main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Epiphany Therapy
"By the honor of pep talks!"

Writers sometimes try to add depth to their characters by giving them some sort of psychological problem — always exactly one, neatly-explainable problem. Maybe they hate men due to a previous abusive relationship. Maybe the memory of their dead little sister keeps getting them down. Or perhaps constantly having their girlfriend locked in a refrigerator causes them to drive potential lovers away due to fear for their safety.

After a while, writers may feel that the character has to lose this flaw. In Real Life, deep-seated psychological traumas take years to deal with and cure even in the best case scenario, and most require a lifetime of treatment. In fictionland, however, There Are No Therapists; fortunately, Freudian Excuse, My Greatest Failure, the Heroic BSOD, In the Blood, and Dysfunction Junction, no matter how extreme, can be cured with a simple Whoopi Epiphany Speech, growing Bored With Insanity, a friend telling them to cop on, confiding in someone about your Bad Dreams, the strength or redemption offered by love, or a Sickeningly Sweet sidekick showing them that The Power of Friendship cures all wounds. The writers thus resolve the issue over the course of a single episode (or movie) and call it Character Development, often at a cost of Willing Suspension of Disbelief. (On the plus side, this trope saves the audience a lot of time.)

Frequently administered by a Warrior Therapist or Psychologist Teacher. Might be heading into Discredited Trope territory.

See also Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere, Compressed Vice, Not Himself, Reset Button, Snap Back, Armor-Piercing Question and We Want Our Jerk Back.

Failed attempts of giving this kind of therapy might come across as Activist Fundamentalist Antics.


    open/close all folders 

Straight examples

     Anime and Manga  

  • In Genkaku Picasso, the general result is that once Picasso has helped with a person's mental trauma, they get a burst of confidence and understanding and are shown a few days later taking steps to finish overcoming it.
  • In Shugo Chara!, Nikaidou-sensei's Heel-Face Turn is encouraged by Suu's Remake Honey making his Shugo Chara that he thought he had killed (which threw him into an emotional breakdown) come back and talk to him. It leaves, but it is pointed out by Suu that he had said "See you again," and was therefore not gone forever.
  • Parodied on Oruchuban Ebichu. Ebichu's alter ego, Ebichuman, is a combination superhero and marital counselor whose superpower is the ability to sense people's sexual hangups.
  • This is pretty much what the last two episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion are about, but the otherwise straightforward dialogue is accompanied by such abstract visuals that people tend to classify it as a Mind Screw.
    • It's worth noting that this was later subverted during The Movie, however, as the ending scene where Asuka says that she still finds Shinji disgusting after he tries to strangle her again seem to imply that even after Instrumentality, their problems still aren't entirely solved for either of them, and possibly never will be.
  • In the Tona Gura anime, a turning point is reached when Kazuki views her own childhood diary and realizes that Yuuji hasn't changed; the young gentleman she remembered was a rose-colored fantasy. He was always playful and a bit rambunctious.
  • In Naruto, for most of his life, Gaara has been hated by everyone around him for being a jinchuuriki , has had numerous assassination attempts upon him by his father and was forced to kill his uncle, the only person to show him sympathy (which was just an act). The Ichibi prevented him from being able to sleep, boosting his psychological trauma. He was very possibly the most Axe Crazy, psychotic character in the series, certainly in Part I. But once he gets his ass kicked by Naruto and he has a few dozen episodes/chapters to let this sink in, though, he's just one of the guys. And then he becomes a stoic variation of the Kid-Appeal Character among the 5 Kages.
  • Similar to Darth Vader below, this is what happened to Darth Yomi from Ga-Rei -Zero-. Basically, she experienced a barrage of trauma and this led her to slaughtering lots and lots of people. But she did realize how much she loves her little sister Kagura as Kagura killed her to stop her Roaring Rampage of Revenge, allowing her to die as herself. This is repeated in the final volume of the manga.
  • Hinagiku of Hayate the Combat Butler is fearful of loving someone because of her parents abandoning her, and her older sister, when she was younger. When she falls in love with Hayate, he breaks her of the fear, but it's still presented as a strong influence in her life.

