We’ve begun a new service here at Counseling Insite. Do you have a question about counseling, mental disorders, psychotherapy, addictions, or human behavior that you’d like to see an entire blog post dedicated to? Send us a message and if we pick it, you’ll have your very own blog post to share or tweet or whatever you’d like to do. We have like ten different ways on the site to get in touch with us, but you can always use this form.
Our inaugural question comes to us from a guest who found us on Facebook. In fact, if you like the post, maybe you can head on over and give us a like. That would be awesome. Here goes:
Dear Counseling Insite,
How do you think movies and TV portray the mental health field? Which shows get it right and which are just ridiculous in your opinion. Thanks! (Name withheld for confidentiality purposes)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Counselor
Hello Kind Guest Whose Name We Have Redacted!
Professional Counseling is not how it is in the movies. Most clients rarely get to sit on comfy sofas and talk about dreams. Most therapists don’t have aesthetically pleasing offices with leather high back chairs and mahogany bookshelves adorned with thick hard cover journals. Some of them do I guess, but most of us are in the trenches, working in underfunded and overbooked mental health triage centers. There is very little that is Hollywoodish, if that is somehow a word. It’s not sexy, exciting, dramatic or risque in any respect. There’s a decent amount of tears, but not as much as you might think.
This of course assumes that movies and TV even pay attention to the mental health field. I’m not sure I even agree with that premise. There’s a fair amount of clap-trap that focuses on the mentally ill (e.g., Silver Linings Playbook), but I’m hard pressed to recall any media at all that really nails it. If someone has suggestions I’d love to know about them in the comments section below. There’s like two or three scenes in Good Will Hunting that aren’t half bad I guess. I’m afraid if I were to criticize a show, I’d have to find one in the first place. 18 different dramas about lawyers and “reality” shows about terrible house wives and it strikes me that the media does a pretty good job of ignoring mental health by pretending it doesn’t even exist. As it happens, this is not unlike how Congress regards my field.
I work in a field that is so fundamentally unappreciated by the state, local and federal government that my own agency does not have enough funds to provide us with a water cooler, to say nothing of continuing education, or reimbursement for the various licenses and memberships we need to keep, nor assistance with student loans. Or, you know, a salary commensurate with the level of skill and expertise we must have to do our jobs correctly. As it stands right now, I make what a first year elementary school teacher makes in Charlotte, North Carolina. Keep in mind, this is a state that saw a 17% reduction in salaries for teachers in 2014. We have no funds, the media ignores us, and Congress is made up of terrible people. And people wonder why we have mass shootings, over 41,000 suicides in just in the last 12 months, and why we make up 5% of the population but account for 85% of the world’s opiate supply.
In answer to your question, this field is absolutely in no way accurately depicted anywhere, small screen or big. I love my job, but I don’t even have a 401K, which means that I am basically screwing my older self so that I can help people in dire need today. So yeah, when I say that real counseling is not like it is in the movies, those are just some of the reasons why. I’m not even going to get into client concerns, because that is a whole different kind of conversation.
Come to think of it, I don’t even have a sofa. I know, you’d think we all do, judging from the few movies that admit we exist. Sadly, Randy does not have a comfy sofa. I have one of those flimsy business chairs that are just one step above those collapsible things people take to sporting events. It’s possible I’ve digressed, but this is my blog, so I get to do that! Feel free to voice your own input in the comments section below. No doubt there will be some who disagree with my worldview. So be it.
Thank you for your question, and for visiting my website.