All Therapists Are Muggles
Why don't you tell me how you're feeling? Sam:
I'm fine. I mean, okay, a little depressed, I guess. Dr. Fuller:
All right—any idea why? Sam: Probably because I started the Apocalypse
. [Doctor smiles weakly, then picks up his phone]
Sometimes, characters need therapy to cope with what's happened to them, but the events they would need to talk about are part of some Big Secret
that would sound delusional to outsiders. Unfortunately, there are no therapists that aren't
To make matters worse, the character can't or won't creatively edit his story. Maybe to add insult to injury, the author finishes an adventure by winding back time so only this character remembers what happened, or has him followed by a shadowy government agency charged with enforcing The Masquerade
Not a single therapist in the world is "in the know".
try to get the help you need anyway, but your Muggle
therapist will probably get quite the wrong idea. Cue men in white coats wrestling you into a straitjacket
You might even end up turning your therapist mad by revealing the secret
or by covering it up again
when you're done.
Options remaining: Go Ax-Crazy
, join The Dark Side
, die at your own hand
, take the blue pill
, or be Killed to Uphold the Masquerade
Sister trope of There Are No Therapists
. Compare with Cassandra Truth
and You Have to Believe Me
. May be caused by The Masquerade
, The World Is Not Ready
, or the Weirdness Censor
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In Black★Rock Shooter, one of the major catalysts for the problems is the fact that the therapist is not a muggle.
- Magic Knight Rayearth's second half opens with the girls' families being deeply concerned over the sudden depression each has developed ever since an ordinary field trip to Tokyo Tower. There's no way Hikaru, Umi, or Fuu can actually say that they were taken to another world and killed two people.
- Lampshaded regularly in the Harry Potter fandom to explain why the many characters with serious issues and traumatic backgrounds can’t get therapy.
- Oh God Not Again mentions that Cho Chang only got better after years of therapy, and she needed to edit her story, because all therapists are Muggles.
- Discussed in the Harry Potter fanfic "Reparations". Draco Malfoy is a therapist in the drug rehab wing of St Mungo's and argues that wizards have to have their own rehab because if wizards only had muggle therapists and groups, they would have to edit magic out of their accounts and that would sabotage the process and doom the patient to failure.
- Lampshaded in the author's notes of "Windows of the Soul", a Mai-HiME fanfic that deals with Shizuru's lingering guilt over her actions late in the series and the implications they have for her relationship with Natsuki.
"Sometimes I wonder whether it would be easier if I just had Shizuru see a psychologist. The problem being, how does she say "I have a huge guilt complex over killing scores of people with my summoned demon named after the legendary Kiyohime" without being put in an asylum? Perhaps the First District has specialised psychologists. Oh, wait. She blew them up. That's what she's guilty about."
- There is a crossover of Supernatural and Bones called "The Dead Man in the Lab" by Sameuspegasus where the main characters of the latter are clued in to the workings of the former. Cas, being even more protective of Dean than usual, insists that Sweet 'fix' Dean. Mood Whiplash sets in as Cas goes from ineffectually saying "You will fix him now!" to stating "You will fix him NOW." All while Sweets and everybody else is desperately trying to acclimate themselves to the idea of angels and the apocalypse. Sweets keeps desperately hoping his phone will go off in the middle of his improvised "therapy" sessions and let him off the hook. The story hits the trope straight on, as well, with the line: "Sweets was going to need serious psychotherapy after this. Only there was no-one who could give it to him."
- Had to be taken into account when someone was attacked by a magical monster in "Roll the Bones" by Vathara: "'Set up appointment for Wolf with the department shrink,' he noted down. Thought a second. 'Check morgue audio-tape log. Make sure shrink knows he was not hallucinating.'"
- The reason R!Syaoran refuses therapy offered by the hospital for his PTSD caused by his torture in Shatterheart is that he doesn't want to be seen as crazy and have to explain dimension-travel.
- Averted by the excellent Harry Potter fanfic Questions and Answers, where Draco Malfoy does go to a therapist- who happens to be a wizard.