     Comic Books  

  • In the Marvel Universe, Doc Samson uses this with Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk to merge his different personalities into one. This was later retconned away with Therapy Does Not Work That Way to establish that Samson had really just created a new, if more stable, alternate.
  • The Powerpuff Girls story "Bow Jest" (issue #20) had Blossom rendered helpless and lacking in confidence after Buttercup steals her hairbow. After Mojo Jojo steals it, believing it to wield some untapped power, Bubbles (of all people) clocks him, takes the bow, slams it on Blossom's head and lights a match under her butt about it. It works.
    Bubbles: It's just a stupid hairbow! You're still a Powerpuff Girl whether you have it or not!
  • In Ultimate X-Men, Professor Xavier helped a washed up martial arts student become a competent fighter by telepathically fixing her mental blocks.


  • In Inception, Dom Cobb finally confronts the dream projection of his long-lost wife, accepting her demise.
  • In the movie Airplane!, ex-pilot Ted Striker was unable to fly as a result of having led a disastrous air raid in the war. He's cured, and able to save the day, when he's told that one of the pilots who died on the raid, in his last words, approved of Striker's decision to continue the attack.
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the villain uses Epiphany Therapy as a psychic power to gain control of people.
  • Darth Vader in Star Wars is probably the ultimate example of this. Vader murdered thousands of Jedi and probably millions of other people over twenty years, stood by while the billions of inhabitants of Alderaan were killed, force-choked many of his own subordinates, tortured Han, and generally helped maintain a reign of terror over the entire galaxy, yet when he saw his son being electrocuted, he quickly decides he's been wrong all along and kills the emperor. Then he's shown to have been completely redeemed. It kind of works in context, but it seems like Vader got off easy by dying, as he didn't have to make amends for his actions over the long-term.
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe had something to say on this, with Leia herself refusing to accept his redemption, and needing to understand a lot more about Anakin Skywalker before she could forgive Darth Vader.
  • The end of The Machinist, where Reznik finally accepts having killed a boy in a car accident, turns himself in to the police and at the very end is seen sleeping peacefully for the first time in a year.
  • In Nell, the title character's fear of male sexuality can be cured instantly by going skinnydipping with Liam Neeson. It makes a bit more sense in context, but not much.
  • In Good Will Hunting, after a long series of therapy sessions, the patient's emotional trauma stemming from years of abuse is cured by repeating the phrase, "It's not your fault" over and over until he starts crying.
  • Hilariously played with in What About Bob?, where the title character, while tied up with explosives strapped to him, manages to turn the situation into a metaphor that gets him over his mental issues, while using a literal application of the metaphor to escape his situation. The "played with" part is that he never realizes he's actually in danger, and believes the whole thing's a constructed roleplaying scenario designed to cause this sort of epiphany.
  • Parodied in High Anxiety, where a climactic situation sent Mel Brooks' character into a childhood flashback, making him realize "I'm not afraid of heights, I'm afraid of parents!"
  • In The Simpsons Movie, Homer gets an epiphany therapy from an old Eskimo woman, and realizes that he's nothing without his family and therefore must save Springfield to get them back.
