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Critical Psychoanalysis Failure

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"These Varner Brothers are driving me crazy!"
Dr. Otto Scratchansniff, Animaniacs

The job of a psychiatrist seems safe enough so long as the violent patients are restrained, but this is often not the case in Fiction Land. There are people out there who are dangerous to your mental health and no matter how much you want to help them, it is you that ends up needing the shrink. At its least damaging, you just need a few hours of therapy. At its worst, you end up as incurably insane as they are.

May explain why most don't bother.

An occupation-specific Sub-Trope of Infectious Insanity. Often overlaps with Hannibal Lecture, and may also relate to The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes if the therapist or their family are themselves suffering untreated mental illness.

An argument could be made that this trope deserves its own Sub-Trope for therapists (particularly female ones) that fall in love with their patients and pursue romantic relationships with them. Professional codes of conduct, such as the NASW Code Of Ethics, generally frown on this sort of thing.

While not entirely the case, this can occasionally be considered Truth in Television, seeing as some therapists do end up depressed or taking medication due to the relationship with their patients. To prevent this, it is generally recommended for even graduate students in the field to begin seeing therapists of their own.

Not to be confused with Therapy Backfire.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ibitsu, the Strange Lolita's doctor appeared to have gone on a killing spree before committing suicide. But it turned out to have been all her doing.
  • Soil has a school counselor who is actually pretty knowledgeable and spot-on about her subjects' problems (once she realizes how horrible they are), but keeping her insane(?) son(?) locked in the basement behind an electric fence that he keeps trying to get out of to the point the wires' pattern is burned into his body kinda diminishes her authority.

