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S24-100 Not All Heroes Wear Capes or Look Like Superman: Considering Diversity and Using Superheroes in Play Therapy

Total Credits: 3 including 3 Category I CE

100 Children & Adolescents
Dr. LaTrice L. Dowtin, Ph.D., LCPC, NCSP, RPT-S
Course Levels:
3 Hours 15 Minutes
Target Audience:
Social Workers, LCPCs, and Psychologists



Children learn through play and rehearsal of their immediate surroundings. While this helps them learn, play can also help heal children who have been through difficult and traumatic events. Play allows children to engage in the rehearsal of their immediate surroundings, recall recent events, and transfer events from short-term to long-term memory. Specifically, child-centered play therapy (CCPT) provides children with the unique opportunity to access skills, powers, and resources in the support of a skilled clinician so that they can re-write their own story. Clinicians equipped with the ability to follow their client’s lead, guided by CCPT principles, also need appropriate toys. Therefore, therapy playrooms should be stocked with superheroes, including superheroines, to encourage children’s expressions of their normal exterior shells, as well as their hidden inner strengths. This workshop will lay the foundation for the selection, usage, and potential therapeutic interpretations of superheroes from a CCPT framework. Characters such as the Black Panther, Supergirl, Ironman, The Flash, Captain America, and Wonder Woman will be covered. Moreover, considerations for gender and culture will be explored.   


Dr. LaTrice L. Dowtin, Ph.D., LCPC, NCSP, RPT-S Related Seminars and Products

Dr. LaTrice L. Dowtin is a Black cisgender woman who believes in the ongoing pursuit of humility and social justice. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, licensed clinical professional counselor, nationally certified school psychologist, and Registered Play Therapist-SupervisorTM, who specializes in perinatal and infant mental health (IMH) and trauma populations with a special focus on culturally, racially, and linguistically marginalized people of the global majority. Dr. Dowtin is a native African American Vernacular English speaker, fluent in U.S. English, and is proficient in American Sign Language.   

Over the course of the past 19 years, she has carved out a career as an early childhood specialist in the area of social–emotional development for young children and families. She has held such positions as preschool teacher; infant care specialist; Center Director of an early care program; early childhood mental health consultant; early childhood trauma and family therapist; adjunct faculty in an early childhood teacher education program; Deaf infant–parent support group facilitator; school psychologist; therapist; and invited presenter at University of California San Francisco, Bowie State University, and Cornell University.   

Dr. Dowtin was educated at Bowie State University (BSU), which is Maryland's oldest Historically Black University, where the focus of the intersection of race, culture, and identity is deeply embedded throughout the curriculum. Following school psychology and counselor training at BSU, Dr. Dowtin continued learning clinical psychology at Gallaudet University where she had the opportunity to train at Children’s National in their child development clinic conducting consultations in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and neonatal follow-up assessments for a predominantly Black community. Dr. Dowtin's additional training at the Lourie Center for Children's Social Emotional Wellness afforded her the opportunity to support children and families with severe trauma backgrounds while working with children and families at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore City, Maryland. She then completed a clinical psychology doctoral internship at Tulane University School of Medicine with a focus on families and infant mental health for trauma survivors in the city of New Orleans. Following her internship, Dr. Dowtin completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stanford University in the NICU focusing on perinatal and infant mental health.   

Agenda & Learning Objectives


  • Introduction - 10 minutes  

  • Child-centered Play Therapy Definition and Overview - 10 minutes  

  • Social Development of Children relevance to superheroes and villains - 20 minutes  

    • Interpersonal experiences  

    • Rehearsal during play  

  • PTSD in Children and applications of Superhero themes - 35 minutes  

  • Break - 15 min  

  • CCPT Superhero & Villain toy/material considerations - 45 minutes  

    • Representation in the playroom (i.e., race, gender, ability, culture)  

    • Identity development  

      • Confrontations during role development  

  • Case Application Review - 30 minutes  

  • Conclusion - 30 minutes  

    • Clinical Discussion questions  

    • General Q & A and discussion 



Upon the completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Consider at least two aspects of culture related to superheroes when working with young children who have experienced trauma.   

  • Discuss one therapeutic strength for each presented superhero.   

  • List at least 4 potential outcomes related to childhood trauma.  

  • Identify at least 3 healing properties of child-centered play therapy when applying superhero play.   

  • List at least 5 superhero toys or materials that are recommended for play therapy settings.   

Bibliography & References


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Boutte, G. S. (2008). Beyond the illusion of diversity: How early childhood teachers can promote social justice. The Social Studies, 99(4), 165-173. DOI: 10.3200/TSSS.99.4.165-173  


Brown, M. M. (2020). Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals. American Journal of Play, 12(3), 394-396.  


