It’s no secret that I’m going for a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. One of the classes that I took involved doing a small (very small) study on the perceptions of therapy. I’m in the process of expanding it and got to thinking that therapists aren’t always portrayed in a positive light in the media. I started thinking of the therapists that I’ve seen in the shows that I watch and wondered, are there more “bad” therapists than “good”.
When I sat down to write this post, the first show that came to mind was The Mentalist. So, I thought I’d start with The Mentalist, as I thought of two therapists off hand that had been featured in the show and as I sat down two write, realized that there were even more. Lets start from the beginning, shall we?
In the “Pilot” (the only episode without some form of the word red in it) the murder, Dr. Wagner, is a therapist. Ok, so he’s a MD and a psychiatrist, which is a bit different. However, most people will lump a psychiatrist in with the rest of the counselors, even though they don’t always see clients on a regular basis. So, for The Mentalist, that’s one bad, zero good.
Then, in the same season, in the episode “Red Brick and Ivy” we meet the lovely Sofie Miller. We learn, during the episode, that the ever lovable Patrick Jane spent some time in a mental institution where in Sophie was his therapist. Now, this in and of itself is not bad. Jane’s family had just been killed by a psychotic serial killer. However, it is very strongly suggested that their relationship was less than appropriate. This saddened me for more than one reason, the first being that I’m a big Jane/Lisbon shipper, so that was just depressing, to think that Jane could have had “feelings” for someone so soon after his wife died. The second reason being that any sort of relationship between clients and therapist is strictly forbidden. Not just frowned on, but forbidden. Like you can loose your license forbidden. New count: 2 bad:zero good.
The third episode of season two, “Red Badge”, was another case of a therapist being more than just a bit naughty. First, Dr. Carmen holds Lisbon’s clean bill of health up simply because he wants to (which is really against most of the ethical codes you’ll find out there). Then, he helps basically convinces herself and everyone she works with that she’s crazy and committed murder. Then he shows up at her house, there’s a boundary violation there, and Lisbon confronts him about framing her for a murder that he committed. Yup, we’ve got another murder on our hands, though Dr. Carmen has something that Dr. Wagner didn’t, he’s got the added bonus of framing his client for the crime that he committed. He is a gem of a therapist that one. Bad 3:Good 0.
Now, this next one might be stretching it a bit. In the season three episode “Ball of Fire” we see the return of Dr. Wagner from season 1, episode 1 (he’s the first bad example on the list) who has information on a psycho who kidnapped Jane because he put her father in prison and he died. The stretching bit is that at one point the psycho, Sherrie Winger/Rachel Bowman, had posed as a psychology student to get information out of the ever lovable Dr. Wagner. Now, I don’t know if she really is a psychology student or not, but she makes the list. Even though she’s not a therapist, she still fits the nitch of someone who might want to examine your brain. That, and the psychological torture she puts him through is something out of a text book on how NOT to treat people. Bad: 4, Good: 0
Now, I’m not claiming that this is an exhaustive look at therapists and the like on The Mentalist, though it would seem that the writers have taken a break from poking my future profession lately. I didn’t put down the “spiritual advisers” that are used throughout as they are there just to be poked fun at and are generally there just to show how much Jane doesn’t like them, that and that would be an entirely different post altogether. Next time I plan to do a few more shows and try to find some examples of good therapists.
As a last note, what are some shows that you watch that you think have good/bad examples of therapists or therapy in them? I’d love to know.