  • The President's Analyst is abducted by a Soviet agent, but gets out of a forced defection by engaging him in friendly conversation, and getting him to realize he only became a spy out of fear of his father, a high up in the KGB who arrested his mother in a Stalinist purge. The analyst says he could probably cure him, but it would take years and he couldn't do it if he was sent to Russia.


  • In The Dark Tower series' second book, The Drawing of the Three, Odetta / Detta seems to recover from Dissociative Identity Disorder (incorrectly called schizophrenia in the book) when her two personalities merge; this merged personality calls herself Susannah. Several books later, when Susannah is possessed by a demon, Detta comes back to help Susannah deal with it.
  • Done painfully straight in the last book of Piers Anthony's Mode series, in which a single telepathy-assisted Epiphany Therapy session in which Colene confronts a few specific traumatic experiences completely cures her major depression and other psychological problems.
  • The Trapeze series generally plays this straight, although the fact that it's much less Anvilicious about it than other series makes it easier to swallow.
  • Dandra's magically-induced split personality disorder takes a few moments of internal conflict to resolve in the second The Dragon Below book.
  • Flinx, star of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth universe, gets over his Wangst in record time in Flinx Transcendent, the Grand Finale of the series. This after spending the last... oh, six novels moping about how humanity doesn't deserved to be saved, he doesn't want to save it, and how his life sucks because he's a manufactured human rather than a natural one.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand al'Thor spent 12 books gradually going mad due to the taint of the Dark One on the male half of the True Source and also the influence of Lews Therin, the man of whom he is the reincarnation and who exists as a voice in his head, that man having been driven completely insane by the taint before his death. Then, when he begins to feel desolate and hopeless about the state of the world and almost kills his dad during a heated argument, he retreats to the top of the mountain that was created by Lews Therin's death throes and considers destroying the world with his awesome powers. Fortunately for him and the world, he suddenly realizes that he has an opportunity to right Lews Therin's wrongs, so he instead uses his powers to destroy the artifact that made it possible for him to destroy the world, spontaneously integrates a sane version of the Lews Therin personality, and spends the 13th book fixing the stuff he screwed up during Book 12 because he was too busy shutting himself off emotionally. The greatest epiphany he has during this moment is that there were never really two voices in his head — it was always just him. He would never hear the "voice" of Lews Therin again.
  • In Warrior Cats, when Firestar fears that Scourge will crush the clans, he laments that there were always four clans in the forest, but Scourge is trying to change that. Then StarClan tell him that there were never four clans, there were always five. Cue Firestar realizing that StarClan is always with him, and that while he has StarClan's support and the gift of nine lives, Scourge does not.
  • One of the very few negative examples in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; the Total Perspective Vortex shows someone how insignificant they are in the universe, complete with negative effects, which are mostly the destruction of the mind.

     Live Action TV  

  • Charmed loved this trope. However the issues didn't tend to stay cured whether they were fears of losing each other, the desire for a normal life or realising that relationships require compromise to make them work.
  • Alex P Keaton from Family Ties, when Greg died in a car crash.
  • There was an episode of a talk show (Maury, possibly) that featured a girl with a fear of pickles, which affected her job performance as a waitress to the point of her refusing to serve any dish with said garnish in it to any of her customers. The host's proposed treatment was to have nearly a dozen stagehands emerge from the audience onto the stage and from each of the stage entrances, each one holding a plate with a sandwich topped in pickles and wearing the most evil shit-eating grins you've ever seen. The guest screamed hysterically and tried to escape in several different directions before she was surrounded. By pickles. To the audience's mocking laughter.
    • In psychology, this is known as flooding; surrounding a person with things they're afraid of for a few hours until the fear is extinguished. While it can work if done long enough, there's nicer ways to do it.
  • Wiseguy. Frank McPike and Roger Loccoco decide to snap local kingpin Mark Volchek out of his phobia of death by recreating the final scene of his favourite horror movie so it has a happy ending. Mark Volchek refuses to accept this and storms out the door, only to run into someone who he thought had been killed in an earlier episode. Not surprisingly, Volchek faints. He does get better though. Somewhat.
  • Buffy has a number of Epiphany Therapy moments, such as when she immediately overcomes some issues simply because she confesses that the spell to re-ensoul Angel had actually worked and she sacrificed him anyway.
    • Buffy's character arc in Season 6 is one big fat aversion of this trope. It takes her the entire season to get over the traumas of dying, being yanked out of Paradise, and then having to claw her way out of her own grave.
  • When Monk realized the source of his pathological hatred of nudists, he pretty much got over it. It's made less grating by the fact that up until that point, he hadn't been able to permanently fix any of his many psychiatric problems.
    • Of course 'getting over it' just means he doesn't impulsively and immediately accuse them of any and all crimes. He still is visibly disgusted and goes out of his way to avoid them.
    • A better example would be the last episode, where Monk's issues are all severely diminished after he solves Trudy's murder.
  • Mash relied rather heavily on this trope at times. In Quo Vadis, Captain Chandler?, Captain Chandler was in serious need of an epiphany. He doesn't get it, but another victim who was unable to save his younger brother in battle, literally went into amnesiatic shock and couldn't remember a thing. His memory only returned after Dr. Freedman, Hawkeye and B.J. hypnotise him and stage a battlefield scene. And then, of course, how could we forget Hawkeye himself, during the finale? It takes around half an hour into the episode before Dr. Freedman is able to force Hawkeye into remembering what triggered the nervous breakdown.
  • Lt. Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation had a paralyzing fear of transporters, as revealed in the episode "Realm of Fear". Of course during that episode his fear is compounded when he discovers a living organism within the transporter field. The same story had O'Brien reveal that he once had a fear of spiders, but now kept a pet tarantula.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Amy's Choice", an artificially induced dream shared by the Doctor, Amy and Rory helps Amy realize just how much she loves Rory. Aww...
    • This is more of a case of Love Epiphany, and while it does force her to confront the issue it does not magically cure her emotional baggage. In fact, Amy Pond generally averts this trope, as she's been in therapy for much of her life because she refused to accept the Doctor was a figment of her imagination, and still hasn't gotten over her trust and abandonment issues.
  • In Kamen Rider Double, Shotaro after being driven insane with fear by the Terror Dopant, causing him to scream his head off at even the slightest noise, Philip basically telling him goodbye forever while leaving him a cryptic message on how to reverse it, Shotaro not only reverts to normal, but allows him to breakthrough his instinctive fear of Ryubee/Terror, which had been planted during their first meeting and prevented him from confronting him throughout the series.
  • MythBusters host Adam Savage has struggled for years with a well-known fear of bees, much to his annoyance as it made him the guinea pig for multiple phobia myth experiments. Until they tested a myth of bees glued to a laptop flapping their collective wings to make it fly. Working with a single bee in their lab, he learned to admire their individual strength and by the final test, he admitted being completely over his fear.
  • The entire premise of "the White Rabbit" in the Leverage episode "The White Rabbit Job" is that you can completely rearrange someone's personality if you just find the one defining event in their life and get them to reexamine it. And it works, too.
  • On Bones, Angela goes to Dr. Sweets for advice on how to deal with Hodgens now that she and he had broken up. Sweets recommended a full therapy regimen (starting with two sessions per week) but she pronounced herself "fixed" after talking with him for 2 minutes, with her doing most of the talking.
    • In the season 9 premiere, Brennan and Booth are barely speaking after their broken engagement (after Pelant blackmailed Booth into breaking it off) until Brennan finds the bar that Booth had been frequenting and meets Aldo, an ex-priest who was an army buddy of Booth's during his career as a sniper and was now a bartender. During their conversation, Aldo reminds Brennan of what Booth's Catholic faith means to him and that Booth still loves her as deeply as before. By the end of the episode, Brennan, who in the past had chafed at using the word "Faith" in any context, admits to herself and to Booth that she had absolute faith in him, and that they will work things out.
  • In Red Dwarf it's been long established that Rimmer's neuroses are partly the fault of his emotionally distant and controlling father, who never said he was proud of him and used to stretch him on a rack so he'd be tall enough to join the Space Corps. In the episode "The Beginning" he learns that this man isn't his father at all and this almost instantly cures his self-doubt.