- Averted in Marvel Comics for gamma-irradiated psychologist Doc Samson, who apparently all the supers in the world consult with their problemsnote . Except not lately, because Doc Samson has been evil, dead or both. Another example is Dr. Kafka, psychiatrist at Ravencroft, the prison for insane super-villains in Spider-Man.
- Subverted in Zatanna when she attends a group therapy session for people who have experienced supernatural occurrences.
- The psychiatrist consulted in The Mask doesn't believe that the mask could have any supernatural properties.
- In the Film of the Book The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Peter and his siblings lived into adulthood in Narnia, a magical land inside a wardrobe, and now are stuck in a world that treats them as children so despite having problems like getting into fights and struggling to relate to other people, trying to explain those issues to a Muggle therapist would probably get them sectioned.
- Subverted in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by 'the Professor', who is quite willing to accept that something impossible happened to them. (The book version eventually explains why.)
Well, if she's not mad, and she's not lying, then... logically...
she must be telling the truth.
- Subverted in Blade: Trinity, where a famous psychologist goes on record on TV that Blade is crazy... but it's revealed that he's a Familiar to the ruling vampires (basically their stooge).
- A Nightmare on Elm Street:
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors:
- Subverted with Dr. Neil Gordon. He's one of the therapists trying to help the Freddy-plagued kids and while sceptical at first, he's actually willing to admit the possibility that they and Nancy are faced with a supernatural threat.
- Played straight with Dr. Elizabeth Simms. She, unfortunately, assumes they're delusional and has one of them sedated: the worst possible outcome of this trope, under the circumstances.
- Inverted in Freddy vs. Jason: The mental hospital staff in Springwood know damn well that Freddy is for real, and use Hypnocil and fraudulent institutionalization of witnesses to ensure that Freddy's potential victims remain Muggles. That way, the dream-stalking killer can't gain strength from their fear.
- Dr. Silberman, the police psychiatrist in Terminator and the hospital administrator in Terminator 2, isn't for one moment going to take stories of time-traveling killer androids seriously. But as he's continually exposed to the truth, by the third film, he's starting to crack - briefly trying to counsel one witness to the two robots' fight about how sometimes "we" think we see things that are impossible, but it's just stress altering the memory. He's visibly struggling with the situation and his own repression of what he saw in the first two movies when Arnold shows up again and he all but messes his pants in terror. Finally, by The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he is living off the grid, clearly believes in Terminators and seemingly goes crazy, eventually ends up locked in his own mental institution.
- In a deleted scene of The Incredible Hulk, Bruce tries to explain his condition to therapist Leonard Samson, but all he can safely say is that "there are aspects of my personality that I can't control." Samson mistakes it for just anger management problems, but does perceive that Bruce is holding part of the info back and is annoyed that he does so.
- Inverted in The Rage: Carrie 2. School psychologist Sue Snell, having survived the first film, is the first person to realize that Rachel has Psychic Powers, and makes a special effort to try and talk her through her issues. Everybody else only finds out about Rachel's powers much too late.
- When Phil Conners of Groundhog Day attempts to seek help, people think that his claims that he's trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop are just insanity and he winds up in the office of the town's only psychologist. The doctor, of course, is no help since Phil isn't delusional and really is trapped in a loop, and doesn't appreciate the suggestion he make an appointment for next week.
- A mundane variant occurs in the film Confessions of a Hitman: the title character attempts to confess his many crimes to a priest, but the priest, thinking he is delusional, refuses him absolution and recommends therapy instead.
- Played with in Donnie Darko. Dr. Thurman initially characterizes Donnie's visions as "daylight hallucinations" but eventually comes to believe that they're genuine.
- In Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold Cordelia literally couldn't tell the Escobaran or Betan therapists the truth about what happened to her while in Barrayaran captivity, since that could set off a civil war on Barrayar.
- They end up thinking she's been suborned, causing her to run away to escape the "therapy" they're offering, which only makes it look worse.
- In The Stepford Wives Joanna, at the request of her husband Walter, sees a therapist from out of town and shares with her about the suspicions she's having about the women of Stepford and how all her friends suddenly became domesticated fembots eerily similar to the ones at Disneyland and her fears about what would happen to her. The therapist merely thinks that Joanna is unconsciously unhappy in her role as a homemaker, the Holiday season is too stressful, she isn't used to suburban life as opposed to city life, and that Stepford just happens to attract that sort of person.
- In Twilight, when Bella's erratic behavior after Edward leaves her borders on clinical depression, Charlie tried to get Bella to see a therapist. She refused, claiming that she couldn't tell a therapist about how the Cullens were vampires and she’d decided that therapy wouldn't work if she wasn't 100% truthful.
- Animorphs: The need for secrecy prevents any of the characters in this from seeking help (as they can never be sure who is or isn't an enemy operative that is searching for them), but the psychological ramifications of being in the sort of fight they're in are explored. The Animorphs have very interesting nightmares, and will do so for the rest of their lives. Cassie tries to act as a sort-of therapeutic substitute, but her success is limited.
- In one book, Marco lampshades the impossibilities of telling a professional therapist about their problems: "Hello, Doctor Freud? My dad's thinking about remarrying. See, he thinks my mom is dead, but she's not. She's actually a slave to an alien race trying to take over the planet. And did I mention that I'm fighting this alien invasion myself? That I do it by turning into animals? Say what? What size straitjacket do I wear?"
- Subverted in Young Wizards. Nita assumes this about the school counseller, and it's true that he isn't a wizard, but he's in on the secret and even gets the main cast out of school during Wizards at War so that they're free to prevent the end of the universe.
- Subverted in the fantastic-realism novel Prince Ombra. Bentley's psychiatrist, Dr. Kreistein, happens to be extremely well-versed in mythology, and realizes that Bentley is the current reincarnation of several heroes of legend, including King Arthur and Susano. Dr. Kreistein becomes Bentley's lifelong friend and advisor, aiding him in his destiny to save the world from Prince Ombra, the very source of evil and insanity.
- Played with in the Monster Hunters universe. There are therapists who know about monsters. Two of them. But the people who follow up on monster attacks don't say, "These are the therapists to go to." They say, "Never tell anyone. They'll think you're crazy. And then we'll kill you, just to make sure." As many real-life psychologists have found, this makes the resulting PTSD much worse.
- Averted in Mercedes Lackey's Music To My Sorrow where we are told that Eric has found a therapist that knows that magic and elves are real.
- The protagonist's therapist in the Stephen King short story The Boogeyman is a horrific subversion; he's actually the titular boogeyman who killed the protagonist's children, and it's implied will now kill him as well.
- Averted in Jim C. Hines' Magic Ex Libris series: Nidhi Shah, while she's a Muggle in the sense that she doesn't have magic, is in on The Masquerade and is specifically employed as a psychiatrist to the Porters. There certainly isn't any shortage of work for her to do.
- In the strategy guide to X-Wing, it tells the story of the protagonist, Keyan Farlander, as a young pilot for the Rebel Alliance who is Force-Sensitive, but has no teacher, and is learning on instinct alone. He keeps having disturbing visions as the Dark Side is tempting him. He tries to go to the sickbay to ask for help and to figure out what is happening to him, but the medical droid tries to have him grounded on psychiatric grounds when he tries to explain what's happening to him. He has to use a Jedi Mind Trick on the Flight Surgeon to stay on flight status.
Live Action TV
- In Doctor Who, Amy is twice sent to therapy when others find out what she’s experienced and can’t believe it’s real: in “The Eleventh Hour” because of her tales of The Raggedy Doctor, and in “The Big Bang” where all the stars have gone out and young Amy is one of few people in the world who remember them.
- In Torchwood, Suzie exploits this trope as part of a plan for her own resurrection. Under cover of talking through her work-related issues, she attends a support group regularly armed with the drug Torchwood uses to maintain The Masquerade. To her colleagues, this initially appears to be a reasonable solution to the lack of therapists who know about Torchwood and aliens but they soon piece together that she was actually using the drug and the support group sessions to secretly turn her confidant into an Ax-Crazy serial killer and living backdoor to the Torchwood security system.
- In Being Human, Annie was abused by her fiance, forced to watch him be romantic with his new girlfriend (who was also Annie's old friend), and then found out that he murdered her. Unfortunately, Annie is dead and thus would have a bit of trouble making an appointment.
- Pretty much all the hunters in Supernatural have deep-seated psychological issues which go unaddressed apart from the occasional monster induced psychologically-convenient dreamscape. The reason they can't seek aid is nicely demonstrated by the episode "Sam, Interrupted" where they do go to a therapist and try to explain their problems. Shortly after they start into why they have these issues they get committed. (Fortunately, it was all part of the plan.)
- Subverted on an episode of Out of This World. Evie goes to therapy and brings her mom and dad, or at least, the glowing crystal through which her alien dad communicates. The therapist is very much a muggle but believes them and they appeal to doctor/patient confidentiality to keep their secret safe.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer Buffy sees a counselor in the episode "Beauty and the Beasts" who has no idea about vampires and the like, though he turns out to be a pretty good counselor anyway, and figures out what her problem essentially is minus the supernatural elements. Then he gets killed by a Hulk expy.
- Inverted a bit, however, in season 7, where Buffy herself becomes a counselor at the rebuilt Sunnydale High School. Buffy will sometimes tell when students are having supernatural problems even when the students are muggles.
- Also, played with in the episode "Conversations With Dead People," when a newly arisen vampire turns out to have a psychology degree, and he and Buffy have a very long chat. Although, aside from knowing that vampires exist (and only because he is one), he gives no indication of knowing anything else supernatural exists.
- In Sliders, all the sliders need therapy, given that they (usually permanently) leave one universe for another every couple of days and the experience isn't always pleasant. Hell, the original sliders' home Earth is now in the hands of a bloodthirsty humanoid race with a taste for human eyeballs. Only one episode involves a visit to a shrink, and that one involves Rembrandt needing to vent his doubts about whether Professor Arturo is "their" Arturo. The shrink thinks that Rembrandt is completely nuts and calls a mental hospital to commit him. After witnessing a slide, he himself suffers a breakdown and is taken away.
- In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Connor and Cameron both see a therapist as part of a plot to kidnap a terminator's daughter. The psychiatrist quickly diagnoses the teenaged John with something like shell shock because he checks the exits like a combat veteran and he wonders if Cameron is autistic. John has real problems but he can't be honest with the therapist about them. Naturally, the therapist correctly identifies him as a liar.
- Subverted in Teen Wolf: when Stiles sees the school counselor, he glosses over the werewolf part of his problems - completely unaware that she knows exactly what's going on.
- Actually nicely subverted in Chuck; when Chuck is sent to a therapist by the CIA, he spends quite a bit of time trying to talk about his problems without mentioning classified information until the therapist mentions that yes, he was fully briefed because he was a CIA therapist whose entire job is treating people whose problems are highly classified.
- In Garo, Kaoru regularly sees a therapist, though she glosses over the whole "being hunted by demons" aspect of her life and focuses on her job-related troubles. Subverted, when we find out that her therapist is actually the Big Bad, and that he has been using his position in order to monitor her so that he may eventually use her as a host-body for the queen of the Horrors.
- Played with in Awake: while neither therapist actually believes Britten is traveling to another world in his dreams, Lee thinks that indulging in his "dreams" are bad for his mental health, while Evans thinks they may be useful as a coping and problem-solving tool.
- Played with in Once Upon a Time. The town's only therapist, Dr. Hopper, isn't a muggle. He's Jiminy Cricket. However, like everyone else in Storybrooke he has amnesia and doesn't know this, so he tries to help Henry but doesn't believe what he says about the curse. At least, not at first.
- After the curse is broken, he continues to act as a therapist, most notably to Regina. It doesn't work very well, but not because he's ignorant about the nature of the universe.
