I provided free talk therapy sessions to people at the Performance Arcade, in Wellington, New Zealand, from February 18-22, in a project called Doctor Outis Is In!, in honor of the esteemed psychiatric work of Lucy van Pelt.
These performances lasted up to 13 hours a day, and brought in somewhere between one and two hundred patients over the five days of the show. I did individual, small group, and large group sessions. Each session lasted 15 minutes.
My office was suitably furnished with a chair for the participants and a stool for me (since I can’t sit down in my armor), along with a lamp and an appropriately black and white rug. Portraits of Freud, Lucy (seen here), and Emperor Palpatine hung on the wall to help us focus on the important aspects of the moment. Sessions were private, but there was a peephole in the door so the people outside in line could see us without hearing us.
The therapy sessions ranged in tone from humorous to serious, depending on what the participant was looking for. As I stressed to my patients, Corporal Outis has no therapy experience or expertise whatsoever. Sometimes we talked about the project, and how my mask provided a neutral, blank, expressionless affect that made it easier for them to talk with me than a normal human. But mostly people came in for actual therapy, and often had specific personal issues they wanted to seriously discuss.
I talked with people about their relationships with their families, their hopes and fears, and their sources of pride. People wanted to discuss breakups with romantic partners, the desire to cheat on their significant others, difficulties at work, various phobias (including a fear of Stormtroopers), problems with roommates, anxiety about moving, feeling inhuman, the process of coming out to family members, and the guilt over not being able to save people from harm. I talked with multiple “real” therapists, and enabled at least one to come to a moment of clarity about her own practice. Multiple participants remarked that I was “better than their real therapist,” and most were volubly thankful for their experience.
Overall it was a great success, with numerous deep conversations that built a strong set of interpersonal relationships and experiences.