    Comic Books 
  • In Absolute Carnage, Carnage proudly proclaims that that's what's wrong with all of his shrinks - they think that all his problems boil down to sex and violence on TV or violent video games or any of that stuff when he's proudly all of that and more - he's a proud and murderous psychopath and all of those "ills" are a part of him.
  • Batman: Gotham City, the one place in the DC universe where For Want Of A Nail may as well be renamed "For Want of Good Psychologists":
    • Harley Quinn was the Joker's therapist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, before he drove her insane. Now she's nuttier than a fruitcake and a Villainous Harlequin to boot. Really, though, she deserves it for not spotting the Meaningful Name and bailing to get it changed before things got too... weird. Depending on the Writer, Harley either slept her way to her degree (so was unprepared to deal with someone like Mr. J) or actually is extraordinary at psychoanalysis but ended up with one of the hardest cases possible right out of grad school. Poor girl should have stuck to gymnastics. In a certain Catwoman arc, she actually helps Catwoman work through some of her latent guilt and worries about Selina's younger sister, Maggie, and in Gotham City Sirens accurately deduces Batman's origin (if not his ID). Harley states in Gotham City Sirens that she majored in psych to try to understand her own messed up family. Other than knowing when her dad is trying to con her, it hasn't worked.
    • One version of Dr. Quinzel's first meeting with Joker from Harley Quinn shows her seeking him out with the name "Harley Quinn" already in mind. If he drove her mad, she was willing to carpool. It should be noted that in that version she was broken due to a professor using her and her boyfriend in an experiment that killed him, leading her to think only the Joker understood things the way the former boyfriend did...
    • The Joker tends to do this a lot, actually. In the novel adaption of the Knightfall saga, one of the secondary characters comments that one of the doctors examining the Joker lost their mind themselves, and another joined a monastery.
    • Batman actually warns a shrink when she feels sympathy for him that this is likely to happen.
    • Jeremiah Arkham, who runs Arkham Asylum, spent a short amount of time as a high profile inmate when he was manipulated into becoming the second Black Mask. Not to mention his forebear, Amadeus Arkham, who founded the place, and ended up as Gotham's first vigilante murderer and an inmate in his own asylum.
    • Psychoanalyzing The Scarecrow is possibly even more hazardous than a session with Joker, since Scarecrow's in the habit of sneaking in some fear toxin and taking a quiet, academic interest in why the therapist is suddenly scratching out his own eyes. Doesn't help that he's an actual psychologist himself either and can typically easily reverse the roles on his therapist to achieve the same result without the toxin.
    • An unbelievably stupid attention-hungry shrink in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns is responsible for letting the Joker free (and attacking Batman in interviews). As he's being interviewed on TV, the Joker unleashes his laughing gas in the building, killing the audience and the doctor.
  • Taken to an extreme in Black Science when telepathic superhero Antom makes the mistake of trying to mind-read and psychoanalyze Doxta; he’s promptly Mind-Raped so hard that he claws his own eyes out in a desperate attempt to stop it.
  • Therapist Dr. Ella Whitby fell in love with Deadpool when he was briefly institutionalized. There was no way it could end well, and it didn't.
  • In ElfQuest, the healer Leetah tries to cure the Anti-Villain Two-Edge, a half-elf-half-troll Chess Master who spends a lot of time cackling insanely from behind walls. It goes pretty well until she starts calling him "son," pretending to be a comforting mother figure to him, which turns out to be a bad idea since it triggers Two-Edge's very deep mommy issues. The result: Two-Edge runs off, only half-cured and becoming much more dangerous, and Leetah ends up guilt-ridden over her mistake. She's also very thoroughly squicked by the madness and mixed heritage she felt inside him while using her magic.
  • Happens in Lucky Luke when an ahead-of-his-time shrink attempts to psycho-analyze various criminals to set them on the right path. It works ridiculously well for a time (all the shrink has to do is ask the crooks to tell him about their childhood, after which they realize they would have loved to do something else with their lives) until he tries this on the series' Big Bad, the Dalton brothers, who don't regret anything about their lifestyle. They then ask him about his childhood...
  • Marv of Sin City was once psychoanalyzed, but the analyst, the girlfriend of his parole officer Lucille, pulled out because she "got too scared."
  • Spider-Man: Stan Lee and Marcos Martin's non-canon story "Identity Crisis" (not to be confused with the in-canon 616 story of the same name) printed as a backup Spidey Sunday Stories where Spider-Man goes to a psychologist Dr. Gray Madder (a pun on gray matter) and talks to him about his identity issues, which involve the constant changes and endless retcons to his supporting cast and rogues, such as his Aunt May being alive and dead, his marriage to MJ being retconned in and out, her being pregnant and not, Green Goblin dying and coming back, lampshading the bizarre changes to Spider-Man continuity that actually drives Dr. Gray Madder nuts and has him going to a shrink.
  • Watchmen: Rorschach causes a gradual breakdown of his therapist's positive worldview and replaces it with his own existential perspective. Dr. Long comes to realize that nothing truly means anything, and that reality is just like the inkblots that gave Rorschach his name: the only meaning in life is that which we choose to impose. He was broken so thoroughly that he became an Empty Shell of his former self and his wife left him. Despite this, though, he still tries to help people, because to him, it's the only thing that means anything. He's showing signs of a real recovery by the time he dies along with half the population of NYC.

