A new study from Iowa State University has revealed that TV portrayal of sessions with the shrink may affect a person's willingness to seek psychological help.
The researchers conducted their study over 369 Iowa State students and investigated how television shows may contribute to negative perceptions about psychological services making people less likely to seek it.
"Generally, it seems like therapists are portrayed unethically -- like sleeping with the client, or implanting false memories, or talking about their clients outside the session," said David Vogel psychology professor of ISU
"These are things that almost never happen with real therapists, but on a show -- because they're probably more exciting -- they happen more frequently," he added.
"Therapists also often are portrayed as buffoons. That's either by being the jokester, like Frasier (NBC sitcom), or by being the butt of jokes. In either case, these are not positive portrayals," said Douglas Gentile, also a psychology professor of ISU
"They do not show the skill, expertise and ethics of professional therapists," he added.
Researchers believe that it's not just the portrayal of the therapists, but also the portrayal of people seek counselling influences lowers the intention of people to seek the therapy.
"If you examine the portrayal of the clients, its probably as bad or worse," So why would you seek therapy if you believe you're going to be perceived negatively and you're going to see someone who's incompetent and not able to help you?" said Vogel.
The researchers asked the participants to assess their perceptions of the stigma associated with seeking professional help along with their attitudes toward therapy, intentions to seek therapy for psychological and interpersonal concerns, and their feelings of depression.
The findings showed positive correlation between viewers' exposure to comedy and drama shows and their perceptions of stigma associated with seeking professional help that was related to lower willingness to seek mental health services.
"One of the things that's important to note about this particular study is that we showed that TV exposure was related to your perceptions of the stigma associated with seeking help, which has been found to be one of the main factors found from inhibiting people from seeking that help," Vogel said.
The paper titled "The Influence of Television on Willingness to Seek Therapy," which was published in the March issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology, a professional journal.