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Cronholm, P. F., Forke, C. M., Wade, R., Bair-Merritt, M. H., Harkins-Schwarz, M., Pachter, L. M., & Fein, J. A. (2015). Adverse childhood experiences: Expanding the concept of adversity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 49(3), 354-361. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.02.001    


Dowtin, L. L. (2019). Alter Egos and Hidden Strengths: The Powers of Superheroes in Child-Centered Play Therapy. In Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy (pp. 29-47). Routledge.  


Dowtin, L. L., & Sevon, M. A. (2019). The Black Panther lives: Marveling at the internal working models of self in young Black children through play. In Using Superheroes and Villains in Counseling and Play Therapy: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals, 274-291.  


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Gilliam, W.S., Maupin, A.N., Reyes, C.R., Accavittie, M. &Shic, F. (2016) Do early educators’ implicit biases regarding sex and race relate to behavior expectations and recommendations of preschool expulsions and suspensions?, Yale University Child Study Center.  


Giordano, P. C., Schroeder, R. D., & Cernkovich, S. A. (2007). Emotions and crime over the life course: A neo-Meadian perspective on criminal continuity and change. American Journal of Sociology, 112, 1603–1661. doi:    


Hall, W. J., Chapman, M. V., Lee, K. M., Merino, Y. M., Thomas, T. W., Payne, B. K., Eng, E., Day, S. H., & Coyne-Beasley, T. (2015). Implicit Racial/Ethnic Bias Among Health Care Professionals and Its Influence on Health Care Outcomes: A Systematic Review. American journal of public health, 105(12), e60–e76.   


Hamilton, C. M., Reas, H. E., & Mansfield, M. E. (2017). The safe space: An examination of the neurobiological benefits of play therapy with traumatized children. In Emerging Research in play therapy, child counseling, and consultation (pp. 81-99). IGI Global.  


Hughes, K., Bellis, M. A., Hardcastle, K. A., Sethi, D., Butchart, A., Mikton, C., ... & Dunne, M. P. (2017). The eect of multiple adverse childhood experiences on health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health, 2(8), e356-e366. doi:   


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Kerker, B. D., Zhang, J., Nadeem, E., Stein, R. E., Hurlburt, M. S., Heneghan, A., ... & Horwitz, S. M. (2015). Adverse childhood experiences and mental health, chronic medical conditions, and development in young children. Academic pediatrics, 15(5), 510-517. doi:   


Landreth, G. L. (2012). Play therapy: The art of relationship (3rd ed.). New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.  


Lieberman, A. F., Ippen, C. G., & Van Horn, P. (2015). Don't hit my mommy!: A manual for Child-Parent Psychotherapy with young children exposed to violence and other trauma. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.  


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Narimani, M., Soleymani, E., ZAHED, B. A., & Abolghasemi, َ. (2014). The comparison the eectiveness of executive functionals and play therapy on improving of working memory, attention care and academic achievement in students with math learning disorder.  


Quintana, S. M., Aboud, F. E., Chao, R. K., Contreras‐Grau, J., Cross, W. E., Hudley, C., ... & Vietze, D. L. (2006). Race, ethnicity, and culture in child development: Contemporary research and future directions. https://doi-org./10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00951.x   


Ramdaniati, S., Lismidiati, W., Haryanti, F., & Sitaresmi, M. N. (2023). The eectiveness of play therapy in children with leukemia: A systematic review. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 73, 7-21.  


Rhodes, A. E., Boyle, M. H., Bethell, J., Wekerle, C., Goodman, D., Tonmyr, L., . . . Manion, I. (2012). Child maltreatment and onset of emergency department presentations for suicide related behaviors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(6), 542-551.   


Stauer, S. D. (2021). Overcoming trauma stuckness in play therapy: A superhero intervention to the rescue. International Journal of Play Therapy, 30(1), 14.  

Course Completion & CE Information

Category I Maryland BSWE Requirement

The Office of Continuing Professional Education at the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work is authorized by the Board of Social Work Examiners in Maryland to sponsor social work continuing education programs. This workshop qualifies for {3} Category I Continuing Education Units. The Office of Continuing Professional Education is also authorized by the Maryland Board of Psychologists and the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors to sponsor Category A continuing professional education.

Please refer to the tab "Live Interactive Webinar Policies & FAQs" for UMSSW Office of CPE policies regarding all live interactive webinar related matters.

Target Audience

Social Workers, LCPCs, and Psychologists

We welcome anyone interested in the topic!


Late Fees and Refunds

The base price is $70 and includes CE credit. A non-refundable late fee of $20 is added on 02/21/24

Cancellations** must be received 24 hours in advance prior to the workshop to receive a refund or an account credit.

Late fees cannot be refunded or applied to  account credit. 

**ALL cancellations will be subjected to a $35.00 administration fee.**

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