Published December 18, 2017

Psych Ward: Ironheart

While the world asks “Where is Tony Stark?” our resident therapist asks “How is Riri Williams?”

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Riri Williams, the client, presents as a healthy late adolescent woman. Cognitive and IQ tests reveal a genius level intellect, with a particular propensity for tasks related to science, math, and engineering. Her history supports these test results; she attended M.I.T. in her mid-teens, which led directly to her current role as the armored hero known as Ironheart.

The client has a relationship with the office, dating back to her early childhood when she first began to understand the implications of her father’s death prior to her birth. After that period of brief existential therapy—which she processed with surprising intellect for someone her age—Williams left therapy for several years.

However, after the violent—and seemingly accidental—deaths of her stepfather and best friend, Williams returned to the office. Therapy at that time focused on issues of trauma, guilt, and radical acceptance. Client again self-discharged after short-term treatment. While this writer felt she could have done more work in a global mental health sense, he supported her choice without objection.

After Williams was ostensibly forced out of M.I.T. due to her unapproved acquisition of materials and equally unapproved creation of a high tech homemade suit of armor, she returned to therapy once more to process her feelings of sadness, fear, and guilt. She has continued on since then as she became a super hero and the protégé of Tony Stark as Ironheart.

Most of our focus in therapy has centered on emotional regulation, techniques for dealing with high levels of stress, and processing those thoughts when events return to baseline. However, we’ve also begun to take a psychodynamic approach to her life and begun to explore her feelings about the repeated loss of father figures she has endured—her father before her birth, her stepfather in her early teens, and, most recently, Tony Stark. We have also looked at how the women in her life have helped her survive those experiences, and what, if any, issues remain unaddressed even with the tremendous level of family and family-adjacent support she has received.

Similarly, we are exploring her relationship to same age peers after the death of her best friend and how that death—and her intellect—may be giving her an “excuse” not to seek out strong, lasting relationships with peers.

Due to a past history of mental illness related to armor use, as documented in previous users including James Rhodes and Tony Stark himself, Riri Williams is attending a two-session diagnostic scan for any possible signs of organic brain disturbances with Doctors Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, and Alex Maleev on December 27 and January 17. The results of those tests will be found in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #595 and #596, respectively.

Psy D. Candidate Tim Stevens is a Staff Therapist who could’ve gone to M.I.T. at the age of 15, but he missed the bus and it just became this whole thing.