    Comic Strips 
  • Played for Laughs in the newspaper comic Pondus, where Jokke (Alex in the English version) regularly visits a therapist, Dr. Zimmerknaben, to 'let out steam' over all his crazy misadventures with women. While Jokke himself hasn't got many problems with his experiences, Zimmerknaben is eventually driven mad by the experience of hearing Jokke drone on about his bizarre sex life week after week. One of the final strips of the two interacting shows Jokke playing the therapist role for Zimmerknaben while the latter goes on a tangent about how treating Jokke has turned him into a neurotic mess.
  • Rudi's buddy whose shrink became depressed himself after analyzing him and ended up as a beggar.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Analyze This does the unnerving bit, since the psychologist has reason to fear his patient will end up putting him and his family in legal trouble among other things.
  • Basic Instinct 2: Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass is appointed to evaluate Catherine Tramell after she's involved in a car accident that kills her lover due to reckless driving. During their sessions, she does a reverse psycho-analysis of Glass to mess with his mind since she's not only a sociopath but studied psychology in college. It doesn't take long for her to dissect all his own personal failings and seduce him into a relationship with her.
  • In Clerks, the bizarre man who searches for the perfect egg is revealed by a customer to be a guidance counselor, and his search for the perfect egg is him coping with his own ineptitude at counseling.
  • In The Flaming Lips' indie movie, Christmas on Mars, the hard-swearing base psychiatrist has clearly had it up to here with people asking him for anti-hallucinatory drugs, which were not brought on the Mars mission for some reason. The main character is clearly in a fairly delicate place and the psychiatrist barks at him just for asking a stupid question.
  • Deconstructing Harry has a psychoanalyst who married a former patient; they ended up getting divorced and she still seems very hurt by the experience, some years down the line.
  • While not dangerous to the psychologist, Don Juan DeMarco is clearly a case where the analyst was affected more than the patient.
  • Used as a throwaway gag in Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Renfield is sitting in his cell at the asylum, when another man speaks to him through the slot, saying he can't take it there anymore, the screams, the crazy faces, that the walls are closing in on him, etc. Then his boss tells him to get back to work. Turns out he's a security guard, not a patient.
  • In Good Will Hunting, Will goes through quite a few therapists. A downplayed example as he does nothing to affect their sanity, but he also does not want therapy and is simply smart enough to know how to annoy them.
  • Grosse Pointe Blank:
    Dr. Oatman: You didn't tell me what you did for a living for four sessions. Then you told me. And I said, "I don't want to work with you anymore." And yet, you come back each week at the same time. That's a difficulty for me. On top of that, if you've committed a crime or you're thinking about committing a crime, I have to tell the authorities.
    Martin: I know the law, okay? But I don't want to be withholding; I'm very serious about this process. [Beat] And I know where you live.
  • Harvey: you can see here you can see how the boundaries between patient and therapist gradually merge Poor, poor thing. The movie ending seems to suggest that the therapist went insane with a nonexistent Harvey and if you believe that Harvey is Real After All, Elwood ends with the real Harvey... or... something
  • The psychiatrist in the Lethal Weapon films gets progressively crazier as she has to deal with Riggs. In the first film, this is because he is angry and depressed. In the sequels though it's just because he likes messing with her.
  • Mr Frost: In a World… where people no longer believe in God or The Devil, what is Satan to do? Simple: manifest as a serial killer in order to get locked in a psycho ward, with the intention of slowly corrupting his psychoanalyst until she snaps and murders him, causing a wave of revulsion that would make humanity turn its back on rationality. "Stronger than passing time," indeed.
  • By the end of Quills, the Abbe du Coulmier, who ran the asylum where the Marquis de Sade was housed, has lost his mind and become just like his former patient, even carrying on his writings.
  • Played with in the second and third Terminator films. Neither the patient [Sarah Connor] nor the therapist is crazy. The therapist just prefers to think he is insane than to accept that her story could be correct.
  • By the end of They Might Be Giants (1971) Dr. Mildred Watson not only cheerfully shares Justin Playfair's delusion that he's Sherlock Holmes but has fallen in love with him into the bargain.
  • What About Bob?: The whole premise of this movie is a neurotic man intruding into his psychotherapist's life and slowly driving him insane. However, there is a variation, as the therapist is on vacation and the patient follows him. This is mixed with a hearty dollop of The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes, since as the movie goes on, it's pretty clear that Dr. Marvin had some things already brewing under the surface and all it took was Bob getting under his skin enough to draw them out.

