Follow TV Tropes


Freudian Couch

Go To
So, tell me about your dream...

"You know, you don't actually have to lay on the couch like it's a Woody Allen movie."
Prof. Ian Duncan, Community

A famous Stock Pose originating in Freudian tradition of psychiatry. As shorthand for therapy, someone lies on their back on a couch and stares at the ceiling while avoiding eye contact with their therapist. This is not very common nowadays, as not even the classical psychoanalysts were unanimous in its usage, but some therapists (even non-Freudian ones) still have one in their room, at least as an option. It is sometimes due to a certain measure of The Coconut Effect: as people often fully believe All Psychology Is Freudian, some patients relax more and open up with their problems in a position they expect due to its omnipresence in pop culture.

In real life, Sigmund Freud trained in psychiatry under Doctors Jean-Martin Charcot and Josef Breuer, both of whom used hypnosis as treatment. In hypnotherapy, the couch was a necessary piece of equipment used to make the patient relax and drift off into a hypnotized semi-sleep. Although Freud later moved away from using hypnosis, he kept the couch as he found the relaxed state helpful in allowing the patient to form free associations.

Fans of Freudian psychoanalysis note that during free association the therapist and client are not facing each other, but this has become a visual symbol of therapy anyway.

Used often as a joke in cartoons and comics, but it appears in all media.


    open/close all folders 


    Comic Books 
  • Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink naturally has a couch in his consulting room.
  • Undercover Elephant, a character from Hanna-Barbera's 1977 show CB Bears, is after a bodybuilder/psychiatrist villain named Pretty Boy Freud in an issue of Marvel's Hanna-Barbera's TV Stars. He tricks Undercover into thinking he needs psychiatric help, using a park bench as a makeshift couch.
    Undercover: And mom used to spank me with a tennis racquet...the kids all used to call me "ol' Waffle Britches"!

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side used this rather often, even though creator Gary Larson had some issues with it:
    • In the 10th-anniversary retrospective, Larson said he considered the device a cliché. He also described how having an animal visiting a human psychiatrist would frequently break his own Willing Suspension of Disbelief and cause him to start questioning everything about his comic.
    • One particular comic embarrassingly backfired when Gary Larson thought it would be funny to draw a creature who had to see a psychiatrist because of his severe anger-management problems over having been born as nothing but a disembodied eyeball. Most readers either missed the eyeball entirely or thought it was just one of the buttons sewn onto the couch. In his 10th anniversary retrospective, Larson briefly tried to defend the cartoon before admitting that, yes, it sucked. To those who have read 1/0, it becomes a reference.
  • In Blondie (1930) when the title character is looking for a cargo van for her catering business, one van was formerly owned by a psychiatrist who went to people's homes. And had the Freudian Couch set up in the van.
  • Several classic Gahan Wilson's cartoons.
    • In one, the patient, dressed as Napoleon, is sitting up on the couch and reading a despatch while an officer in a Napoleonic uniform stands at attention. The psychiatrist fumes, "We'll never get anywhere with these constant interruptions from the front!"
    • The psychiatrist is a bespectacled, Freud-bearded corpse in advanced decay, and the patient on the couch, blithely looking at the ceiling, asks, "How long has it been since we had our little disagreement, Doctor?"
    • The psychiatrist is down on his knees kissing the hand of the patient, who says irritably, "This is not going to help my Messianic complex, Doctor!"
    • "When did you first become aware of this imagined 'plot to get you?'"
  • One, uncredited but resembling work by Jim Toomey of Sherman's Lagoon, showed a bull lying on the couch, with a matador in the psychiatrist's position. The bull is saying, "I know it's a symptom of my neurosis, doctor, but I'm having difficulty trusting you."
  • Dr. Bonkus of Beetle Bailey always uses one with his patients. Beetle himself has been known to fall asleep immediately or mention it as the only reason it's worth visiting him.
  • Elvie: Elvie lies on a couch facing the ceiling in virtual reality therapy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Seen in Tim Burton's adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. An Oompa-Loompa is the therapist.
  • The promotional art for the documentary Confessions Of A Superhero features a performer dressed as Superman lying on a couch.
  • In Star Trek: Insurrection, a couch/recliner is shown in Counselor Troi's office. When Riker comes by to flirt with her, he immediately lies down and says he needs therapy.
    • Specifically Troi is sitting on the couch and Riker uses her for a Lap Pillow. Which he finds very comfortable, but as Troi points out is not acceptable for counselling.
  • A recurring theme and plot device in Annie Hall.
  • Nick in What Women Want lies on the couch when he meets his former marriage counsellor to ask her about his inexplicably gained mind-reading problem.
  • The comedy What a Way to Go! features a couch mounted on a pole that can be lifted high in the air. This inevitably leads to slapstick complications.
  • In Harvey, Dr. Chumley ends up on his own couch interviewed by the protagonist.
  • In Silent Fall, Jake has a backless couch in his office on which his adult patients lie while they talk about their relationship problems.
  • In The Dead Center, Dr. Forrester is a psychiatrist who is introduced by waking up on the couch in his office. It's an early indicator that he's overworked and may have his own mental health issues.
  • Ted "Theodore" Logan is analyzed on the couch by none other than Freud himself in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  • In Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? Georgie lies on a backless couch during his meetings with his therapist, Dr. Moses.

