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"Is it worse than you thought?"
Dr. Stanley Howard, Criminal Minds

Sometimes There Are No Therapists... and sometimes you'll only wish there weren't.

Mental illness or psychological trauma can be serious, damaging issues that may need many months, if not years, of serious and dedicated care from a highly trained and understanding professional. This trope is what happens when you take those professionals and add a sprinkle of Ax Crazy, Torture Technician, and / or Manipulative Bastard. Psycho Psychologists are therapists who really should not be a therapist; at best they will display a criminally negligent Lack of Empathy with the patient and either grow callously frustrated with dealing with other peoples problems, or give them horrible and often self-destructive advice; at worst, they will have sinister, ulterior motives and actively abuse the relationship, possibly making their hapless victim an Unwitting Pawn in some evil schemes, or perhaps deliberately sabotaging their fragile mental state out of sheer spite or sadism.

Expect them to be found at a Bedlam House and utilize Electroconvulsive therapy, Mind Rape, Brainwashed and Crazy and More Than Mind Control too often, but they can also be found in more humanistic forms of therapy like counseling or Freudian therapy.

Psycho psychologists aren't even limited to Psychology-related settings. They may be recruited by the Big Bad to mastermind the Mind Control Conspiracy; they might be employed by the Secret Police to create the Manchurian Agent; they may put their considerable skills and training to use as a Diabolical Mastermind. Or maybe the years of listening to other peoples problems have simply driven them over the edge. The nut and bolts of this trope is mostly a psychologist who is, quite simply, either evil or crazy, however they put their abilities to use.

Sub-trope of Mad Doctor; see also The Shrink, Mad Scientist and Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate. Compare with the evil variant of Warrior Therapist, who crushes your will on the battlefield, not the sofa.


Examples


Anime & Manga

  • In Monster both Johan and Nina are the product of an elaborate psychology experiment to produce an Ubermensch. While the doctor in charge of said experiment was an Anti-Villain who aborted it before it went horribly right (though, in Johan, it already had), the experiments continued in state-run orphanages throughout East Germany, and the guys in charge of those attempts fit this trope to a T. One of them is encountered after the experiments ended and, having run into Johan previously, horribly abuses his foster son because he is not more like him.


Comic Books

  • Dr. Crane of the Batman franchise was a university psychologist studying the effects of fear on the human mind. He got kicked out and became the Scarecrow.
    • Hugo Strange may count as well, especially in the The Batman incarnation. A Stalker Without a Crush and Diabolical Mastermind who wants to be Batman, who he views as The Ubermensch, though since Evil Cannot Comprehend Good he refuses to acknowledge that Batman is actually as heroic as he believes, and subconsciously Batman is driven by fantasies of power.
    • Then there is Harley Quinn, who was the therapist for The Joker and ended up falling completely in love with him, quickly becoming his sidekick.
    • And then there is Dr Jeremiah Arkham, who starts off as merely a well meaning shrink with probably the worst assignment in the world (running Arkham Asylum); he eventually goes off the deep end and became the new Black Mask (although this appears to have been Retconned into a temporary condition by the New 52).
      • His ancestor Amadeus, the guy who founded Arkham Asylum, was also nuts, and murdered one of his patients who had raped and killed his wife and daughter. Its strongly implied that Arkham, if not Gotham itself, is somehow cursed, and anyone who works there is going to be driven insane- Amadeus thought his family was haunted by an "evil Bat spirit", and performed occult rituals to bind it to the Aslyum, which he is ultimately incarcerated in himself.
    • Semi-example in Lockup, who, while not a psychiatrist did work at Arkham Asylum.
  • Spider-Man has the largely forgotten villain Judas Traveller, a renowned psychologist and noted philosopher who claimed to be a powerful immortal mutant, but was really just a regular illusion-casting one, though this still made him dangerous and allowed him to fake it convincingly. He took over the Ravencroft Institute for the criminally insane and used his powers to, amongst other things, screw with Peter's mind and seperate Carnage from his symbiote.
    • There was also the third Green Goblin who briefly took up the mantle from Harry Osborn after being his shrink for a few years. Unlike other Green Goblins, he did not take the goblin-formula so he did not have the Super Strength needed to fight Spidey.
  • "Professional Help", One of the stories from Hellboy: Weird Tales, has Roger telling a shrink about a particularly distressing case he worked involving a baby giant, Nazi Scientists, and a Black Metal cult. The shrink turns out to be an evil spirit that feeds on mental anguish. Of course Roger knew this the whole time and quickly dispatches it, but he was hoping to get some closure while he was at it.
  • Dr. Karla Sofen, aka Moonstone from Thunderbolts, is a supervillain psychiatrist whose powers are unrelated to her profession. One of her favorite hobbies is manipulating depressed patients into committing suicide.
  • Wonder Woman villain Dr. Psycho is a crazed, misogynistic dwarf psychologist.
  • Desaad, right-hand man to Darkseid went incognito as Dr. Dezard and provided evil therapy to (among others) Shilo Norman in the Grant Morrison version of Mister Miracle.
  • Doctor Gross from Hack Slash, a skinless psychologist specializing in physical and mental torture.


