I kept thinking about this topic especially after I realized I was thinking of some examples but they also aren’t the ones that come up very often when you google this topic (I checked). I realized that NCIS has a few examples of therapy.
I have watched NCIS since the beginning with some fits and starts. The most recent seasons feature Jack, a forensic psychologist who helps the team and does some light therapy for the team members when they face difficult issues.
However, I think this example actually does a disservice to those who may expect that therapy is an easy and quick fix for complex and challenging issues. That’s not how therapy works. Instead therapy can be like my relationship with NCIS, something that I come back to time and again when I need it (in the case of NCIS, when I need a distraction from pain or worry).
One instance of therapy that I like is in the most recent season or so: Gibbs starts seeing a therapist to help him work through decades-old issues. I find Gibb’s relationship with his therapist interesting and possibly important because it’s one of the only times the macho, old-school, strong, silent, former marine lets down his guard completely. Like Booth in Bones, these shows show strong men of different generations benefitting from therapy—both characters even have military backgrounds. I would like to think that examples like these will reduce the stigma of therapy for men and veterans.
My favorite example of mental illness and medication is also a recent show development. One of my favorite characters from the earlier seasons of the show was Ziva David, a Mossad (Israeli intelligence) agent, who was incredibly strong, skilled, intelligent, and didn’t put up with anyone’s sass.
I was sad when the show (seemingly) killed her off and I thought it was incredibly human that when they brought her back for a few episodes that she was dealing with PTSD, anxiety, and depression as a result of her years of trauma and separation from her family. She doubts herself and has anxiety attacks.
Although NCIS doesn’t show Ziva in therapy, the show shows her taking medication and also struggling with needing that medication even as it helps her. Although I hurt for Ziva, it was powerful to see that someone so strong still struggles with mental illness. She’s not any less strong for it, and I could connect with her character more as a result.
For example, everyday actions can fill her with panic out of proportion to the situation. The show reveals flashbacks to explain what that feels like for her and how it paralyzes her so that you understand that she is triggered by the situation’s connections to her past experiences. I could see this being really relatable for those who have never experienced panic or anxiety attacks.
Hopefully, in years to come I will have more examples like these to discuss!
Creator: Cliff Lipson Copyright: 2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.