May is Mental Health Awareness Month and therapists have become part of the mainstream media thanks to some stellar performances on popular television shows.
Through these characters, viewers saw a direct reference to their struggles in real life.
Here’s our ranking of the best fictional TV therapists who had the conversations about mental health.
10. Dr. Frasier Crane from ‘Frasier’
During its 11-year run, Frasier focused primarily on the eccentric personal life of Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer). However, the psychotherapist used many of his abilities on his brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), and his father, Martin (John Mahoney). Additionally, Frasier doled out advice to many callers on the fictional radio station, Seattle’s KACL, making him the famous OG therapist (take that, Dr. Phil).
9. Dr. Rhonda from ‘Insecure’
I really REALLY wish therapy was cheaper because baby… I’ll be the Molly to your Dr. Rhonda Pine pic.twitter.com/DM4TN5LVYy
— 777 (@peachypussqueen) July 6, 2020
In Season 2 of Insecure, Molly (Yvonne Orji) decides to make her first therapy appointment with Dr. Rhonda Pine (Denise Dowse) after a bad breakup. Although her sessions were brief, Dr. Rhonda often provided Molly with multiple gems about her love life and her relationship with her best friend, Issa Dee (Issa Rae). However, fans of Insecure saw the attorney choose not to take her therapist’s advice, and by Season 4, some viewers jokingly begged her to get back together with Dr. Rhonda.
8. Dr. Justina Jordan from ‘You’re the worst’
Season 2 of You’re the Worst showed Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash) attending therapy for her clinical depression with therapist Dr. Justina Jordan (Samira Wyley). Several psychology outlets praised the actresses for their genuine portrayal of treating clinical depression in therapy during the show’s run.
“Unlike how comedies often handle therapy, here the therapist has limits, genuinely helps and still shows that she is a human being,” Psychotherapy Notes wrote about the show in 2017, rather than the therapy itself.
7. Dr Bales from ‘Girlfriends’
Fred Willard as Joan’s therapist, Dr. Bales in ‘Girlfriends’ (2001) pic.twitter.com/BmBEIzoMA2
— post-hipster runoff altbaguette //// (@rinnyriot) May 16, 2020
Girlfriends tackled multiple topics about black women and their relationships. In Season 5, the UPN/CW series discussed mental health through its main character, Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross). After falling out with her best friend, Toni (Jill Marie Jones), Joan decided to see a therapist when her hair started falling out.
During her sessions with Dr. Bales (Fred Willard), Joan found that she couldn’t stand up to Toni and her other friends and had difficulty setting boundaries with them. Although Dr. Bales convinced Joan to say “no” to her friends eventually, she stopped seeing him in season 3. However, creator Mara Brock Akil told The Breakfast Club in 2020 that the story was essential for the black women saw it.
“The therapy was [a] conversation around, ‘We need other alternatives,’” Mara said of the discussion of therapy in the black community. “And I wanted to post it so we can think about it and consider it. And obviously it’s great for storytelling, but it was really another gift to the culture.”
6. Dr. Akopian from ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’
In the CW’s short-lived dramatic musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) realizes her life has spiraled out of control. After deciding to move across the country to reunite with her ex, she walks into the office of Dr. Noelle Akopian (Michael Hyatt) for what she believes is a quick refill on her psychoactive medication.
Soon, however, Dr. Akopian convinces Rebecca to open up and diagnoses her with borderline personality disorder, a mental health disorder that affects the way you see yourself and others. Although fans never saw her progress due to the show’s cancellation, Dr. Akopian helped Rebecca add a psychiatrist named Dr. Daniel Shin (Jay Hayden) to her mental health team.
5. Dr. Kroger from ‘Monk’
Adrian Monk’s (Tony Shalhoub) therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger (Stanley Kamel), helped him through grieving his wife, Trudy, and his obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). After having a mental breakdown in season one over Trudy’s murder, Monk confides in his therapist that he will try to work through the heartbreak. While Monk has received criticism over the years for his portrayal of his OCD, the protagonist’s sessions with Dr. Kroger remain some of the show’s most memorable moments.
4. Dr. Maggie Bloom from ‘A Million Little Things’
Dr. Maggie Bloom (Allison Miller) frequently offers free therapy to her inner circle in A Million Little Things. Throughout the run of the ABC hit, Maggie offers her friends encouraging advice as she navigates her personal life. Shortly after the drama premiered, Allison shared how she hoped the show would inspire viewers to seek treatment for their real-life mental health issues.
“These are topics that are really relevant right now and need to be talked about more,” she said in an interview with Glamour. “Depression affects people differently, and dealing with loss and grief is something we don’t address enough. «
3. Dr. Violet Turner from ‘Private Practice’
Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman) in Private Practice stood out from the other Oceanside Wellness Group doctors for her loyalty to her patients. Violet frequently crossed the boundaries of a psychiatrist-patient relationship to help them. In season 3 of the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off, she proved her loyalty to her patients by helping her former patient, Katie (Amanda Foreman), break out of prison. For context, Katie removed Violet’s baby from her body in Season 2 before escaping with the child.
2. Dr. Wyatt from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
In season 4 of Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Meredith Gray (Ellen Pompeo) decides to attend therapy after breaking up with the love of her life, Dr. Derek Shepherd. When she met Dr. Katherine Wyatt (Amy Madigan), she Meredith didn’t open up to the doctor during her initial sessions. Eventually, however, Dr. Wyatt showed Meredith how her behavior alienated Derek and made her talk about her mother Ellis Gray’s (Kate Burton) attempted suicide. In her final session, the Surgeon General finds the courage to profess her love for Derek in the iconic candlelight scene.
1. Dr. Jennifer Melfi from ‘The Sopranos’
HBO’s The Sopranos was certainly ahead of its time when it came to talking about therapy. In the first episode, fans met Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) therapist after the mobster had a panic attack. After his initial session, Dr. Melfi kept Tony as a client for years and analyzed him without judgment or confrontation.
Although The Sopranos continues to receive praise for its portrayal of mental health, Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr. Melfi, was not happy with her and Tony’s last moments together. In the penultimate episode, the therapist dumped him as a client because she was worried that he was a sociopath. Lorraine said the last episode of hers felt “rushed” and she didn’t properly wrap up her six-year journey.
“I wish it had been more meaningful,” Lorraine said on a November 2021 episode of the Talking Sopranos podcast.
The actress then added, “I mean, I think she cared for Tony. Even though he was screwed up, and maybe he was never going to really straighten out… I think she really cared about him.”