Film

  • The therapeutic hypnotist in Dead Again is evil. He starts out as comic relief obnoxious, but he turns out to be the Big Bad at the end.
  • Batman Begins features the Scarecrow as one of its villains. Here, he helps convicted mobsters avoid jail time and get transferred to his Asylum, via testifying for the Insanity Defence on their behalf, where they help him perform his twisted experiments and poison Gotham's water supply on behalf of Ra's Al Ghul; essentially, he is a Psycho for Hire. He returns in the sequel for a cameo where he peddles his toxin as drugs.
  • Doctor Jack Grefe from Lovers Lane, one of the film's three killers.
  • Mild example: The shrink in Local Hero brazenly insults client (later former client) Mr. Happer, stopping at nothing to get the message across, looking to confirm some unstated hypothesis of his. Happer eventually calls for him to be shot dead.
  • Blue in Sucker Punch, the male psych nurse in the asylum where Babydoll's father dumped her. Not only is he running something on the side where he fakes papers for Lobotomies for money, he goes even more psycho after Babydoll is lobotomized, and it creeps him out so much he doesn't even want to rape her like he was planning on doing.
  • Dr. Robert Elliot (Michael Caine) in Brian De Palma's 1980 film Dressed To Kill.
  • Mel Brooks' High Anxiety. Nurse Diesel and Dr. Montague of the Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous are dangerously insane. They hire a killer to murder anyone who gets in their way.


