On the Silver Screen: Psychotherapy & Shrinks in Popular Movies & TV series

This section is about how psychotherapy, psychiatry, counseling, social work or marriage and family therapy and therapists themselves are viewed in popular movies and TV series.

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Table of Contents


Boundary Crossing – Appropriate Behavior Within the Standard of Care

Creative Ethical Boundary Crossing, Clinically Appropriate & Helpful Interventions

ceasefire.jpg Sayeh wants to file for divorce, but mistakenly knocks on a psychologist's door instead of a lawyer's. The Persian film demonstrates how the therapist effectively heal the marriage by helping them get in touch w/ their inner child.

— FT

Ordinary People
Screen Shot 2022-11-28 at 12.28.34 PM The attentive therapist, Judd Hirsh, creates a cathartic experience for his young traumatized client by, on the spot, setting a session at midnight when the client finally remember and can process the trauma of his dead brother.

— Gilbert

Screen Shot 2022-11-27 at 6.36.33 PM Interaction between therapist and client who’ve been working together for sometime. Client is attempting to make a documentary to share the wisdom and helpfulness of the therapist. Therapist is very open and informative.

— Thomas Hollander

Annie Hall
Screen Shot 2022-11-27 at 6.12.48 PM Both therapists ask their individual clients about their sex life. Alvy notes, “Hardly ever, maybe three times a week.” Annie notes, “Constantly! I’d say three times a week.” Important for therapists to understand the individual context.

— OZ

Therapy session
inbound1874076251251377106.png The Brazilian series is set in a psychoanalysis office. The series follows the daily life of a therapist and the dilemmas, Pains and joys of his patients.

— L. A

Nise: The Heart of Madness
Screen Shot 2022-11-21 at 11.22.04 PM Dr. Nise,a psychiatrist who specialized in Art Therapy stoped horrific/abusive Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) interventions in a psychiatric hospital in Brazil in the 40's & created a community of accomplished artists on the psych ward.

— Jill A.

Prodigal Son
Prodigal son Bright is a talented profiler for NYPD & the son of a convicted serial killer physician, w/ whom he sometimes consults on murder cases. His rarely seen therapist seems to compassionately understand the immense complexities of Bright's life.

— JZ

Stop It
Screen Shot 2022-11-18 at 9.47.20 PM Bob Newhart, in his famous 5 min comedic video clip, "Stop It" brings up the concern that psychotherapists may ineffectively and self-servingly stretch therapy over months or years, while it may be able to cut be down to 5 min. and 2 words.

— OZ


Mad to be Normal
13 This movie is the story of the innovative - visionary British Psychiatrist, R.D. Lang who ferociously fought the pharmaceutical (over medicating) industry.

Ethical Dual Relationships: Concurrent or Sequential

Antwon Fisher
Antwon Fisher A young military patient is invited to a social holiday family dinner at his psychiatrist's on-base family house. Not an unusual occurrence in military settings.

— OZ

Gifts in Therapy: From Therapists to Clients & from Clients to Therapists

In Treatment - TV Series
Screen Shot 2022-11-19 at 12.49.17 PM Paul noticed that, Oliver, his young client/patient seemed 'low' and probably hungry and offered to make him a sandwich. He invited Oliver to the kitchen, which is next to the home office, to make the sandwich to the boy's liking.

— OZ

In Treatment - TV Series
2.png Therapist gives his father pilot- hood to a cancer bold-headed female client as a termination of therapy gift.

Non-sexual, clinically & ethically appropriate touch between counselors and patients

Good Will Hunting
3 Therapist, Robin Williams, repeatedly tells his client, Matt Damo, “It is not your fault” and hold him as he cried.

— O. Zur


TeleMental Health, Virtual Therapy, Online Counseling, Remote Therapy, (vs in-person or in-office)

Web Therapy
7 A comedy of conducting 3 min therapy before telmental health got popular.
In Treatment 4th Season
6 Corona time irreversibly expended telemental health or online therapy to most settings, therapists and clients.

Therapists-Clients ethical interactions Outside the Office

A Million Little Things (TV series)
Screenshot_20221203-151711_Chrome.jpg Client is on a roof, threatening to jump. A friend of both client and therapist is on the roof with him and has his phone on so therapist and others can hear what's going on. Therapist provides guidance to her client's friends and parents.

— Kathryn Lichty

Antwone Fisher
t_500x300.jpeg Antwone Fisher is a sailor who is mandated to see a psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Davenport. Dr. Davenport invited Antoine to his home for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.

— Margot E


Why Don't You Cry?
inbound1476547655159338912.png The Brazilian film tells the story of two people who meet at an internship at the faculty psychology, where Jéssica is Barbara 's therapist. The coexistence leads the two to question their lives, seeking to change their perspectives.

