly rich sources of metaphor and story. We can connect with them on a really deep level, see aspects of ourselves and our experiences reflected in others, and find things that help us to better understand ourselves.
The topic of my talk on the weekend is about parasocial relationships – something I intend to post more about at a later date. However, the main point of this post is about relationships between people in the so-called real world. Between parts of ourselves, ourselves and the people who share our passions, and ourselves and the people we choose to help us. Part of who I am and how I show up for my clients is by being my whole self and being interested in and accepting of the whole person who chooses to come and work with me. I want people to feel able to bring aspects of their passions into our therapy if that helps them, and I am excited to learn about the things that you’re interested in.
Zoe will be appearing at Our Con Means Death in Bristol on the 24th September 2022