1. Dr. Stanley Keyworth, “The West Wing”
Background: Psychotherapist Dr. Stanley Keyworth (Adam Arkin) is brought to the White House when a recently-shot Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) shows signs of PTSD. When the no-nonsense doc is later summoned to address the President’s insomnia, he audaciously prompts President Bartlet to open up about his father’s abusive tendencies. Talk about speaking truth to power.
Dr. Stanley Keyworth: I’ll be the only person in the world, other than your family, who doesn’t care that you’re the president. Time is up.
President Jed Bartlet: It’s not good for a person to keep setting goals?
Dr. Stanley Keyworth: It probably is, but it’s tricky for somebody who’s still trying to get his father to stop hitting him.
The Lesson: It’s ok if you’re still pining for parental approval. No one, not even the Nobel Prize-winning President Bartlet, is immune to daddy issues.
2. Dr. Frasier Crane, “Frasier”
Background: Dr. Frasier Crane, originally of “Cheers” fame, is a Harvard-educated psychiatrist and radio personality who moves to Seattle to repair his life after a devastating divorce. Ever consumed with one-upping his brother Niles, pursuing women (often unsuccessfully), and maintaining his “elegant” lifestyle, Frasier revels in the power trip of doling out advice to his desperate listeners.
Dr. Frasier Crane: If you act like a barbarian, you will become a barbarian.”
Dr. Frasier Crane: Though washing one’s hands twenty to thirty times a day would be considered obsessive/compulsive, please bear in mind that your husband is a coroner. Thank you for your call, Jeanine. Roz, whom do we have next?
The Lesson: Even as our unconscious minds threaten to derail rational decision-making, sometimes Freudian models have nothing to do with the ridiculous things we do. (In other words, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.)
3. Dr. Marvin Monroe, “The Simpsons”
Background: Dr. Marvin Monroe first appears in the episode “There’s No Disgrace Like Home,” in which Homer pawns the family television to pay for some much needed family counseling. When talk therapy fails, Dr. Monroe enacts a bizarre simulation of the infamous Milgram experiment. The Simpsons are encouraged to use electroshock therapy on one another to release their rage towards one another, and wind up creating a town-wide power outage.
Dr. Monroe: This is what’s known as aversion therapy. When someone hurts you emotionally, you will hurt them physically, and gradually you will learn not to hurt each other at all! And won’t that be wonderful Homer?
The Lesson: While potentially effective for various psychopathologies, electroshock therapy is not a viable treatment for intrafamilial frustrations. Just buy a new television instead!
4. Dr. Jennifer Melfi, “The Sopranos”
Background: Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) is the psychoanalyst-psychiatrist who attempts to help Mafia boss Tony Soprano manage his crippling panic attacks and depression. Not surprisingly, their tumultuous relationship drives her deep into alcoholism, and she ultimately deems Tony a sociopath only enabled — not aided — by therapy.
Tony Soprano: We’ve got bigger things to talk about than Jean Cusamano’s ass.
Dr. Jennifer Melfi: Like feelings of worthlessness sparked by your mother’s plot to have you killed?
The Takeaway: Murder, theft, and grudge-holding does a number on one’s self-esteem (in case moral qualms and fear of punishment weren’t enough to keep you out of organized crime). Also, if duck migrations inspire sadness, your subconscious could be expressing deeper fears of loss. Check yourself!
5. Dr. Charles Kroger, “Monk”
Background: Dr. Charles Kroger (Stanley Kamel) is steadfast therapist to Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive San Francisco detective played by Tony Shalhoub. Until Dr. Kroger’s death at the beginning of “Monk’s” seventh season, Kroger patiently helps Monk grapple with his laundry list of phobias and compulsions.
Dr. Charles Kroger: What would you do if you had a million dollars?
Adrian Monk: Well, I guess I’d hire you full time, and keep you on retainer 24/7. Maybe I’d buy you a house right next to mine so that I could just drop in, anytime.
Adrian Monk: This is fun. What would you do with a million dollars?
Dr. Charles Kroger: Buy an island… a desert island… in the middle of nowhere.
Adrian Monk: So we would do our sessions over the phone?
Dr. Charles Kroger: Heh, you see this island, in my mind… no phone service.
The Lesson: Feeling unloved or undervalued? Become the patient confidant of someone with severe OCD. You will be forever beloved and in constant demand.
6. Dr. Molly Clock, “Scrubs”
Background: Dr. Molly Clock (Heather Graham) is the unflappably cheerful attending psychiatrist at Sacred Heart Hospital. Immune to Dr. Cox’s biting sarcasm, she sees the good in all people and delights in even the simplest life pleasures —including the hospital cafeteria’s kielbasa and singing to her food. She is also deemed the second hottest employee at Sacred Heart before leaving after only eight episodes to work in Milwaukee.
Dr. Clock: Perry, no one’s pure evil! I mean, yeah, some people have a hard outer shell, but inside, everybody has a creamy center.”
The Lesson: Even the prickliest people have a soft spot deep down inside. Also, the joys of a good lunch are not to be scoffed at.
7. Dr. Paul Weston, “In Treatment”
Background: Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) is the psychoanalyst and protagonist of “In Treatment,” which follows both his treatment of patients and his own therapy sessions. Haunted by the trauma of his father’s adultery and his mother’s suicide, Paul is both deeply compassionate and flawed, leading him to cross countless emotional boundaries with his patients.
Dr. Weston (to his therapist, about a patient): I love her. I love Laura. Every word out of her mouth, every move she makes, I just…I love taking to her, just listening to it. I know it’s a joke. A cliché….a 50-year-old married man in love with a 30-year-old. But I want to be with her, and I don’t care what it means, and I don’t care what it costs. I don’t care. I love her.
Dr. Weston: I have to find something in each of my patients that I love. Otherwise I won’t be able to treat them.
The Lesson: Telling your therapist you’re in love with him or her is a bad idea, especially when your therapist is having marriage troubles. Keep your erotic transference to yourself, or risk both embarrassment and the hassle of finding a new shrink. Also, more likely than not, your shrink has just as much baggage as you do. So comforting!
8. Major Sidney Theodore Freedman, “M*A*S*H”
Background: Major Sidney Theodore Freedman (Allan Arbus) first appears at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital to conduct a psychiatric evaluation of Corporal Klinger, who tries to be discharged from the army by staging outlandish stunts (including habitual cross-dressing). Over the show’s 11-year run, Maj. Freedman counsels soldiers and patients through a whole host of psychological maladies, including Hawkeye’s psychosomatic bout of uncontrollable sneezing and a combat medic’s case of trauma-induced amnesia.
Maj. Freedman: Sex is why we gamble, sex is why we drink, sex is why we give birth.
Maj. Freedman: Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice: Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.
The Lesson: Laughter, even in times of war, is crucial for maintaining sanity. Maj. Freedman also teaches us that all things are in fact motivated by sex (shocker!), and that repressed memories can cause some bizarre predicaments. (If you start believing you are Jesus Christ, some hypnosis is in order.)
9. Dr. Tobias Fünke, “Arrested Development”
Background Dr. Tobias Fünke (David Cross), the self-proclaimed “world’s first analrapist” (analyst + therapist), is a self-help author of the gay cult classic The Man Inside Me and an unsuccessful but tireless aspiring actor. Oblivious to his own absurdities, Tobias is a fount of wisdom — not by virtue of psychiatric expertise — but rather his many, many poor life decisions.
Tobias: It’s important not to tie your self-esteem to how you look or what people think of you. I mean, look at me. I’m an actor. An actor, for crying out loud! You know how much rejection I face every day? But in this business of show, you have to have the heart of an angel and the hide… of an elephant.
Lindsay (Tobias’s wife): But, you’ve never actually had an audition.
Tobias: Well… excuse me! Excuse me.
The Lesson: If following your dreams means paying more to “study your craft” than your craft will ever pay in return, reconsider. Not everyone was meant for the stage.
Background: Dr. Fiona Wallice (Lisa Kudrow) is a self-proclaimed “web therapist” looking to make a buck (or many) as quickly and efficiently as possible. Instead of traditional face-to-face sessions, Dr. Wallice gives each of her patients a 3-minute Skype session and a heaping dose of condescension and hypocrisy. Greed and laziness aside, Fiona’s truest motivation is creating a forum where she can talk about herself as much as possible.
Dr. Wallice: An adult gets angry, but doesn’t demean the person that they’re speaking with…doesn’t belittle them or humiliate them. They simply let them…
Dr. Wallice’s assistant: (interrupting her) Dr. Wallice…
Dr. Wallice: I’m in a session, you colossal idiot! How dare you just storm in like that!
The Lesson: If something sounds too good to be true (i.e. complete emotional transformation in three minutes of virtual chatting), IT PROBABLY IS.
Also, considering Fiona records her sessions to show to “potential investors,” reading HIPAA Patient Privacy waivers before signing is probably a good idea.
11. Lucy van Pelt, “Peanuts”
Background: Although Lucy van Pelt is perhaps best known for bullying poor Charlie Brown and Linus and for being the “world’s greatest fussbudget,” she also made time for an active psychiatric practice. For a going rate of five cents a pop, Lucy doled out advice to her wayward pals — often of the harsh, misinformed variety. The melancholic Charlie Brown usually left her psychiatric stand feeling even more forlorn, and a nickel poorer.
Lucy: Snap out of it. Five cents, please.
Lucy: Are you afraid of staircases? If you are, then you have climacaphobia. Maybe you have thalassophobia. This is fear of the ocean, or gephyrobia, which is the fear of crossing bridges. Or maybe you have pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?
The Lesson: Tough love is only justified when supported by wisdom and experience. Do not place your delicate soul in the hands of a precocious eight-year-old with sadistic tendencies.