  • Cherub Series books:
    • James is in a therapy session. They have a slightly weird little dialogue that goes something like this:
      James: Man, this couch is comfy. I could fall asleep on it.
      Therapist: Really? Hmm, does that mean you're tired? Have you been having trouble sleeping lately?
      James: Now you mention it, yes.
    • His therapist gives him the choice of where to sit but he feels that he needs to lie on the couch to get the "full therapy experience".
  • Callie, the protagonist of Cut, is on one of these during her Individual Therapy sessions in Sea Pines, while her therapist sits on a "dead cow chair".
  • In Dreamcatcher, Henry briefly ponders his patients' choices between the couch and a chair when they come into his office.
  • In Book One of MARZENA, During her first visit to Livia's office, Lauren notes the presence of a couch under the giant portrait of what is assumed to be a Valkyrie. She only gets to sit on the chair though.
  • Sasha's therapist Coz in A Visit from the Goon Squad keeps one in his office because it relieves him and his patients from the burden of eye contact.
  • In the Sector General series, the Chief Psychologist isn't above using his own couch to catch forty winks.
  • Luis Fernando Verissimo's character Analyst of Bagé has one in his office, which in Gaucho fashion is covered in a sheep pelt.
  • In Unseen Academicals, when Mr Nutt is using hypnotherapy on himself, he manages to find a chaise longue somewhere in the backrooms of Unseen University.

    Live-Action TV 
  • I Dream of Jeannie: Dr. Bellows has a Freudian couch in his office, as befitting a Freudian psychiatrist. Occasionally, Dr. Bellows uses it to psychoanalyze Major Nelson or Major Healey.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: In "The Clampetts Get Psychoanalyzed", Mr. Drysdale's Freudian psychiatrist tries to psychoanalyze Jethro Bodine and Cousin Pearl. The psychiatrist is very faithful to Freudian methods, not only having a couch in his office but closing his curtains so as to conduct psychoanalysis in semidarkness.
  • Sherlock: In the episode "The Hounds of Baskerville", Henry Knight has a conversation with his therapist, Doctor Mortimer, about his recurring dreams, while lying on a couch in his home while she takes notes.
  • Played completely straight in the first season of Mad Men. Don Draper sends his wife Betty for psychoanalysis, and the setup is correct for free association: the couch is set away from the chair the therapist is sitting in, and he freaks out slightly when she sits up and makes eye contact. Justified in that the show takes place in The '60s.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In "Conversations With Dead People", Buffy goes to stake a newly-resurrected vampire in a graveyard who turns out to be a psych major who went to high school with her. In between trying to kill each other, he helps Buffy talk through her issues, and one scene has Buffy lying on a couch-like sarcophagus in a tongue-in-cheek reference to this trope.
  • Frasier:
    • The living room couch is frequently (though informally) appropriated for this, due to the fact that two of the main characters are psychiatrists.
    • In the episode where Frasier goes back to private practice, he gets a Freudian Couch in his office too.
    • Frasier and Niles did this as kids as seen in their old home movies.
  • Played with in Graduados. Vicky does not use a couch with her patients; in fact, she is not Freudian at all and criticized the couch thing sometimes. But each time that Tuca has a crisis and needs her help, he storms uninvited into her consulting room, heads directly to the couch, and lies down on it... even when nobody ever told him to do that.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • Detective Murdoch usually lies down when he has a hypnosis session with "his favourite head doctor" Dr. Roberts, who is a pioneer in mental health care in Toronto.
    • Doctor Ogden becomes a psychiatrist between seasons five and six. She even went to Vienna to consult professor Freud himself. In "Murdoch in Ladies' Wear", Murdoch is on her couch to recount a troubling dream he had about suspect Eva Pearce; he is distressed to have found Eva desirable when he's in love with Julia and investigating Eva for murder. The trope is Played for Laughs when Inspector Brackenreid comes to see her and he's lying on a couch in her office, talking about some random stuff. She reminds him that he wished to speak about something important. Inspector immediately rises up and asks her to see his son who he's afraid might be a "sissy".
  • Variation occurred on Friends when Phoebe dated a psychologist. She was lying back on the couch in the coffee place and was talking to him while avoiding his look, but she had her head in his lap.
  • On Community, Britta is lying down on the couch when she has a therapy session in season 1 finale "Pascal's Triangle Revisited". It's a Continuity Nod because therapy sessions with Prof. Duncan were a condition of her acquittal for cheating in "Advanced Criminal Law" episode. Duncan tells her she needs not lie and she angrily responds that he could have told her sooner, not in the last session.
  • Inverted in Star Trek: Voyager. In "Latent Image", the Emergency Medical Hologram suffers a Logic Bomb after having to make a Sadistic Choice in triage. As reprogramming has failed and Voyager doesn't have a Ship's Counselor, Captain Janeway and another crewman act as a sounding board while the EMH works through his issues. Janeway is shown on the holodeck, half-asleep on the couch while the Doctor sits on a chair and rambles on. Eventually he realizes the captain is running a fever and convinces her to take a break. After she leaves, the Doctor goes and sits on the couch, quoting from the book she was reading, implying that he is getting over his Heroic BSoD.
  • Lucifer. Lucifer's psychiatrist Linda assumes that all his talk about being the Devil is just a metaphor for his issues until he finally shows her his Nightmare Face. Naturally Linda freaks out on discovering that the supernatural is real, and one episode has her lying down on her own sofa trying to absorb what Lucifer is telling her, in an obvious reference to this trope. Lucifer cuts short the session, griping that he's having to do his own therapy. Averted for her typical sessions with Lucifer and later Maze, who both sit up facing her in a more typical modern setup.
  • Lampshaded in For All Mankind when Gordo Stevens goes to see a psychiatrist and says, "Shouldn't there be a couch in here?"
  • Batwoman (2019). A Black Comedy scene has mad supervillain Alice kidnapping a therapist to deal with her issues. At one point she's shown doing a Slouch of Villainy sideways on her Cool Chair in reference to this trope.
  • Columbo. In "Murder, A Self-Portrait", Colombo has to interview a psychiatrist during his murder investigation. The psychiatrist is tired after a long day of work and the recent murder of his friend, so he lies down on his own couch while Colombo interviews him from a chair with the interview sounding a lot like a therapy session.

  • The music video for Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny" has the singer on a couching singing Jenny's number to a psychiatrist, with Sigmund Freud's picture hanging on the wall.

    Video Games 
  • Heavy Rain: One of the main characters, Ethan, goes to a therapist in one of the first scenes of the game. He's seen lying down on a bed in the therapist's office while taking an inkblot test.
  • Hitman (2016) has target Silvio Caruso lie on one as he receives the visit of a psychologist. Or a "psychologist".
  • The Talos Principle: The Milton Library Assistant asks the player a variety of personality questions and uses them to psychoanalyze the player, particularly to summarize their world philosophy and then find holes in it.
  • Theme Hospital has a couch as a required item for the psychiatric treatment room. Spiritual Successor Two Point Hospital has a similar requirement.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold! has a whole episode dedicated to Helga explaining her life story to a child psychiatrist - and partially inverted, as part of the psychiatrist's tactic to help Helga open up is to let Helga analyze her first.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Used in "Fear of Flying", when Marge is confronting her fear of flying and has therapy with a psychologist. She usually lies on the couch during the sessions.
    • It's been used as a Couch Gag when Homer rushes in the door, lies on the couch, and begins confessing to his psychotherapist.
    • Parodied in "The Mysterious Voyage of Homer", where Homer is talking about some problems he's been having, and is lying on the couch... which turns out to be in a furniture store.
      Salesman: This... really goes beyond my training as a furniture salesman, sir. Now, if you don't want the couch, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.
  • In The Transformers episode "Webworld", Galvatron is strapped to a couch as a Torkulon therapist questions him.
  • Used in Ed, Edd n Eddy when Edd is explaining to Jimmy about beating everyone up.
  • Used in American Dad! when Stan visits a therapist to talk about Roger's death. It turns out he's being set up for a prank and his colleagues are watching him from behind a two-way mirror.
    CIA Therapist: Okay, and how do you feel right now?
    Stan: I dunno, a little...sad?
    CIA Therapist: And do you know why?
    Stan: Because I... miss him?
    CIA Therapist: No, because you're a LADY!!
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • Used as a throwaway gag. They cut away from Perry and Doofenshmirtz and when we see them again Perry has Doof on a couch talking about his childhood for a moment before they react to something happening offscreen.
    • In the episode "The Monster from Id", it's revealed that Baljeet went to psychology camp. Cut to a flashback of a hundred kids talking to other kids on couches, all saying "And how did that make you feel?"
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Pictured above: this is used with a bench (and complete with reading glasses and a notepad) by Twilight Sparkle in the episode "Lesson Zero", in an attempt to alleviate her friend Rainbow Dash's mistakenly perceived anger issues. Twilight would have needed a therapist a lot more than Rainbow in this episode.
  • Used in the VeggieTales silly song "I Love My Lips". Larry sings the song while lying on the couch, in therapy with Dr. Archibald. Twice in the song, he gets so carried away that he gets up and starts dancing around the room.
  • Animaniacs:
    • Dr Scratchensniff would have these in his office. One episode ('La La Law') features him lugging a new one on his back from a supply shop to his (illegally parked) car.
    • Yakko slaps Miles Standish on a couch in Turkey Jerky. "Tell me all about Petey."note 
  • In Batman: The Animated Series episode "Mad Love" we see a montage of how Harley Quinn met The Joker while she gave him psychoanalysis. It starts with him on the couch, but as he twists her mind, later scenes have the Joker as the psychiatrist, with Harley on the couch.
  • The Pink Panther: A Clip Show has the little guy with the big nose Pink is always annoying going to a therapist (actually Pink in disguise) and lying down on the couch.
  • Looney Tunes
    • The short "Hare Brush" has Bugs Bunny take Elmer's place in a mental institute. One scene has Bugs briefly lying on a couch while the doctor talks to him. Bugs soon turns the tables.
    • "Punch Trunk" has a scene where a woman is on one of these couches while talking about her life. The tiny elephant featured in this short soon appears and drinks the psychiatrist's water. The psychiatrist, assuming that he himself is going crazy, promptly swaps positions with the woman, and begins talking about his own life on the couch, while the woman sits at the desk dumbfounded.
  • The Wonderful World of Disney special "Inside Donald Duck" features Ludwig Von Drake as a psychotherapist, with Donald on the chair talking about his troubles with Daisy.
  • The I Am Weasel episode "He Said, He Said" features the Red Guy switching back and forth between Weasel and Baboon, who both sit on their respective couches complaining about each other. It turns out Red isn't a psychologist at all; he crossed out the "OTIC" in "PSYCHOTIC" on his degree and wrote in "IATRIST".
  • In the Mike, Lu & Og episode "Flustering Footwear Flotsam", the island adults' new shoes are causing various problems for them, and they each go to Queeks' cave to complain in this fashion.
  • Kaeloo: At the end of "Let's Play Doctors and Nurses", Kaeloo lies on a couch and tells Mr. Cat (who is pretending to be a psychologist) about her metamorphosis from tadpole to frog.
    • Stumpy lies on a couch in "Let's Play Astronauts" when narrating a dream he had to Kaeloo.
    • In Episode 86, Mr. Cat visits an actual psychotherapist and lies on a couch.
  • The Monster Farm episode "7 Year Stench" has Frankenswine reclining on a couch while talking about his problems with Dr. Woolly.
  • In the Muppet Babies (1984) episode "Remote Control Cornballs", the song "Is That What's Bugging You, Pearl?" has a scene where Piggy is lying on a couch while Rowlf plays psychiatrist.

    Real Life 
  • Sigmund Freud's actual couch is on display in the Freud Museum in London, displayed as in life covered by colourful Persian rugs. It actually created a stir at the time since it was considered daring for a respectable Viennese lady to recline in the company of a man.
  • Some psychotherapists really do have chaises longues in their offices, especially psychoanalysts (or those who like the nod to tradition), but this is otherwise somewhat of a Dead Horse Trope in modern times. It's more likely they'll have armchairs, or at the outside, regular sofas that the clients will usually sit on rather than recline on.


Major Wadcock

A man seeks out an old-school NHS counsellor.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / GetAHoldOfYourselfMan

Media sources: