May is Mental Health Awareness Month and therapists have become a part of mainstream media thanks to some stellar portrayals on popular television shows.
Through these characters, TV viewers saw a direct reference to their real-life struggles.
Here’s our ranking of the top fictional TV therapists who kept the mental health conversations going.
10. Dr. Frasier Crane from ‘Frasier’
During its 11-year run, Frasier primarily focused on Frasier Crane’s (Kelsey Grammer) eccentric personal life. However, the psychotherapist used many of his skills on his brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce), and father, Martin (John Mahoney). Additionally, Frasier dished out advice to plenty of callers on the fictional radio station, Seattle’s KACL, making him the OG celebrity therapist (take that, Dr. Phil).
9. Dr. Rhonda from ‘Insecure’
In Season 2 of Insecure, Molly (Yvonne Orji) decides to make her first therapy appointment with Dr. Rhonda Pine (Denise Dowse) following a bad breakup. Although their sessions were brief, Dr. Rhonda often provided Molly with multiple gems about her love life and her relationship with her best friend, Issa Dee (Issa Rae). However, Insecure fans watched the lawyer opt not to take her therapist’s advice and by Season 4, some viewers jokingly begged her to go back to Dr. Rhonda.
8. Dr. Justina Jordan from ‘You’re the Worst’
Season 2 of You’re the Worst showed Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash) attending therapy for her clinical depression with therapist Dr. Justina Jordan (Samira Wyley). Several psychology outlets praised the actresses for their genuine depiction of treating clinical depression in therapy throughout the show's run.
“Unlike how comedies usually handle therapy, here the therapist holds boundaries, genuinely helps, and still shows that she is a human being,” Psychotherapy Notes wrote of the show in 2017. “It’s mostly Gretchen’s anxieties about therapy that are played for laughs, rather than the therapy itself.”
7. Dr. Bales from ‘Girlfriends’
Girlfriends tackled multiple issues about Black women and their relationships. In Season 5, the UPN/CW series discussed mental health through its main character, Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross). After fighting with her best friend, Toni (Jill Marie Jones), Joan decided to see a therapist when her hair started falling out.
During her sessions with Dr. Bales (Fred Willard), Joan discovered she couldn’t stand up to Toni or her other friends and had difficulty setting boundaries with them. Although Dr. Bales did convince Joan to say “no” to her friends eventually, she stopped seeing him by Season 3. Nonetheless, creator Mara Brock Akil told The Breakfast Club in 2020 that the storyline was essential for Black women to see.
“Therapy was [a] conversation around, ‘We need other alternatives,'” Mara said of discussing therapy in the Black community. “And I wanted to put it out there so that we can think about it that we would consider that. And, it’s obviously great for telling stories, but really it was another gift to the culture.”
6. Dr. Akopian from ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’
In the CW’s short-lived dramedy-musical, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom) realizes her life has spiraled out of control. After deciding to move across the country to reunite with her ex, she enters Dr. Noelle Akopian’s (Michael Hyatt) office for what she believes is a quick refill of her psychoactive medication.
Soon, though, Dr. Akopian convinces Rebecca to open up, and diagnoses her with borderline personality disorder, a mental health disorder that affects how you view yourself and others. Although fans never saw their progress due to the show’s cancellation, Dr. Akopian’s helped Rebecca add a psychiatrist named Dr. Daniel Shin (Jay Hayden) to her mental health team.
5. Dr. Kroger from ‘Monk’
Adrian Monk’s (Tony Shalhoub) therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger (Stanley Kamel), helped him through grieving his wife, Trudy, and his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). After having a mental breakdown in the first season over Trudy’s murder, Monk confides in his therapist about attempting to move on through heartbreak. While Monk has received criticism over the years for its portrayal of OCD, the protagonist's sessions with Dr. Kroger remain some of the show’s most memorable moments.
4. Dr. Maggie Bloom from ‘A Million Little Things’
Dr. Maggie Bloom (Allison Miller) frequently dishes out free therapy to her inner circle on A Million Little Things. Throughout the ABC hit’s run, Maggie offers her friends encouraging advice while navigating her personal life. Shortly after the drama premiered, Allison shared how she hoped the show would inspire viewers to seek treatment for their real-life mental health issues.
“These are issues that are really relevant right now and need to be talked about more," she said in an interview with Glamour. "Depression affects people differently, and dealing with loss and grief is something that we don't touch on enough."
3. Dr. Violet Turner from ‘Private Practice’
Dr. Violet Turner (Amy Brenneman) on Private Practice stood out from the other Oceanside Wellness Group doctors for her loyalty to her patients. Violet frequently crossed the boundaries of a psychiatrist-patient relationship in helping them. In Season 3 of the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, she proved her allegiance to her patients by helping her former patient, Katie (Amanda Foreman), get out of prison. For context, Katie cut Violet’s baby out of her body in Season 2 before escaping with the child.
2. Dr. Wyatt from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’
In Season 4 of Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) decides to attend therapy after breaking up with the love of her life, Dr. Derek Shepherd. When she first met Dr. Katherine Wyatt (Amy Madigan), Meredith didn’t open up to the doctor during their initial sessions. Eventually, though, Dr. Wyatt showed Meredith how her behavior pushed Derek away and got her to open up about her mother, Ellis Grey’s (Kate Burton) suicide attempt. In their final session, the general surgeon finds the courage to profess her love for Derek in the iconic house of candles scene.
1. Dr. Jennifer Melfi from ‘The Sopranos’
HBO’s The Sopranos was undoubtedly ahead of its time when it came to discussing therapy. In the first episode, fans met Tony Soprano’s (James Gandolfini) therapist after the mobster had a panic attack. After their initial session, Dr. Melfi kept Tony as a client for years and analyzed him without judgment or confrontation.
Although The Sopranos continues to receive praise for its portrayal of mental health, Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr. Melfi, wasn’t pleased with her and Tony’s final moments together. In the penultimate episode, the therapist dropped him as a client out of concern that he was a sociopath. Lorraine said her last episode felt “rushed” and didn’t close out their six-year journey properly.
“I would have liked for it to have been more meaningful," Lorraine said in a November 2021 episode of the Talking Sopranos podcast.
The actress then added, “I mean, I think she cared for Tony. Even though he was a f--k-up, and maybe he was never going to really straighten out… I think she really cared for him."