  • Isaac Asimov's All the Troubles of the World: Multivac becomes suicidal from having to help countless humans with their psychological problems. They've already given it the job of predicting crimes, which mental health can affect; then they start laying plans to have it take care of all human sickness.
  • This is used to re-introduce the character of Artemis Fowl in the second book.
    • Subverted with the one we actually see on screen. It's mentioned that Artemis succeeded in doing this to all previous therapists, but this one proves resistant.
    • Also averted in a side book that has a school report where the counselor states that analyzing Artemis is impossible since he knows all the right and wrong answers to give and when to give them, and thus can manipulate any standard psychiatric evaluation to his own ends.
  • Catch-22 plays with this a bit.
  • Any story by Philip K. Dick that has a psychiatrist in it will end up being one of three things: 1) this trope played completely straight (where the psychiatrist will break down into a psychotic reality along with the protagonist), 2) this trope inverted (where the psychiatrist is in on the nature of reality and pulls the protagonist further down into insanity), or 3) a total aversion of this trope (to the point where the psychiatrist accepts different altered states of reality and acts as sort of a benevolent guide to the protagonist). Example? VALIS (number 3). This trope also applies to any character that interviews, tries to help, or tries to reason with an apparently insane character.
  • In Discworld, the Unseen University thinking engine, Hex, briefly caught a bout of insanity from the Bursar after talking with him in the style of the "ELIZA" program, which simulates a psychiatrist's banter. Ironically, the Bursar did seem to recover his wits following this primitive psychotherapy, although he quickly lost them again as UU's usual chaos resumed.
  • Cruelly yet hilariously subverted in the short story "The Earth Men" by Ray Bradbury. Thinking you're from Earth turns out to be a common psychological disorder on Mars, where delusions can actually manifest physically due to the Martians' psychic abilities, so the demonstrable existence of your spaceship and crew is more of an expected symptom than a proof of sanity. Upon making contact with the natives, the titular spacefarers are eventually directed to a psychiatrist who ends up forcefully euthanizing them as an incurable case - and when the ship and their bodies fail to vanish, he concludes to his horror that he's been infected with this trope and shoots himself.
  • Dustin Tillman in Ill Will takes on Aqil Ozorowski as a patient, initially for hypnotherapy to stop smoking. Aqil gets Dustin involved in his conspiracy theory that several random-seeming drowning deaths throughout the Midwest are the work of a Serial Killer and possibly tied into cult activity. Aqil himself is a serial killer, and he's been targeting Dustin's family. There may be a broader conspiracy as well.
  • Norman Spinrad's short story "It's a Bird! It's a Plane!" begins with the description of Superman Syndrome, where people forget their own past in favor of being Clark Kent/Superman. This doesn't end well for Doctor Felix Funck.
  • Just After Sunset, a collection of short stories by Stephen King, features the novella N, about a mysterious circle of stones on the outskirts of town that ensnares quite a few people, including a psychiatrist.
  • Red Dragon:
    • Will Graham's MO is to use his empathetic imagination (a match for Lecter's own, which is what allows him to bust Lecter) to mentally imitate the killer as best he can. He succeeds (with the help of a self-imposed, accidental case of Bluffing the Murderer by Lecter himself) at exposing Lecter as the Chesapeake Ripper but as a result has to go to a mental hospital just for having Lecter's thoughts in his head.
    • This was one of Lecter's hobbies while he's incarcerated. Therapists would come to examine him and he would do his best to hurt them. He sent at least one away in tears.
  • Michel Duval in the Red Mars Trilogy spends several decades as the only therapist within several million miles, and consequently has no one to help him deal with his own problems (which include dealing with all the First Hundred's problems) and slowly becomes unbalanced and retreats into nostalgia.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development: Lindsay takes Tobias to couples counseling, largely because Lindsay is sick of Tobias trying in vain to succeed as an actor. After a spirited role-playing session (the only way to get Tobias to participate), the therapist decides it was so much fun that he wants to become an actor too.
  • Stewart from The Big Bang Theory apparently drove his therapist to suicide, and they blamed him in the note.
  • John Cleese wrote a half-hour sketch in which Ronnie Barker plays a psychiatrist treating a man who thinks he's being stalked by a dwarf. Barker is skeptical at first until the dwarf turns up in his office. The patient is relieved to know that he isn't crazy after all, but as he walks out, the dwarf vanishes...
  • An episode of The Facts of Life had a youth guidance counselor have to be talked out of jumping off a building.
  • In the "R. Tam Sessions," one of the tie-ins to the Firefly movie Serenity, River is undergoing prolonged interviews with a counselor/interrogator while being experimented on. While in most cases, Critical Psychoanalysis Failure results in mere mental damage, this one ended up far worse; the interrogator, not realizing just how dangerously mentally unstable River is becoming, eventually ends up making the extreme mistake of giving River a pen when she says she needs to write something down. Stab.
  • An episode of Forever Knight had a serial killer who escaped from a mental institution. He talks about killing in such an enticing way that he almost drives Nick (a vampire trying to "go straight") into killing again. Also, his ranting has already gotten to his therapist: she kills one of her patients and is about to kill another when Nick stops her.
  • Niles and Frasier often come across as more neurotic than the people they treat, and even end up in therapy in the Flashback tale "Shrink Rap". Several episodes revolve around Frasier and Niles analyzing the crap out of an issue when it's really far simpler than they ever would have guessed.
  • In the NBC series Hannibal, Bedelia DuMaurier has the dubious honor of being Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist, which has an unfortunate effect on her sanity. In the episode "Tome-Wan", she confesses to committing murder due to the influence.
  • In a softened form, one of the central themes of In Treatment, leading Paul to act unprofessionally and/or fail to help several of his patients in differing ways. Notably with Laura in Season 1, April in Season 2, and Sunil in Season 3.
  • Lucifer: Linda tries to get Lucifer to abandon his "metaphors" in the Season 2 episode "Monster" and pleads for his full honesty. Seeing that simply explaining would not work, he decides to show her his true, demonic face. She doesn't take it well.
  • Monk:
    • A non-villainous example in one episode: when his psychiatrist retired, Monk mentioned that every time he had to find a new therapist he ended up driving several to early retirement before he found one who could tolerate him. Also, Dr. Kroeger frequently looks like he is one OCD tick away from losing it.
    • A variant has, after Monk is taken in by a cult, Lt. Disher tries to deprogram him. The others quickly find him shirtless and singing hymns with Monk, then have to stop him from going to the bank to withdraw all his money.
  • Muppets Tonight did a sketch where Kermit goes to psychiatrist Sandra Bullock, complaining that every time he hears the word "phenomenon," the singers from the old "Manna Manna" song suddenly appear and start singing. Bullock asks if she can try it, says "phenomenon," and joins in the singing, leaving Kermit even more disconcerted.
  • The My Family episode "Shrink Rap" features a therapist who was trying to quit smoking with the help of another therapist. She ends up eating nicotine patches as the general stress of attempting to deal with the Harpers' dysfunctions for even half an hour takes its toll.
  • In one episode of The Nanny, there was a throwaway joke about the fact that Gracie was not able to get an appointment with her therapist to address some incident in the episode because the therapist had an appointment with her therapist.
  • Dr. Hopper in Once Upon a Time had a few of these moments, most prominently in the second episode where he essentially sold Emma out to Regina. He had another moment where he put "David" (Prince Charming) under hypnosis. David said something that incriminated Mary Margaret for murder, but Archie didn't bother questioning it. In the second to last episode, he also gave Emma some horrible advice that would have resulted in her leaving town and putting Henry back with Regina, so Regina could continue emotionally abusing the kid and bullying the townsfolk (Hopper included) without interference. In Hopper's defence, it should be noted that he is technically not a qualified psychiatrist, but merely Jiminy Cricket transformed by a spell, so while he means well his training was all the result of Fake Memories.
  • Likewise, an episode of Perfect Strangers had a reporter for the Chicago Sun be talked out of jumping after reporting on human bastardy made him depressed.
  • Inverted in the Red Dwarf episode "The Last Day" when we learn that Rimmer once volunteered on the Samaritans' suicide prevention hotline.
    Rimmer: I used to be with the Samaritans.
    Lister: I know. For one morning.
    Rimmer: Well I couldn't take any more.
    Lister: I don't blame you. You spoke to five people and they all committed suicide. I wouldn't mind but one was a wrong number. He only phoned up for the cricket scores.
    Rimmer: It's hardly my fault everyone chose that particular day to throw themselves off buildings. It made the papers you know. "Lemming Sunday," they called it.
  • Dr. Cox of Scrubs has been giving psychologists fits for years.
  • Seinfeld:
    • George Costanza once drove a therapist to suicide.
    • Jerry turns his life around and opens up to his friends emotionally. As he urges George to do the same, George opens up and gives Jerry a glimpse into his mind. A jump cut prevents us from being exposed to undiluted Costanza, but Jerry is so shocked that he instantly snaps back to his uncaring self.
  • In Seven Days, Frank's psychiatrist storms into the supervisor's office ranting about Frank's impossible psychiatric state. Apparently he has a god complex and a martyr complex at the same time and likes tormenting the poor doctor.
  • Sliders: In "Post-Traumatic Slide Syndrome", Rembrandt spends the entire episode venting to a psychiatrist about the most recent Slide, and how stressful Sliding in general has been. After he actually Slides out with the rest of the group in full view of the psychiatrist, a team of asylum personnel arrive (having been called by the psychiatrist, who'd thought Remy was delusional) and, seeing the psychiatrist breaking down after what he just saw, take him away to be committed.
  • Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em: A psychiatrist tries to go and convince Frank that he's not a failure. By the end of the episode, the psychiatrist is a nervous wreck, and Frank is delighted to have been proved right — he is a failure.
  • In the first few seasons of The Sopranos, Dr. Melfi gradually gets distraught by her therapy sessions with Tony Soprano, leading to weight gains, drinking, and needing therapy herself. In season 6, Dr. Melfi learns of a psychological study which discourages the use of traditional psychoanalysis with career criminals, as it too often validates the use of hypocrisy and deception for them; this is apparently a significant factor in her decision to end Tony's therapy.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: In "Dagger of the Mind", a patient in a space-borne asylum for the criminally insane turns the tables on the institution's supervisor, turning him into a neurotic wreck who hands the keys over to the patient. And that's just the start...
  • In an episode of Tales from the Crypt, a famous child psychologist has a talk radio show. Since his ratings are low, he agrees to visit the greatest problem child's house and cure her. His typical techniques and analysis prove completely ineffective. Eventually, he snaps and tries to choke her to death only to find she's been dead for 40 years yet she is "still busy as a bee". Then he sees what happened to the many OTHER child psychologists who tried to help...

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Ric Flair has stated, both in books and in promos, that because of his own Dark and Troubled Past, any time he goes to see a psychiatrist, after five minutes, they're the ones on the couch, spilling their guts. Which is again strange, as according to his autobiography, he had a pretty damn normal, happy childhood and a pretty successful career that spanned decades. If he had a serious problem, it was a lack of responsibility. Must be his ridiculous charisma and his likely inability to admit he has a problem.
  • Daniel Bryan and Kane were forced to attend sessions with a therapist named Doctor Shelby in an attempt to deal with their anger issues. He inevitably became infuriated with their stubbornness and constant bickering, although the pair were eventually able to bond.

  • The Jack Benny Program did a Running Gag in the '40s where Jack kept hearing a yodeling echo whenever somebody said a word ending with an "Oh" sound. It culminated in Jack visiting a psychiatrist (played by long-time adversary Frank Nelson) who explained that it was just a mild psychosis he picked up in his visit to Switzerland and that all he needs is a vacation, a change of scenery. Jack suggests "Idaho," cue the echo, Jack: "Well, okay I suppose ..." Frank: "Just a minute Mr. Benny. Did you hear that?"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Inverted in Call of Cthulhu, where a fumble on a psychoanalyst roll makes the patient lose SAN points. Although there's nothing keeping the sadistic GM from also inflicting SAN loss for psychoanalyzing the minds of those touched by the Cthulhu Mythos...
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the old second edition of AD&D, there was a bard kit called the Jester, which played up the silly and chaotic nature of the character. Attempts to read a jester's mind could result in Confusion for the caster.
    • In the Ravenloft boxed set Nightmare Realms, Dr. Illhousen's attempts to assist his dream-plagued patients wind up getting him targeted by the Nightmare Court, who begin attacking the sanity of Illhousen and his colleague Dr. Trasker along with that of his patients'.
    • Also, Madness checks are mandatory for Ravenloft characters who read the minds of the insane, or of creatures whose thought-processes rate as "insane" by humanoid standards.
  • The basis for JAGS Wonderland, an Alice In Wonderland-inspired TRPG, is that people can be infected with a mental disorder/meme/parasitic reality that tends to suck other people in when a sufferer has an episode, or 'goes down the rabbit-hole'. Many psychologists who care for those affected are inevitably affected as well, dragged down through levels of reality until they reach the lowest layer and go insane.
  • The intro fiction for the New World of Darkness fan game Genius: The Transgression features a psychoanalyst trying to treat a veteran Genius who's just sick of it all. She eventually Catalyzes and demands that the Genius make sense of all the strange things that rampage through her head.
    • Also appears in Hunter: The Vigil, particularly with Slashers of the Genius and Maniac variety. Extended conversation with them allows them to create derangements, alter your morality, predict your every move, and otherwise screw with your head. Fitting, since they're based on Hannibal Lecter, The Joker, and others.
    • The corebook for Promethean: The Created opens with a psychiatrist called in to interview a "Mr. Verney" who's held in police custody. The interview actually leads to her recalling that she's a former Promethean who managed to achieve mortality... and Verney's arranged the whole thing, believing she's been working with his twisted "bride"...
  • Somewhat implied in the Unknown Armies supplement Post Modern Magick, which mentions that trying to treat adepts (insane magicians) in a mental institution is risky. The corebook, however, doesn't use this trope in the normal rules for curing madness (but GM can certainly inflict madness checks on the therapist if he feels it appropriate).

    Video Games 
  • One of the patients in Die Anstalt, a Flash game about giving psychotherapy to animate stuffed animals, is a psychiatrist himself, a stuffed raven named Dr. Wood who is slowly revealed to have his own issues, up to and including narcissistic personality disorder. If you screw things up during your sessions with him, he might try to put you on the couch and give you electroshock therapy. Later on, he founds his own cult and manages to hypnotize both you and the nurse (and the sockpuppet therapist) into joining it.
  • Subverted in Baldur's Gate II: when you first arrive at the Asylum, a Cowled Wizard tells you that the place is in disarray since its former director went insane after communicating with his mad patients for too long. This "Wizard" turns out to be Irenicus who has, in fact, driven the director mad with his magic to take over Asylum.
  • The patient interview tapes in Batman: Arkham Asylum feature a few examples, like a doctor being seduced by Femme Fatale eco-terrorist Poison Ivy. Who was able to cheat a bit as one of her lesser-known powers is manipulating pheromones.
    • Almost all of the Doctors in those tapes meet a fate like this. Dr Young is horrified to learn she's been working for the Joker (though what she was working on proves she wasn't all that sane anyway); Dr Cassidy gets transferred from Zsasz once she finds out he knows where she lives (he later shows up at her house, although she survivednote ); Dr Westler is informed by Killer Croc that she's on his meal list; and Dr Murphy is drugged by Scarecrow in their first interview session (Scarecrow tries it on Dr Kellerman, and then everyone in Arkham, but Batman stops him).
    • There's similar tapes of Harley Quinn "curing" the Joker. The first of her tapes though is her applying for the job, where she says she's so fascinated by the powerful villains that end up in Arkham. And Arkham still hired her. Presumably because all competent Doctors recognized the pattern and applied for jobs anywhere else.
    • Happened to the Asylum's founder, Amadeus Arkham, as well after a serial killer murdered his wife. And as the Spirit of Arkham messages reveal, it's happened to the current administrator as well.
    • This is inverted with the interview tapes in Batman: Arkham City, in which the interviews are being conducted by none other than Professor Hugo Strange who manages to out-creep most of Arkham City's various maniacs with devastating Breaking Speeches. Arguably this is a form of Worf Barrage to hype up the little-known villain.
    • Batman: Arkham Origins returns to classic form. When The Joker's being psychoanalyzed by Harley while detained in Blackgate, he starts narrating his origin to her: being the Red Hood and the fateful bath in chemicals courtesy of Batman that transforms him into his present state. In his mind, he's imagining a horrifying ordeal; narrating it to her, Harley interprets it as him confessing to being in love with a special someone on sight... i.e. her. And the dialogue even suggests that he's fully aware of such a thing, using his words to convey his true feelings about Batman while being vague enough to play on Harley's emotions.
  • A bonus video from First Encounter Assault Recon had the psychiatrist get Mind Raped by Alma, and she ends up cowering under a table while Alma skips around the room.
  • Fred Bonaparte from Psychonauts is a variation of this. He was originally the cheerful Chief Orderly of Thorny Towers Asylum until he tried to cheer up chronically-depressed Jerkass Crispin by playing a board game. Crispin won game after game after game, and soon Fred snapped and developed a split personality (the Genetic Memory of Napoleon Bonaparte) while Crispin took over his job running the asylum for Dr. Loboto.

  • There haven't been any explicit examples of this trope in A Loonatic's Tale yet, but it's a safe bet that this is because it's already happened; the psychiatrists at the Mercia Sanitarium and Straitjacket Emporium are all at least as screwed up as the rest of the cast, who they're supposedly in charge of treating. For your consideration: cold, unempathetic Cheryl Lutetium, bitter, apathetic Robert Chester, excitable, angry Charles Terbium, and overcalculating Jeffrey Nobelium, and manically cheerful Wilhelm Qubert. The closest to a sane individual they have on staff is Nobelium's grandson Van Parker, a quiet, dutiful Deadpan Snarker, but he's not without his own issues either.
  • In Mob Psycho 100, the eponymous Mob tries much of his confrontation with Claw leader Toichiro Suzuki to talk him down like the Warrior Therapist he is. But on top of being too powerful to safely subdue, Toichiro just proves to be so solipsistic, abusive, self-important, and stubbornly set on being the absolute worst that Mob finally hits 100% Resignation and gives up—specifically, he gives up on resisting the overwhelming urge to torture Toichiro to death for all the pain he's put everyone through.
    Mob: I couldn't be a good influence. I'm done. We can both lose at this point.
  • Where does a therapist turn after talking to the Sluggy Freelance crew? The nearest bartender, of course!

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Warner kids in Animaniacs do this to Dr. Scratchinsniff on a regular basis.
  • In The Boondocks episode "Smokin' with Cigarettes", Lamilton Taeshawn's therapist Dr. Doomis was driven mad by the realization that Lamilton is a sadistic sociopath who is irredeemably evil. Doomis considers Taeshawn to be a "ticking time bomb" who will eventually try to murder someone if he's not stopped in time. Doomis even calls him the Antichrist.
  • One Code Monkeys episode had a psychiatrist assess the staff, who were all noticeably crazy in different ways. She wound up hating them until she was just as insane. She also pointed out her own need to get laid.
  • In one episode of Dan Vs., Dan manages to send a top-tier psychologist running out of the room screaming. What's even funnier is what the two were apparently discussing:
    Dan: If you didn't want to know about my childhood you shouldn't have asked!!!
  • Crocker's only and temporary shrink in The Fairly OddParents! loses it towards the end of the one episode she's in, becoming just as Fairy-obsessed as he is.
  • Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: Superhero Psychologist Doc Samson suffers a mental breakdown after his efforts to civilize Skaar go to naught.
  • In South Park when Cartman's mom brings in child behaviorists and specialists (read: reality TV hosts) to help with his behavior, Cartman destroys each and every one of them. He reduces Supernanny to a babbling wreck who is last seen eating her own feces. It takes The Dog Whisperer to finally break Cartman, which he does by ignoring him when he's desperate for attention, quickly pinching him in the neck when Cartman misbehaves and generally treating him like he was a problem dog.
  • Galvatron became nuttier than pecan pie by the time of the third season of The Transformers. The Decepticons are so sick of his violent, paranoid psychosis that they threaten Cyclonus to do something about it... which involves Cyclonus taking an unhappy and unwilling Galvatron to Torkulon, a sort of Genius Loci psychiatric treatment planet. Its psychiatric teams try to treat his madness over the course of the episode, but unfortunately for them, Galvatron is so Ax-Crazy that he drives the entire planet insane.

    Real Life 
  • In The Fifty-Minute Hour, psychoanalyst Robert Lindner describes the case of Kirk Allen, a brilliant young physicist who claimed to have a parallel life in a galaxy far far away. His fantasies were so consistent and extensive that eventually Lindner came to believe them himself, at which point Allen confessed that he had invented the whole thing. A brief outline of the story can be found in The Demon-haunted World by Carl Sagan.