- Ned of Pushing Daisies could probably use some professional help, what with his abandonment issues, anxiety problems, and fears of both physical contact and emotional intimacy... but since all of these difficulties are tied up closely with his ability to bring things back from the dead, a secret he is too terrified to ever voluntarily reveal, he doesn't get it. Of course, since one of the major arcs of the show is him gradually loosening up and making human connections, he's better off than he could be.
- Subverted in Stargate Atlantis. The expedition has a staff psychologist. Generally, she deals with fairly normal issues that don't differ too much because of their science fiction cause, but then there was the time that Dr. McKay had another persons mind trapped in his head, and they shared control of the body. She acknowledged that this wasn't exactly something she was trained in, but that it was clear that both of them would need some psychiatric attention, so they did the best they could.
- Subverted in Haven, where Dr. Claire Callahan reveals she specializes in treating Troubled people.
- This trope is actually the reason why Constantine starts with John Constantine as a self-admitted patient in a mental hospital. He knew that the doctors there wouldn't believe in demons and black magic, and after years of shouldering the guilt of watching a little girl get dragged down to Hell by a demon he himself summoned, he hoped that they could make him believe it was all a delusion, too.
- In Roswell, Max is sent to a therapist by the beginning of season 2. Since he had just endured torture a couple of months ago due to his alien status, it's quite likely his behavior had been erratic enough during summer time for his parents to notice something was wrong. Needless to say, he can't tell the doctor anything beyond, "it's just teenage stuff".
- Both Old World of Darkness and New World of Darkness use this a lot:
- Vampires in either setting can't see a shrink without breaking The Masquerade unless they are extraordinarily careful, nor can they take antidepressants because drugs don't affect the undead, so insane vampires (and eventually, they're all at least slightly insane) are screwed.
- In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, psychological trauma and Garou-specific depression (Harano) are natural result of fighting the Wyrm. Because of the Veil, however, seeing a therapist would be out of the question unless s/he was Garou or kinfolk. That said, the setting does have a number of counselors amongst the tribes dedicated to helping people break through Harano, and even has Garou-oriented psychiatric facilities like the Valkenburg Foundation (dedicated to treating Lunatics, Garou who experienced a psychic break during the First Change and have little control over their transformations).
- In Mage: The Ascension Tradition mages could work out psychological issues through their Avatar, usually during a Seeking. The science-oriented Technocracy greatly values therapy, psychology and psychiatry, but it's also exploited by the New World Order faction to indoctrinate the other factions to keep them in line. Part of the reason the Void Engineers have such autonomy compared to other Conventions is their own psychiatric branch, ostensibly specialized in dealing with the abomination of outer space, that also removes NWO programming from its own agents.
- One of the parts of the tightrope act of Changeling The Dreaming is that the Kithain often undergo Chrysalis at a young age, split their time between their mortals lives and changeling lives, and spend a lot of their time interacting with chimerical creatures that no one else can see - which often leaves parents suspicious and psychiatrists suspecting delusion. More than one changeling has been "treated" back into dormancy. On the other hand, outright embracing your fae nature and leaving all of mortal life behind means you're going to go into Bedlam (that is, actually go crazy).
- Hunter: The Vigil: most Hunters avoid therapists because of, y'know, the inherent risks of telling someone that you're stressed because you spent all of last night hunting a werewolf with a shotgun and a two-by-four.
- Invoked, played straight and defied in Changeling: The Lost. Having a psychotherapist who isn't a changeling (or at least Ensorcelled) does give a penalty to therapy rolls, but there's an entire Prestige Class based around the idea of changelings becoming therapists to help out their own kind.
- This is why most Call of Cthulhu characters who don't end up dead get committed.
- Averted in Eclipse Phase for Firewall agents, who have access to therapists in on the masquerade. Though people who aren't in Firewall and suffer Stress from witnessing Exsurgent activity, particularly asyncs aren't so lucky, but at least the standard Muse most people have in their Mesh Inserts has a 60 (on a d100) in Psychology.
