ACA Blog

DeeAnna Merz Nagel
Jul 01, 2009

Are You Watching United States of Tara? How About In Treatment?

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the surge in television shows that focus on mental health, treatment, therapy….? The other day I received a solicitous email about a new reality TV show that will feature two counselors who are related.  Yes I did.  The show is looking for counselors who are married or have some other relationship to be cast in the show.  The solicitation asked for a headshot, resume and bio.  Wow.  I could hardly finish reading the email before my head was just spinning with all of the ethical implications of THAT.

But still, it does seem like there are many shows airing on TV that focus on mental health (or the lack of).  Now there is even a show on the Web featuring Lisa Kudrow of Friends fame. Web Therapy is a comedy offering a 3 minute version of therapy via webcam. The show has recently been made available on YouTube.

United States of Tara: One Woman Multiple Personalities airs on Showtime…typical (?) housewife who is your “average mother, teenager and biker dude.”

In Treatment airs on HBO… “An emotional and provocative series, 'In Treatment' brings dynamic focus to a staple of modern society — the psychotherapy session.”

Intervention airs on A&E… “Watch people confront their addictions with treatment and the help of their friends and families through drug and alcohol intervention.” In fact, if you google the word intervention, the show’s website takes the number one spot…not say, an actual treatment facility…

Mental airs on Fox… “A a medical mystery drama featuring Dr. Jack Gallagher, a radically unorthodox psychiatrist…”

Do shows like these and others like them promote our field or cause viewers to think even less about the idea of seeking help from a professional when faced with mental health issues and life stressors? I find myself falling into TV Rage (this is similar to Road Rage, and like Road Rage, not yet in the DSM) when I watch these shows. I shout at the TV when something about mental illness or the way we do our work is portrayed in a way that I find unsatisfactory. Even when I am amused or find an episode particularly gripping, I can’t seem to completely embrace the experience. And sometimes I feel like I am back at work!

So, it’s your turn. What do you think?

DeeAnna Merz Nagel is a clinical counselor, teacher, workshop presenter, sat on the ACA Cyber Technology Taskforce, and is co-founder of the Online Therapy Institute.

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