— L.A.

Don Juan DeMarco
De Marko The police psychologist meet a colorful, poetic, delusional, heart broken suicidal client at the top of the bill board above the highway. He effectively & literally meet the client where the is at, obviously, not at the therapist's offiice

— OZ

Hope Springs
5 After a successful couple therapy, the couple therapist, meet with the couple the family to renewed the marriage vows on the beach.

Therapists' appropriate self-disclosure in office & online (social media, professional sites, etc)

Screen Shot 2022-11-20 at 5.24.22 PM Directed by actor Jonah Hill about his own struggle with his body & fame, w/ his therapist Dr. Stutz. While the movie focuses on Hill, Dr. Stutz joins with clinically appropriate self-disclosure regarding meds, Parkinson & family dynamics

— LM

NCIS Self Dis A powerful & competent Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Special Agent, client confronts his caring, generous & over extending therapist about her lack of self-care and concern with burnout, which she acknowledges.
Good Will Hunting
4 Extensive self-disclosure by therapist, Robin Williams, to gain the trust of his client, Matt Damo, “It is not your fault"

Therapists’ unusual but clinically appropriate/helpful behavior, such as foul language, odd gestures, etc.

The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
Screen Shot 2022-12-04 at 12.54.08 PM In this classic movie, the psychologist helps Eve identify 3 distinct personalities. The movie put the controversial MPD dx on the map of psychiatric disorders (now named DID). Some view the movie as the utmost example of treater's bias.

— OZ


The Sessions
Screen Shot 2022-12-02 at 7.03.06 PM This is not about psychotherapy, but a relevant true story. A paraplegic man in an iron lung who wishes to, finally, loose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) w/ the help of his therapist and his priest.

— Z


Oui, Mais. (Yes, But)
Screen Shot 2022-11-21 at 5.48.25 PM Throughout Therapist helped late age teen in dealing with sexual advances from male friend and dealing with aggressive behavior from friends. Learning boundaries and reversals Re friends and parents.

— Alan Entin

Screen Shot 2022-11-21 at 3.59.36 PM The therapist, Dr. Stutz, in his therapy sessions with Jonah Hill, uninhibitedly and frequently, uses curse words and foul language, like 'Fuck' or 'Shit'.

— Jim K.

Ethically Questionable & Boundary Violation Initiated by Therapists

Boundary Violations, Exploitation and Harm by Unethical Therapists

Bad Therapy (2020)
Screen Shot 2022-12-03 at 10.37.46 PM A 'psycho' LA couples therapist, hopes to split a couple apart by sexually seducing the husband & tying him up. Based on a true story and the novel 'Judy Small'. As the title suggests, this is indeed 'bad therapy,' as bad as it gets.

— O

Deconstructing Harry
Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 6.33.05 PM Harry is married to a therapist who has a home office. Harry's wife learns that Harry had an affair with one of her clients. The next client hears his therapist raging uncontrollably at her husband during breaks in their session.

— -

Screen Shot 2022-11-22 at 11.33.30 PM Mirrors is an unusual 30-min psychological thriller about a psychotherapist, who is suffering from a failed marriage, own descent into madness.

— Q

The Shrink Next Door
images A shrink had a patient who is inadequate in most spheres of his life accept business. The shrink, exploitatively, takes over his life for 20 yrs.(!!) and separates him from his money by grooming and manipulating him.

— Marla Friedman

Screen Shot 2022-12-07 at 9.10.52 PM The therapist/supervisor/consultant wrongly and unethically advised the therapist, Meryl Streep, to continue to treat her client, even though the client is not aware that she is dating the therapist's son.

— Mary Q

Therapists and Clients, Regularly Talking on Phone, Texting or Engage in Social Media in the Middle of the Night

Screen Shot 2022-11-19 at 1.16.42 PM Tricky, but not uncommon, practice of connecting with clients in the middle of the night via texting, phone, social media, Facetime, etc. Due to the 'Disinhibition Effect' at times (not in this movie) texting translate to . . . sexting .

— L.K.

In Treatment – 4th Season
9.png The therapist answers a client’s call at midnight and talk to him for a long time in the middle of the night. Not unethical per-se but must be handle with caution.

Therapists Involved in Unethical Sexual Relationships or ‘Sexting’ with Current or Recently Terminated Clients

Screen Shot 2022-12-02 at 6.07.41 PM An 1983 popular movie about a psychiatrist, who falls in love with a patient and became her lover, is visited by the spirit of Sigmund Freud, who gives him advice on how to handle it.

— O

The Departed
Screen Shot 2022-11-29 at 1.03.16 PM The movie is about police officers in Boston. The police psychiatrist has a relationship with one police officer and then has an affair with another, who is an active patient at the time,

— D. R.

