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
Live Action TV
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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