ACA Blog

Nov 22, 2013

Hollywood and the Negative Image of Counselors

Can you think of a movie that represents counselors as competent and respectable professionals?

You may have to think hard.  

The only one that came to my mind was Good Will Hunting (1997).  And even there Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) engaged in significant self-disclosure.  Although it was beneficial to the client (Matt Damon as Will Hunting), it is not something most counselors do.  

In general, the movies I have seen do not depict us favorably. 

NOTE:  In this post I refer to films about mental health professionals, (including psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers) because they all impact the public image of counselors.

Without attempting to conduct a comprehensive media review, I can easily list several films misrepresenting mental health professionals:

  • Spellbound (1945)
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Prozac Nation (2001)
  • Gothika (2003)
  •  A Dangerous Method (2011)

(plus numerous comedies and TV shows)

If we experiment and compile all these movie characters into a blended image of the therapist in the media, we will end up with a quirky, irresponsible, and inadequate therapist who:

  • meets with clients at home;
  • engages in sexual relationships with patients and their relatives;
  • is a murderer;
  • is also an occasional criminal investigator;
  • and delivers complex, yet useless interpretations, rich in clichés.  

I am not saying we should take ourselves too seriously.  We need our sense of humor.

But could we advocate for a better image of counselors in the media?  A negative public image does not help our efforts to establish a strong professional identity.

We need films showcasing the courage and resilience of counselors; the faith in human kindness; the empathy and humility; and the intricate skills to connect with diversity.

Doctors have their Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998), ER (1994-2009), and House (2004-2012)…

Criminal investigators – their Law and Order (1999-), NCIS (2003-), The Mentalist (2008-),, and many others. 

I can go on and on...

Can we have at least one movie/TV show to glamorize counselors?!

If you do come across any good movies where the counselor is demonstrating best practices, please share.
Maya Georgieva is a counselor with a keen interest in child maltreatment prevention. She is a doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision at Marymount University and a volunteer crisis worker.

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1 Comment

  1. 1 WColbert 01 Dec
    Maya, I loved your blog!  I will let you know if I come across any movies that depict counselors in a good light!


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