“Even the happiest of us can find reasons to be unhappy. So, don’t look for them!”
One of the most beloved comedic characters from television of the mid-eighties and nineties was Dr. Frasier Crane.
Kelsey Grammer played the role of Frasier from 1984 starting with the comedy “Cheers” until the completion of his own show “Frasier” in 2004.
Dr. Frasier Crane first entered our lives as a love interest of Diane Chambers (Shelly Long) on “Cheers” and completed the role by leaving his Seattle home on Frasier for another love interest that had moved to Chicago.
For Frasier, it was always the worst of times and the best of times for this snobbish but lovable psychiatrist who had worlds of intellect but was regarded as just a wee bit odd and followed the beat of a different drummer.
Frasier could tell others what they needed to do and do it very well but following his own advice was another matter.
A study by David Vogel, Douglas Gentile and Scott Kaplan of Iowa State University called “The Influence of Television on Willingness to Seek Therapy” (2008) suggests that the influence of television’s portrayal of therapists make viewers less likely to seek psychological services.
Kaplan conducted a related content analysis on television portrayals of mental health professionals and found that generally therapists are:
- Portrayed unethically; sleeping with clients or implanting false memories or talking about their client’s outside of the sessions.
- Therapists are often portrayed as buffoons either being the jokester like Frasier or by being the butt of the jokes.
- It was not just the portrayal of the therapists that may be keeping people out of therapy, but the portrayals of those seeking counseling on TV.
Studies have shown that at one time or another, about half the U.S. population have experienced the need for some kind of mental health services and that only about 10% of the people who could benefit from therapy actually seek it.
The cultural stigma of therapists may be partly to blame for the lack of interest in seeking therapy but Vogel and his associates blame social outlook towards people who have begun therapy:
“Whereas the stigma attached to being a mental health patient may not be the same as the stigma associated with being a counseling client, researchers have found that people tend to report more stigma surrounding counseling clients than no clients. For example, people labeled as having used counseling services have been rated less favorably and treated more negatively than those who were not labeled” (Sibicky & Dovidio, 1986).
Individuals described as seeking assistance for depression were rated as more emotionally unstable, less interesting and less confident than those described as seeking help for back pain and those described as not seeking help for depression (Ben-Porath, 2002).
As a result, it is not just having a disorder but seeking psychological services that is stigmatized by the public. Given the negative perceptions of those who seek psychological services, it is not surprising that individuals hide their psychological concerns and avoid treatment.
It may not be the messenger (therapist) that is looked upon poorly but the whole idea of allowing someone to look within your soul or mind to correct something that needs adjusting and wondering what your neighbor would say if they knew!
Therapy for Who – Me?
So, what does all this have to do with poor innocent Frasier?
He is pompous, snobbish and conceited, but his heart is in the right place and he’ll do anything to help his friends and family.
Frasier is well-to-do, with upper class and intellectual tastes and a pompous uptight demeanor. He loves the arts, has peculiar interests (Mongolian throat singing) and is passionate about psychiatry.
A funny aspect of the show has Frasier depicted as a staunch Freudian; his bother Niles, a staunch Jungian and his ex-wife Lilith, a Behaviorist.
Frasier loves to meddle in other people’s affairs and constantly give them advice. What sets the stage for so many foils in his character is how his meddling constantly backfires and puts Frasier in some precarious spot.
Could potential clients of therapists regard Frazier’s seemingly lack of control and upper class taste as not suitable? With more of the mainstream public struggling with issues that go beyond upper class values and more for “everyman’s,” it is interesting to note that class structure could be a variable in potential clients seeking help.
What may be suggested is that the public may love to laugh with Frasier but to take therapy from someone he portrays does not fit in the healthy scheme of things. Unconscious viewing may influence conscious decisions to be involved in therapy.