In Treatment - TV Series
Screen Shot 2022-12-07 at 8.09.22 PM CounterTransference 101: Paul unethically confesses to his pt. Laura, his love for her, in the final episode of S.1, but a last minute stressful call from his daughter stops him from consummating the relationship. No actual sexual violation

— -

Gypsy The (married & mother) therapist is attracted to her male client's girlfriend and convinced her client to leave his girlfriend as she is sexually and socially courting her
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Screen Shot 2022-11-21 at 12.25.17 PM in Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy, The Girl w/ the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played w/ Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, we have evil psychiatrist, who sexually molest adolescent client & is addicted to Internet kiddie porn

— ZQ

The Prince of Tides
10 The therapist ends up having hot sexual affair with her hospitalized client’s brother.

Unexpected unethical dual relationships

Screen Shot 2022-11-27 at 7.54.30 PM Dr. House saw Dr. Nolen in a psychiatric-medical hospital. Dr. House and Dr. Nolen developed an intricate Doctor-patient relationships that extended to a complex-extensive social & professional multiple relationship.


Screen Shot 2022-11-21 at 3.15.08 PM Unbeknownst to the therapist, she was coaching her client how to be intimate and sexual with her new young unemployed boyfriend, who turned to be the therapist's son. The ultimate nightmare for a therapist.

— Mary L.

Boundary Violation Initiated by Patients or Clients

Clients who are Clearly more Powerful than their Therapists - Clients who Harass, Exploit, manipulate their Therapists

The Patient
th-4280823978-1.jpg The Patient is a TV series about a serial killer who kidnaps his psychotherapist and keeps him chained in his basement in hopes of the psychotherapist curing him of his need to kill.

— Dana S.

The Voices
Screen Shot 2022-11-19 at 6.29.59 PM A struggling schizophrenic patient, physically ties up his elderly therapist, covers her mouth and kidnaps her to an open field where he places her on the trunk of his car, and asks her important questions about hallucinations & voices.

— QZ

Analyze This
Screen Shot 2022-11-19 at 6.19.40 PM A comedy about a psychiatrist whose # one patient is a highly insecure/neurotic big mob boss. When the client has a panic attack, his 'soldier' interrupts the psychiatrist's wedding to immediately attend to the mafia boss' crisis.

— QA

A Dangerous Method
Screen Shot 2022-11-19 at 12.29.41 PM Carl Jung's patient surprises him with a passionate kiss on the lips.

— OZ

What about Bob
Screen Shot 2022-11-18 at 8.53.55 PM A sobering & hilariously funny view of client-therapist relationship, boundaries, neediness, and projections and most noticeable client's capacity to follow his therapist to his vacation home & uninvitedly appears on TV with his therapist.

In Treatment
MIa An ex client, Mia, who is now a successful attorney 'grabbed' the legal case of her former (20 years past) therapist, Paul, to connect with him, 'settle the score', share her disappointments

Silence of the Lambs
15 Anthony Hopkins, as imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who, literally, ate (!!!) his clients, intimidating and frightening Jodie Foster, an FBI agent (whom he read as an open book) who came to interview him.

— OZ

The Sopranos
12 A powerful and dominant NY mafia boss surprisingly kissing his psychologist in the middle of a therapy session.

Clients who Intrude on or Hacked their Therapists

Mr. Robot
11 A powerful hacker client who knew about his therapist’s life and lover much more than she knew as he hacked her and her boyfriend online records.

Extreme Situation-Interactions Between Therapists and Clients

Therapists who actually, deliberately, kill their clients

Silence of the Lambs
Hannibal_Lecter_in_Silence_of_the_Lambs Anthony Hopkins, as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who, literally, ate his clients. Before his capture, he was a respected forensic psychiatrist; after his incarceration, he is consulted by FBI to help them find other serial killers.

— L

Dress to Kill
Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 12.07.40 PM Robert is a psychiatrist & transgender w/ split personality; his female side wants to become a woman, his male side won't allow. Healer by day murderer by night. Bobbi punishes him by killing women he feels attracted to, including a client.

— OZ

Therapists who Increase the Chance of Clients’ Death

The Report
Screen Shot 2022-12-02 at 10.27.23 PM The movie follows Senate Intelligence Committee staff as they investigate CIA's use of torture following 9/11 attacks. It exposed more than a decade of the illegal horrendous torture, generally designed by 2 psychologists (not treaters).

— QL


Band of Brothers
14 A military medic who helped a soldier who lost his sight in an hysterical (psycho-somatic) blindness in the last traumatic battle in WWI regain his eye-sight so he is ready to go to the next battle, where he may lose his life;
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