Created By: StarValkyrie on August 30, 2012 Last Edited By: StarValkyrie on September 4, 2012
Nuked

Therapy Soliloquy

When a character goes to therapy so they can talk through an important plot point or character arc.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Sometimes, a writer sends a character to therapy so they can talk the audience through an important plot point or character arc under the guise of explaining it to a therapist.

This is more likely to happen in work without a narrator and usually also lacking an Audience Surrogate like The Watson or a Meta Guy.

Compare with As You Know and Framing Device.


Examples:

Film
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith: The eponymous characters are shown throughout the movie in couples' counseling which is used to provide background on their thoughts on one another, their misconceptions, and it makes their marital problems easier to understand.

Live Action TV
  • In Awake, Detective Britten attends mandated therapy before and following his return to work in both realities because of his car crash and the deaths in his family and each session with his therapists serves to re-examine the central questions of the show: which experience is real?
  • Sam Tyler is sent for mandated therapy in Life on Mars for being shot in the line of duty. He is even able to talk through some of his problems with waking up 35 years in the past with some creative editing.
  • M*A*S*H characters are afforded a different standard of 'sane' by virtue of the setting and the genre, but when one really goes off the deep end, psychiatrist Sidney Freeman shows up and they talk, resulting in character development and/or a bit more hammering on the message War Is Hell.
  • Marge sees a therapist on The Simpsons for her fear of flying. This exposes Homer's insecurity that she will blame him for Marge's neuroses.
  • There's a recurring psychiatrist character on The West Wing who is useful in a number of different plotlines. He gives Josh an excuse to talk about his PTSD after getting shot and gives Bartlet a chance to talk about his insomnia and how he experiences stress in his extremely unusual career. Asron Sorkin's later program The Newsroom used the device as well, reusing some specifics from the West Wing episodes, including the revelation of the character's abusive childhood.
  • In Common Law Wes and Travis are two homicide detectives who are ordered by their bosses to attend couple's therapy so they can deal with the problems they have working as partners. While they initially consider it a waste of time, over time the group therapy helps them address their individual problems until finally they are willing to deal with the issue that caused the initial rift between them and caused Wes to point his gun at Travis.
  • The Sopranos: This was the primary device for narrating the story in every episode of the first few seasons.
  • How I Met Your Mother: One season 7 episode was structured like this, as a flash-forward to Robin's court-mandated therapy. This allowed her to narrate much of the episode, rather than the series's usual narrator Ted. Later, the psychiatrist became a recurring character and a love interest.
  • Commonly seen on Monk. Adrian frequently discusses the current case with Dr. Kroger, especially when he is frustrated.

Literature
  • The Regeneration Trilogy is set at Craiglockhart, a World War I military mental hospital, where Dr Rivers treats Shell-Shocked Veteran|s. The bulk of the story develops through the therapy process, the relationships between patients and staff, and the issues they are all dealing with.

Video Games
  • In Mass Effect 3, when you visit the hospital, you can listen in on an Asari commando telling her therapist all about the last mission she was on, which ends with her killing an innocent girl so they wouldn't be discovered by the Reapers, and repeatedly asking for a gun.


TRS thread here (for There Are No Therapists).
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • August 30, 2012
    Folamh3
    • Billy Costigan in The Departed is required as part of his "parole" (he is in fact an undercover cop) to attend sessions with a counsellor attached to the Boston police.
  • August 30, 2012
    Bisected8
    Since this is what happens in real life, isn't this just People Sit On Chairs? Unless it's specifically for cases where seeing a therapist shows that someone's traumatised or something?
  • August 30, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^^ Please briefly describe the issues he needs therapy for, not just the fact that he was sent for it. - also, can you suggest how to improve the definition so that it is clear the examples should include both the issues and the mandated therapy?

    ^ No - for three reasons. 1)because even though in the ideal real world this would happen all the time, it doesn't. 2)because the default state for fiction is not Real Life - see There Are No Therapists 3)this is being proposed as part of the TRS cleanup for There Are No Therapists in order to clean out aversions that probably shouldn't be just deleted because they have rarity value (see point 2).
  • August 30, 2012
    Bisected8
    Oh, sorry. YKTTW entries based on TRS threads usually mention and link to them in the OP... ^^;
  • August 30, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^ Ah, good to know. I added the link.
  • August 31, 2012
    nielas
    In The Departed example Billy is there primarily for anger management. His cover story is that he was a police academy cadet who assaulted someone so badly that he not only got kicked out of the academy but also got send to prison for a few months. However, Billy really does have anger issues which makes him such a good fit for infiltrating the Irish Mob.
  • August 31, 2012
    nielas
    If I understand, this trope applies when:
  • August 31, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^ Ideally yes, but... there's a few problems with that. 1) most genres seem to run on There Are No Therapists so that distinction doesn't actually narrow the field much. 2) Yes, this is supposed to be a contrast trope for There Are No Therapists (because apparently good depictions of psych care have rarity value). The problem is finding the right trope to be that contrast but without being a People Sit On Chairs like There Are Therapists. So yes, all the examples would be aversions of There Are No Therapists. This is the only attempt suggested thusfar at pinpointing what those aversions have in common that could make them tropeworthy (because I don't think being unrealistic by itself works due to Reality Is Unrealistic and Hollywood Psych coming into play).

    Maybe what I'm trying to get at for what makes them merit inclusion here is they're not just a nod to the protocol (the captain mentions mandatory therapy and then it never comes up again) and the character isn't just going through the motions of "yes I shot Bad Guy X in the line of duty, no I'm not having nightmares, sign my form so I can go" but actually gets to work through issues they've been going through as part of the character development story. Which is why I called it writer-mandated - because the writer is using therapy that is mandatory in-verse to allow the character to work through the character development arc. Does that make any sense?
  • August 31, 2012
    nielas
    So this would more like There Is Actual Therapy? ie in a genre that usually has There Are No Therapis a main character is sent to therapy and the therapy is not actually just a throwaway gimmick but actually helps the character deal with the issues in a real way

    • In Common Law Wes and Travis are two homicide detectives who are ordered by their bosses to attend couple's therapy so they can deal with the problems they have working as partners. While they initially consider it a waste of time, over time the group therapy helps them address their individual problems until finally they are willing to deal with the issue that caused the initial rift between them and caused Wes to point his gun at Travis.
  • August 31, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • Bones: Booth has to go to therapy because he shot a clown head on top of an ice cream truck. Later he, Brennan, and everybody else are required to attend regular sessions with Sweets.
    • In the 2012 series Go On Ryan is required by the radio station he works at to go to group therapy to deal with the death of his wife. They won't let him back on the air until he completes it. (As of the pilot episode, the only one aired at this date.)
  • August 31, 2012
    reub2000
    1. Careful what you do in Real Life. Debriefing too soon after trauma could possibly be harmful. 2. Real Life has little bearing on whether something is a trope or not. In fiction, there are a few situations where we expect the character to automatically refereed over to a psychiatrist.

  • September 1, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    I think the problem is that this trope is basically, a writer trying to invoke reality. There is a situation and/or environment where it would make sense in real life for people to have therapists, so the writers have therapists, deliberately averting There Are No Therapists. As such, there's not going to necessarily be any commonality in the reasons themselves, or how it affects the plot, so long as therapists would somehow be required, and people getting therapy would have an effect on the story.
  • September 1, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^ I know, which is why I don't expect to catch all aversions of There Are No Therapists (admittedly, some of the examples above may not make the cut), but some of them do use therapy as kind of a plot point - I can't think of the word I'm looking for here, but basically the therapy is an opportunity for talking out a plot or character arc point... almost like how plays used to have asides and address the audience directly... like the Awake example where without the therapy, the audience would be pretty lost or the Life On Mars example where the character addresses one of the main issues of the show as part of the therapy. That may also cover The Regeneration Trilogy, which (I haven't read but) it sounds like its is a character-driven series about a therapist at a mental hospital.
  • September 1, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    I don't think this is People Sit On Chairs, it's not just about averting There Are No Therapists, a lot of the time the therapy sessions are a really useful device for the character to tell us all kinds of things. A character will admit things to a therapist that they won't admit to anyone else. I haven't seen The Sopranos but isn't that the basic idea behind that show?

    • Marge sees a therapist on The Simpsons for her fear of flying. This exposes Homer's insecurity that she will blame him for Marge's neuroses.
    • There's a recurring psychiatrist character on The West Wing who is useful in a number of different plotlines. He gives Josh an excuse to talk about his PTSD after getting shot and gives Bartlet a chance to talk about his insomnia and how he experiences stress in his extremely unusual career.

  • September 2, 2012
    sigh824
    Does Mr And Mrs Smith count?
  • September 2, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^ I haven't the faintest idea since I've never seen the movie. Can you explain how you think it might fit this please?
  • September 2, 2012
    Freud
    It completely fits. The story is interspersed with pieces in which the eponymous characters are in couples' counseling. It's used to provide background on their thoughts on one another, their misconceptions, and it makes their marital problems easier to understand. By all means, add it.
  • September 2, 2012
    Freud
    I'd like to add [[Series/Frasier]] as a series that often uses it, especially in the episode "Shrink Wrap" and possibly in "Coots and Ladders." Of course, since the main characters are psychiatrists and thus intersperse much of their dialogue with expositional fragments about their feelings, it could be argued that this is a staple of the series.
  • September 2, 2012
    captainpat
    Does There Are No Therapists really matter? Isn't this just a Sub Trope of Framing Device where the therapy session is the story?
  • September 2, 2012
    Avuai
    His occurs in later seasons of House.
  • September 2, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^^^ I haven't seen Fraiser and examples can't be "possibly" or "it could be argued" so I'm not sure. Do you think it fits?

    ^^ If the whole story starts off with Alice sitting at the therapists office and narrating the inner story to the therapist, then it would be a Framing Device - its sounds like maybe Mr And Mrs Smith might be like that?, but most of the examples I'm familiar with don't set it up that way and the therapy is just something that happens during the course of the story.

    ^ Not a House fan myself so if you want it added, you'll have to write the example yourself.
  • September 2, 2012
    abk0100
    Need a quote?

    "I remember one time, he was obsessed with miniaturization. He made this laser that accidentally shrunk me and my sister. We were lost in the backyard for days."
    "That must have been a very confusing time for you."
    "It was! We were almost eaten by a scorpion 30 times bigger than us."

    from this
  • September 2, 2012
    norsicnumber2nd
    How about, for a title, "So, Doc, this is what happened..."
  • September 2, 2012
    HonestGent
    Would I be correct in saying this is a particularly clever and subtle way of pulling As You Know? As in, a character can recap events the audience haven't seen to bring them up to date without sounding awkward or jarring?
  • September 2, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^^ I think that wouldn't make for very useful Wiki Words.

    ^ Maybe. I hadn't seen that one before. Except I think putting these examples on that page would be misuse because As You Know seems to be about when two characters are talking about something they both already know for the audience's benefit and the fact that they both know already makes the situation absurd. I think it's more a "Compare with As You Know" situation.
  • September 2, 2012
    HonestGent
    ^That's what I was driving at. I just thought it wouldn't be out of place to have a therapist and patient to dicuss what they both already know. An episode of Sherlock opened with Watson seeing a therapist, who insists he say out loud what's upset him, despite knowing already.
  • September 2, 2012
    Acebrock
    • In Mass Effect 3, when you visit the hospital, you can listen in on an asari commando telling her therapist all about the last mission she was on, which ends with her killing an innocent girl so they wouldn't be discovered by the reapers, and repeatedly asking for a gun.
  • September 2, 2012
    reub2000
    • Commonly seen on Monk. Adrian frequently discusses the current case with Dr. Kroger, especially when he is frustrated.
  • September 3, 2012
    Xtifr
    • In Gateway, the first novel of the Heechee Saga, this is used as a framing device for the whole story. Rich, successful, but deeply unhappy Robinette Broadhead is explaining his troubled past to his mechanical shrink.
  • September 3, 2012
    Rognik
    @Honest Gent: I think it's more similar to Naive Newcomer, since the therapist doesn't know what Alice's problems are, and need them explained. Then again, the Naive Newcomer is usually a victim of As You Know, so... hmm.

    @norsicnumber2nd: That wouldn't work as any trope name that is seen as lines of dialog are rejected, except for special circumstances. Plus it is very wordy. An appropriate name has to be Clear Concise Witty as much as possible. For instance, if this trope were about two people getting emotions off their chest while fishing, it could be called Dock Therapy. (To my knowledge, this is not a trope.) As for this trope... Review Therapy? Therapy Soliloquy?
  • September 3, 2012
    Routerie
    • The Sopranos: This was the primary device for narrating the story in every episode of the first few seasons.
    • How I Met Your Mother: One season 7 episode was structured like this, as a flash-forward to Robin's court-mandated therapy. This allowed her to narrate much of the episode, rather than the series's usual narrator Ted. Later, the psychiatrist became a recurring character and a love interest.
    • The West Wing used this device in two episodes - one in which President Bartlett underwent therapy and one where Josh did. Asron Sorkin's later program The Newsroom used the device as well, reusing some specifics from the West Wing episodes, including the revelation of the character's abusive childhood.
    • The pilot of No Ordinary Family first appeared to take the mockumentary format favored by such shows as Modern Family and The Office, but it turned out that the characters were speaking to a therapist. Later episodes dropped the format.
  • September 3, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^^ Soliloquy - that's the word I was looking for! Gosh, that was annoying me. Thank you.
  • September 3, 2012
    Routerie
    I prefer the last name - Therapy As Narration or something similar. Therapy often contains dialog rather than just soliloquies.
  • September 3, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^ But that name makes it less clear that this is a different trope from a therapy-based Framing Device.
  • September 3, 2012
    Routerie
    Oh. I thought this was going to be a therapy-based Framing Device. That sounds like a good trope.
  • September 3, 2012
    StarValkyrie
    ^ I think it would just go as an example on the Framing Device page. I don't think it particularly needs its own trope. Actually, I'm not entirely convinced myself that we need this trope but the There Are No Therapists TRS thread is kinda short on suggestions.
  • September 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a Very Special Episode of Family Ties the entire episode is basically Alex in a Black Void Room talking to an unseen therapist about the recent death of his (heretofore unseen) best friend.
  • September 4, 2012
    polarbear2217
    The Twilight Zone episode "Perchance To Dream" takes place entirely in a therapists office with Edward Hall explaining a series of dreams he had in which a stripper at a carnival has been trying to kill him. At end of the episode, we learn that it was all Just A Dream from the moment he laid down on the couch to a a few minutes before the end of the episode when he dies..
  • September 4, 2012
    Rognik
    I think the word "series" is innately plural, and such has the possessive form of "series'", with no S on the end. "series's" looks wrong to me.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=g0ucz4f1a95ea45wxqtuwjsy