     Video Games  

  • Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2. After losing his Healing Touch in the heat of an operation, and being unable to get it back, Derek goes back to his first hospital to get help from old friends. Long story short, they push him real hard and he gets it back. Status Quo Is God.
  • Downplayed Fire Emblem Awakening's supports. While issues are typically resolved by an A rank support, it doesn't truly resolve and will tend to repeat itself if the issue appears in other supports. Some of them, such as Lon'qu's gynophobia, are justified. Others, not so much.

     Western Animation  

  • The CGI animated series Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles had Dizzy being claustrophobic. With their survival on the line, the team's resident psychic "removed" her claustrophobia and made her a Bad Ass again. It's a pretty dangerous procedure (as they point out to her before she consents to it) and they wouldn't dare try it if their lives weren't on the line. So instant psychic therapy isn't exactly an easy way out, just a fast one.


     Anime and Manga  

  • In Fruits Basket, pretty much all of the Sohma family have deep-seated emotional problems, and while Tohru helps a number of them quite a lot, progress is realistically slow. For example, in the manga, it seems like Tohru discovering Kyo's true form is going to be a case of Epiphany Therapy, but Kyo is largely unchanged in the next volume - just somewhat happier and more trusting of Tohru. He still has major issues around being the cat from the Zodiac.
  • In Hayate the Combat Butler, Hinagiku is able to withstand heights when she has a strong reason to after Hayate takes her out onto the balcony of the student council office and shows her the cityscape.
    • Less detailed, but still implied is her fear of anyone she admits to loving disappearing also seems to be with her.
    • Implied with both of these is that if Hayate were to vanish from her life, they would return stronger than ever and are nowhere near cured yet.
  • Gundam 00 has Louise Halevy, who has some deep-seated revenge issues, as well as having to overcome forced evolution into a telepathic Innovator and being partially mind-controlled by the Big Bad. At the end of the series she's caught up in the big telepathic "Understanding Field" and her boyfriend Saji manages to bring her back from the Dark Action Girl she'd become. However, two years later, she's still in the hospital getting treatment for PTSD, among other things, and while she's getting better, she's far from cured.
  • Across the entirety of Bitter Virgin, Hinako, who has suffered repeated rape at the hands of her stepfather, makes a few baby steps towards recovery, while acknowledging that she may never be free of her pain. Still, she considers the steps she has made, such as being able to begin a relationship with Daisuke, "miracles", which she never would have thought herself capable of.
  • In Sword Art Online, Sinon has a severe phobia of guns in general (and the Type-54 "Blackstar" in particular) due to being a victim of armed robbery when she was eleven. She tries to conquer this phobia by playing a gun-based MMO, but it's only partially effective: she doesn't suffer from her phobia in-game, but it does little to counteract it in real life. By the end of the story she gets some emotional catharsis that helps her a bit, and she's able to hold it together when faced with a real-life gun for a couple of minutes, but she still freaks out in private afterward.
  • Kokoro Connect deals with a group of teenagers' emotional hang-ups. Often, they will appear to have dealt with an issue in one arc, only for it to come back with a vengeance a few arcs later and need to be dealt with again. In particular, it is suggested that Yui, while she gets a lot more confident over the course of the series, will have to continuously deal with her androphobia for years to come, possibly for the rest of her life.
  • Kurusagi Corpse Delivery Service tends to avert this. Most of the cast have some manner of psychological issue or other, and learning what caused it and confronting it gives, at best, some manner of closure that helps in the healing process. Notably, Sasaki is still actively seeing a therapist and taking antidepressants, a decade after seeing her family killed before her eyes and after the crew gives her the opportunity to to forgive one of the killers to his face and exposing the other.


  • An issue of X-Factor had the team going to therapeutic with Doc Samson (the Marvel Universe's resident superhero psychiatrist). It helps some of them a little, and makes no difference to others. Then, more recently, much of the original team goes back to him...and it's noted by Samson that they're significantly more messed up.


  • The entire second half of Vertigo is a very dark subversion. Scottie only overcomes his fear of heights after watching Judy/"Madeleine" fall to her death. Once again, his acrophobia prevented him from saving the woman he loved.
    • Hitchcock does it again in Marnie. The film ends with the title character confronting the source of her myriad psychological issues, but it's clear that she still has a long, hard recovery ahead of her.
  • Jamie in Shortbus claims to have had a sudden epiphany during his first therapy session with Sophia, who tells him that that kind of thing doesn't just happen and therapists don't hand out epiphanies like candy - most progress won't happen in a blinding flash of insight, and even when it does it typically only occurs after a lot of work.


  • Averted in 1984; Winston recalls a traumatic experience and bemoans that recording it has done nothing to avert the pain he feels about it.
  • The hilarious short story "Ailurophobe" by Anthony Boucher had the main character go through this therapy to cure his morbid fear of cats (he couldn't even stand to hear words including the syllable "cat"). Under hypnosis, he realized it derived from an early childhood incident when he nearly died because of an abusive nanny named "Kitty." He was cured of fearing cats; now he had a phobia of women. Ironic, since it was his fiancee who'd wanted him to get over the original phobia.
  • Averted in the In Death series. Eve Dallas, the main character, begins the series plagued by nightmares, repressed memories, and other baggage you'd expect from a Dark and Troubled Past. Subsequent books see her slowly get better with the help of her True Companions, especially Mira and Roarke, but to date she still struggles with the lingering emotional damage.

     Live Action TV  

  • The titular character of Angel had a lot of issues. All of them stemming from him being a vampire with a soul with centuries worth of memories of debauchery and carnage his bad half caused. The solution? Losing his soul thanks to a gypsy curse against him ever being happy! ... what? Angelus always was the happier of the two!
    • This is turned on its head in an episode where we see how agonizing it is for the evil Angelus to be trapped inside the brooding but heroic Angel - he screams in horror when forced to relive a night when Angel saved a puppy. He quickly gets over this problem when he remembers that he can still torment Angel, no matter what happens in the outside world.
    • In another vein (ahem), Angel also had an epiphany that was a subversion of Epiphany Therapy. He realized that the fight against evil doesn't end, because there's no big win—so you just keep fighting every day. The number of psychological issues, foibles, addictions, and phobias this could be applied to...
  • Friends: The character's emotional issues - albeit treated in a light-hearted manner - are either consistently present or phased out through Character Development. Ross's jealousy and paranoia (caused by his wife cheating on him with another woman), stick around right until the final episode. Monica's insecurity from her emotionally abusive mother improves as she becomes happier with herself after falling in love with Chandler, but she still feels she has to be perfect at everything. Meanwhile Chandler gets over his Commitment Issues, but it takes a 4 seasons of him realizing he wants a relationship, 6 seasons of Monica supporting him and numerous episodes dedicated to his freak outs to get there.
  • Supernatural averts this so much it gets annoying after a while. In All Hell Breaks Loose, Dean seems to be crawling out of his self-loathing pit of despair and having a bit of hope but when it comes to the next episode? He's telling Sam how the prospect of being dragged down to hell is like a light at the end of the tunnel. And in Dream A Little Dream Of Me, he makes a beautiful revelation about how his Dad was an absolute arsehole but fast-forward to four episodes later and he's back to being the devoted, scared-out-of-his-mind soldier. As of late season 4 he appears to finally be thinking about making some progress, being outright told that for all his problems he doesn't have license to whine quite so much, and gently mocked for taking such a depressed mindset. It is partially valid, but the writers seem to have realized that no matter how much it is he can't keep whinging, and the multiple Epiphany Therapies may be having an effect.
  • Played for Laughs with a ditzy spiritualist therapist in Sue Perkins' sitcom Heading Out: "But don't worry, because your final session ends in three... two... one... CURED!"

     Video Games  

  • In Tales of the Abyss, Guy has an intense phobia of being touched by women. He eventually recalls the suppressed memory of the incident leading to his phobia and gets a little better, but he's by no means cured.
  • In The Suffering, it takes Torque the length of the entire game to come to terms with his psychological issues as he slowly figures out what sort of person he is and his fragmented past. Oh, and fights a giant monster representing his psychological trauma, because it's just that kind of game. Even then, when the sequel rolls around, it turns out he's not actually cured, and facing the demons of his past causes a relapse. It still doesn't take years, but it's hardly an instant "have an epiphany and you're better" cure.
  • Both played straight and averted in Fire Emblem Awakening's supports. While issues tend to be resolved by an A-rank support, they tend to repeat themselves if they come up in other supports. Some, such as Lon'qu's gynophobia, are justified. Others, not so much.

     Web Comics  

  • Refreshingly averted in El Goonish Shive. Resident Mad Scientist Tedd has some severe psychological hangups as a result of being teased and bullied for most of his life for being a 'girly-man', not to mention allegations that he's gay for his Heterosexual Life Partner, Elliot. Thus, despite the fact that he often goes on a Gender Bender just for kicks, and the fact that he should be bisexual when in female form, being intimate with boy-Grace causes him to panic even when he's transformed into a girl. However, when Grace figures out the source of his hangup ó which he hadn't even realized himself ó she reminds him that this realization in itself does not solve the problem:
    Grace: Kissing boy-me was a very loving gesture, but identifying the issue doesn't instantly free you of it...
    • A minor example with Susan. Her years of hating men were pretty much permanently erased by spending one evening Gender Swapped. She had been having second thoughts before then however: she'd made male friends who, apart from Tedd, were very moral people. That night ended up being the moment she truly accepted people could be cheating jerkasses regardless of gender.
  • In Questionable Content, they make mention of this trope when Faye finally explains why she gets so defensive. Itís a good example of deconstruction.
    Faye: Therapy helped, but itís the equivalent of breaking your leg Ė you can walk when you get out of physical therapy, but you canít run a marathon right away. I can function as a human being right now, and even have friends, but I canít handle a relationship.
    Marten: Couldnít we just make out now and worry about everything else later?
    Faye: Sure, if you want to trade one night of fun for me freaking out, running away, and never coming back.
    Marten: Well shit. I was almost letting myself hope that youíd be all ďMan, it sure feels good to get all that off my chest! Letís go have sex!Ē
    Faye: If trauma were that easily dealt with, psychologists would work pro bono.
  • Domain Tnemrot has Angel who gained suicidal thoughts while captured by Morris. Despite being free and even beating up Morris at one point, she still has issues about getting in the ring.

     Western Animation  

  • It looked like things were going this way at the end of "Thrill of the Hunt" in Transformers Animated, when Shell-Shocked Veteran Ratchet sits down for a long talk with Optimus, and the subject was never raised again. Then Transwarped rolls around, more traumatic Flashback Stares ensue, and it is abruptly revealed that everything is not okay.
  • At the end of the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Beach", the villains have vented their individual examples of Freudian Excuse and are now feeling much better. So good in fact, that they gleefully trash the house and attack the guests of the cool teens who snubbed them.
    • Interestingly enough, the only one in the group who never actually gets over the problem that gets brought up in the episode is Azula, who seemed to be completely at terms with it. in the final episodes, it causes her epic Villainous Breakdown.
    • Zuko, on the other hand, didn't get over his issues with that situation at the beach either. Uncle Iroh had been working on him for the entire 2 seasons, but he froze before taking the step that would've taken him completely through his Heel-Face Turn. He finally completes it a few episodes later.
      • Also, while it makes them feel better, it does not solve all their problems; Mai remains an apparently Emotionless Girl and Ty Lee remains an Attention Whore.
    • More absurd than this is "The Guru." Aang, in order to master the Avatar state, has to unlock a series of chakras by letting go of various Earthly, negative emotions, such as his grief over being The Last of His Kind, and the fear of failure against the Fire Lord. Every one of these takes about twenty seconds apiece to utterly conquer.
    • In Season 3, when he is plagued by nightmares in anticipation of facing the Fire Lord, his friends try various ways to help him sleep peacefully, with Sokka taking on the role of a psychiatrist to discuss his issues (and doing an extremely bad job of it). He eventually manages to sleep, after his friends convince him that they have total faith in him and make him a really nice bed.
  • Defied on The Simpsons, with Lisa explaining that her body image issues are a long-standing problem that can't be solved overnight. Of course, from the next episode we never hear of them again...
    • Also parodied in the episode where Marge is cured of her fear of flying. The therapist declares her phobia cured when they dig up one embarrassing incident from her past, and then brushes aside several much more traumatic flying-related memories ("Yeah yeah yeah, it's all a rich tapestry"). But when she tries to move on to discussing the obvious marital problems Marge is having, Homer barges in and ushers her out the door.



  • Subverted in the Incredible Hulk comic. The Hulk is being given therapy by Doc Samson with the help of a hypnotist to merge his multiple personalities. It seems to work, but it later turns out the "merged" Hulk is just another personality, and Doc had to take shortcuts because there really wasn't the time for a complete cure. Of course, for the Hulk the psychological problem is part of the premise, so it's never going away.
  • The Martian Manhunter had a deep seated fear of fire as his Achilles' Heel, which made the second most powerful being in DC Comics Earth vulnerable to matches. Thanks to some epiphany therapy with a flame powered hottie, he managed to remove the fear... only to discover it was a mental block placed by non-Neglectful Precursors to avoid his species becoming psychotic fire demons drunk on power. That ended well.
  • A cartoon from The Far Side features a therapist's technique for dealing with the fears of heights, snakes, and the dark...trapping a man in a darkened elevator suspended off a skyscraper roof and full of snakes.


  • Parodied in the film Analyze This: Mobster Paul Vitti has been seeing a psychologist, and makes a breakthrough that leaves him in tears. Unfortunately, it comes at the worst possible time — he's in a gunfight with rival gangsters, and unable to fight back, causing his psychologist to say, "Paul, you have to channel all this nice grief into a murderous rage." At the end of the film, they both agree he still needs therapy.
    • Also parodied several times throughout the movie, where Vitti repeatedly thinks he's cured after minor epiphanies (some of which don't necessarily apply), and leaves treatment despite his psychologist insisting that there's much more buried beneath. Of course, he ends up still screwed up.
  • Averted, then subverted in The Woodsman. Walter does have an epiphany, but that epiphany seems to be that Epiphany Therapy just doesn't happen, and he will take time to change, but can overcome his demons as long as he doesn't give into them.


  • Subverted in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. They pass off "shaking" (a condition caused when a person is under combat stress for quite a while) as normal, but they often use hypnosis for a quick cure (it appears to be mixed with efficient counselors, too.)
  • Played with in the X-Wing Series. Kell Tainer starts out both stiff with terror at the man who killed his father (who, of course, is part of the squadron he joins) and with the nasty tendency to freeze up in panic when outnumbered in combat with teammates relying on him. He gets his epiphanies, finding that one, Janson is a Reasonable Authority Figure rather than prone to You Have Failed Me moments, and two, he'd met the love of his life in the squadron and he knows what would happen if he ran in a fight. They're no longer major issues. Still, he's always going to be uncomfortable around Janson, and he still gets the shakes and anxiety when he goes into missions.
    • Seemingly played straight with the team's approach to snapping Myn Donos out of his Heroic BSOD, but he still has severe issues that he only really overcomes after two more books' worth of trauma.
  • From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy again: the Total Perspective Vortex has no effect on Zaphod because he's the most important being in the universe.

     Live Action TV  

  • The Sopranos: Tony frequently experiences epiphanies in therapy, but they never "take". He always reverts back to form, sooner or later.
  • How I Met Your Mother: When Marshall's very-much-loved fiance just up and left him one night to go to San Francisco, he spent a long time crying, sitting in his apartment in his underwear, and trying to contact her. The rest of the gang supports him and does various things to try and help him get over her, but to no avail. During a talk about the matter with Ted, Marshall has an epiphany and decides that he's going to stop being so pathetic and start living again. Ted narrates that then it didn't happen, because "that's not how life works." Next morning, something reminds Marshall is reminded of Lily and he's right back to pathetic. But a couple of weeks later, he takes the first step towards moving on, and Ted narrates that the only thing that can fix a broken heart is time.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor", they take van Gogh to the future to see that his art will be valued in the future, and to hear how highly he's esteemed. He leaves them overjoyed, and Amy insists they immediately go back to see what more he will have painted. When they get there she finds that he still committed suicide.
  • Parodied on Malcolm in the Middle; when Hal thanks a psychiatrist for curing his sons, the guy starts spluttering that they've turned up many problems that need to be discussed - but they're out the door already.


  • In Next To Normal, Diana, who suffers from bipolar disorder and severe depression due to a long-ago traumatic incident, goes through two therapists, countless meds, a suicide attempt, and ECT before having her epiphany - the trauma she suffered couldn't be totally cured by treating her mentally; she needed to let her soul heal. This is not a straight example because Di's solution to this is to leave her family and go live with her parents for a while, to try to stand without the crutch of her husband (who has also been suppressing the same trauma), the bitterness of her daughter (who feels jaded and unloved, and scared of ending up like Di), and the constant reminder of the event that scarred her. She's clearly scared of leaving, but is convinced it's the only way she can distance herself and let go.
    • In another twist of the trope, she had the epiphany all on her own, and acted against her therapists' pleas to continue treatment.
    • Basically, Diana has the epiphany but is not cured. She just found the strength to try. We don't know whether it ends up working or not.
      • "The one thing that's sure is that there is no cure, but that doesn't mean we don't fight."

     Video Games  

  • Subverted repeatedly in Mass Effect; Commander Shepard can encounter quite a number of traumatized and emotionally disturbed individuals, and has the opportunity to talk almost all of them into getting professional therapy... or committing suicide.
    • Shepard him/her self can be played this way, depending on the player. "I did what I had to."
  • Subverted in the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII as a whole. It's apparently played straight in the first game, where Cloud, who has endured all sorts of Mind Rape and other horrors, has a Journey to the Center of the Mind that works as epiphany and he comes out of it in his right mind and ready to defeat Sephiroth. ...Unfortunately, as sequels to the game show, this burst of assurance is temporary and fragile, and comes crashing down times afterward, because what Cloud needs is a combination of time and skilled psychiatry. It's actually a fairly accurate portrayal of how epiphanies in therapy work in real life—the patient's sudden realization may boost their mood and performance for a while, but without continued work with professionals, it doesn't last at all.
    • Cloud's plight is made worse due to new trauma that is piled on him in the form of Geostigmata, specifically his own and that of his adopted ward Denzell. His inability to help Denzell coupled with his own agony make him feel like even more of a Failure Hero. It takes the need to rescue Denzell, Marlene, and other children from the Remnants, the return of his True Companions (including Aerith and Zack in spirit form), the removal of his Geostigma, and the opportunity to beat the crap out of Sephiroth again for Cloud to finally start getting better.
  • Psychonauts zigzags the trope. On the one hand, Raz helps quite a few characters get over their psychological hangups in a day... perhaps Justified in that he's literally entering their minds and beating said hangups to a pulp. On the other hand, some characters have ongoing problems that can't be so easily solved: Milla's nightmares (though they are at least under control), and all of the patients at Thorny Towers still seem quite unbalanced, even if they've improved somewhat.

Easy EvangelismEmpowermentFreedom from Choice
Emotion ControlPsychology TropesErotic Dream
Bring Them AroundHeel Face IndexEvil Is Easy
Critical Psychoanalysis FailureHollywood PsychFreudian Couch
Entitled to Have YouCharacterization TropesEscapist Character

alternative title(s): Single Issue Psychosis
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy