Novel Tropes #3: Bad Therapy

This episode of Novel Tropes focuses on a trope we’re passionate about – passionately against, that is. From the mind reading therapist to therapist-client affairs, from the funny to the damaging, we discuss why these tropes are problematic. Warning: rants ahead!

Mental health issues covered: discussions around therapy, therapy modalities, therapist-client affairs, stereotypes about therapists and therapy, and boundary violations.

A Quick Summary of Our Discussion:

  • We care about this trope because we want therapy to be normalised and de-stigmatised. Stereotypes about therapy can prevent people from accessing help when they need it.
  • We are covering three bad therapy tropes (so we don’t end up spending hours on this episode!): the mind-reading therapist, all therapy is Freudian, and therapist-client affair.
  • Examples of ‘mind-reading therapists’ trope:
    • Friends Season 1 Episode 13, where Phoebe dates a psychiatrist. Watch a snippet here.
    • How I Met Your Mother Season 7 where Kevin analyses the group’s dynamics (though at least he tries not to!). Watch a little bit of that here.
    • Love Hacked by Penny Reid.
  • Examples of ‘all therapy is Freudian’ trope:
    • Frasier
    • Marge’s therapist in the Fear of Flying episode in The Simpsons
    • The first season of the American series of In Treatment
  • Examples of the ‘therapy-client affairs’ trope:
    • In Treatment (again!)
    • Trance
    • How I Met Your Mother (Kevin, again!)
    • Lisa Kudrow’s character in Easy A
    • Harley Quinn and the Joker
    • This probably constitutes a whole subgenre in romance, as evidenced by this Reddit thread.
  • We also talk about good examples of therapists who are imperfect and/or observe appropriate boundaries:
  • Listen to our episode for the full discussion of why these tropes are problematic and what we’d like to see different!

Recommended Readings

  • TV Tropes once again is a great source of information about the trope itself. Tropes mentioned in this episode include: There Are No Therapists and All Psychology is Freudian.
  • In Australia, psychologists are bound by a code of ethics, which can be found here.
  • Good Therapy has a list of information about different types of therapy approaches.
  • Psychology Today features a Q&A with a psychoanalyst explaining a bit about how psychoanalysis works these days.

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