- The cast of Persona 3 is a group of teens who frequently go into a twisted, bloody version of their school where they are in danger of being killed by their repressed feelings and fight monsters by shooting themselves in the head with guns that fire psychological trauma. Ken is so bad he was going to commit suicide after getting his revenge against a certain individual, and he's eleven. But since no therapist would believe them about the Dark Hour, they’re on their own.
- Persona 4, which features an alternate TV dimension that only select people can enter and is filled with horrific monsters is closely related, and the main cast do have issues, ranging from the mild (bored and lonely) to the severe (transsexual - maybe) and these problems literally manifest and attack the party in boss battles. However played with, as at the end of the boss battle the character accepts the negative, repressed, or otherwise hidden parts of themselves and start becoming more happy and well adjusted. Aparently beating the shit out of the physical manifestation of your problems does wonders for your psyche.
- One of the Camarilla Primogens, Alastair Grout, in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines actually was a psychiatrist in life. Unfortunately, at least his initial education was pre-Freudian, and the fact that he happened to have been Embraced by a Malkavian (who are all mad) probably helped contribute to scrambling his later experiences (who in any case only seems to have gone up to the point when lobotomy was standard practice). He is also dead by the time you get to him.
- In the third chapter of morphE, Tyler gets to call his sister who works at a behavioral health clinic. He desperately wishes to tell her that he has awakened to magical powers and has been kidnapped by someone who wishes to train him up in their use. Unfortunately he cannot, and must instead pretend that he is in mental care after failing a suicide attempt. She begins to assert that she should be present and has his case file, unable to lie anymore Tyler hangs up.
- Averted by the SCP Foundation. Not only does the Foundation employ a bunch of therapists who are in on The Masquerade, but in instances where saving lives involves being Necessarily Evil, regular counselling sessions are mandatory. However, there might still arise situations where none of the available therapists have a high enough security clearance level to be authorized to listen to your particular problems.
- Played with in Worm, where govenment-sanctioned superheroes can receive therapy from muggles who know all about them. However, it's by no means mandatory, and teen heroes can be out of luck if their base's commander thinks Therapy Is For The Weak. Additionally, therapists rotate on a weekly basis. This is officially to prevent young superheroes being subverted by any particular therapist, but a knock-on effect is that it makes therapy much less effective as the patients have less chance to form a bond of trust with their confidant.
- Subverted in The Sanguine Chronicles: Marko's therapist was a muggle—until he turned into a werewolf during a session and threw her desk across the room.
- Subverted in Batman: The Animated Series—Harley Quinn began as the Joker's therapist at Arkham but of course soon demonstrates the Go Mad from the Revelation option of this trope and becomes a supervillain herself. Now, she is his right hand woman (and an occasional guest back at Arkham). The character, created for the animated series, became so popular that she has been retconned into the comic book universe.
- Young Justice subverts it as well. After the scarring events of "Failsafe", the team get some much needed therapy with Black Canary.
- Apparently this is what Dr. Fate is actually a doctor of in Justice League Unlimited.
- Some schools of thought advise against a therapist working with people who share their circumstances (such as a particular upbringing, trauma, or medical condition). The idea is that the therapist may identify too strongly or allow his or her experiences to color his or her approach (e.g. a therapist who had an abusive father figure that they later reconciled with may be more inclined to advise clients towards reconciliations themselves, assuming all abusive fathers are just like theirs). These schools of thought typically have a huge aversion to the expression "I know how you feel" for this reason.
- As an aversion, other therapeutic theories hold that only someone who has experienced similar circumstances can provide emotionally informed counsel. Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous use this as a core principle.
- People on the autistic spectrum tend to be somewhat adamant about this, and often cite a credo that's a rallying-cry of the disability rights movement: Nothing About Us Without Us
- It can also be an issue for people involved in need-to-know national security issues or outright Black Ops: "this never happened" doesn't leave a lot of room for the people involved to deal with the resulting emotional issues. We can only hope that at least one therapist in our nation has top security clearance.
- According to this article, American psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and clinical social workers tend to be less religious than Americans in general. This can create friction between secular therapists and religious patients.