Literature

  • Dr von Blimenstein in Tom Sharpe's novel of apartheid South Africa, Indecent Exposure, who applies two different clinical standards depending on whether she's dealing with white or black mental illness.
  • Peter Teleborian from The Millennium Trilogy was Lisbeth Salander's state assigned childhood therapist. He reported that she was a seriously disturbed sociopath and a danger to society, and testifies to that to the police and in court, but while Salander was indeed disturbed she was no sociopath- he gave that report because she refused to speak to him, and resisted her attempts to control him, to which he responded by strapping her to her bed for days on end, and psychologically torturing her. He's also a pedophile and its implied that he had been abusing most of the other children in his care, and he's arrested after the police find thousands of child pornography photos on his computer. He is probably the person who did the most damage to Salander's life which, given all the horrible people she had in that life, really is saying something.
  • Dr. Hilarius in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. Prescribes and takes massive doses of LSD. Has other issues as well.
  • Hannibal Lecter almost goes without saying. Lecter, the brilliant, cultured, refined and charming psychiatrist and Renaissance Man, and also Ax Crazy cannibalistic Serial Killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper and, later, Hannibal the Cannibal. He murdered one patient and fed him to his dinner guest because of his terrible flutist skills (though he was also apparently tired of his whining in sessions), and another he drugged and convinced to slash his own face with a piece of glass and feed the flesh to his dogs; though, granted, the first was a Jerkass Victim and the second was a psychopathic pedophile. He had dozens of other victims, but its unlikely any of the rest were his patients.
  • Dr. Mark Ahriman in False Memory by Dean Koontz fits the bill. He mind rapes his patients into committing crimes/very creative suicides, and occasionally actually rapes them. It's all for his own entertainment. He also has an obsession with eyes, tears, and misery in general. When his victims cry, he licks their tears.
  • Rare example of the Harmful Shrink as one of the good guys: Dr. Vail, psychologist for Dream Park in The Barsoom Project, lacks empathy and is willing to risk others' sanity in order to protect the Park (because where else would he have absolute control of subjects' experiences?). Be very glad he's on the hero's side, because what he does to the villains in the end ain't pretty....
  • Psychiatrist William Haber in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. He also appears in the Film of the Book.
  • Doctor Gordon in The Bell Jar, who behaves indifferent and cold to Esther in her therapy sessions and ultimately botches electroshock therapy, giving her a traumatic fear of the procedure. Based on the author's real-life experiences.
  • Dr Myra Lark in "You Don't Have To Be Mad..." and other Diogenes Club stories by Kim Newman. Described in the character sheet of Secret Files of the Diogenes Club as more interested in the uses of the mentally disturbed than in curing them. Also her superior in "You Don't Have To Be Mad..." Dr. I. M. Ballance.
  • Dr. John "Night Tripper" Havilland in Because the Night by James Ellroy, who manipulates his patients into both suicide and murder For the Evulz.
  • Flenser in A Fire Upon the Deep is the psychological equivalent of an Evilutionary Biologist, thanks to the hive-minded nature of his species. He creates hive-minds of every possible configuration in order to see what will happen to their members, and the result is usually temporary or permanent psychological damage. He does take his science seriously though--he's willing to raise a new mind entirely on positive reinforcement, not out of any love for it, but because he's genuinely curious what effects such an upbringing will have.
  • Dr. Holmes and Dr. Bradshaw, the psychologists in Mrs. Dalloway, end up as this from different angles, and they're easily the most despicable characters in the book.
  • John Melvin from Sunny Randall's Shrink Rap, who lures women into relationships with them before he kills them.
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has nurse Ratched. The Black Boys are not quite mental health professionals, but their jobs involve working with mentally ill people, and they may need help a lot worse than the patients.
  • Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger has a relatively light-hearted example: Doctor Pickell aka Doctor "Pickle" thanks to his pickle ornament. Pickell uses the pickle to hypnotize people to get rid of the problems they go to him to treat, but he also implants a Trigger Phrase that gives them entirely new issues just For the Evulz.

 He cured people with sick minds. Although Doctor Pickle had a pretty sick mind himself.


Live Action TV

  • In Dexter Dr. Emmett Meridian is a psychiatrist who subtly manipulates his patients, all women, and convinces them to kill themselves. Of course, Dexter signs up for a session with him to get closer and finds himself revealing more about himself than he initially intended.
  • The unsub in the Criminal Minds episode "Scared To Death," who murders his patients using their worst fears.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus had several sketches with psychiatrists, most of them mad.
    • Hamlet meets a series of fake psychiatrists who only want to talk about sex ("You've got her legs up on the mantelpiece...").
    • A milkman psychiatrist who makes pat diagnoses of patients' problems without first obtaining their full medical history.
    • Mr. Larch, a psychiatrist who calls himself on the phone.
  • In an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, there was a psychiatrist that manipulated his patients into investing stock for another patient of his. He even managed to manipulate one into killing himself.
    • Another one had a therapist who gave a paranoid but harmless man a form of "therapy" that basically amounted to torture, turning him into a homicidal psychotic.
    • In an episode of Law and Order SVU a man is beaten so hard his testicles rupture by his son's school guidance counselor, on the grounds that he had not accepted his son's transsexuality.
  • Forever Knight had yet another therapist who hypnotized her patients into committing homicide. (The painting of Bedlam in her waiting room was a tip-off something was wrong.)
  • Dr. Foster from Skins is a particularly extreme example, seeing as he's a Stalker with a Crush wants to break Effy Stonem down to virtually a Blank Slate to rebuild as he likes.
  • A few episodes of Murder, She Wrote had them, sometimes as the murderer, sometimes as a Red Herring. Others had Type 2s set up to look like Type 1s as a Red Herring.
  • In the Columbo pilot the first murderer is a psychiatrist who seduces one of his patients, an actress, and convinces her to be his accomplice in the murder of his wife. He is one of the few to catch on to Columbo's act of Obfuscating Stupidity and the only one to do so almost immediately. In a conversation with Columbo, he comes across as a Nietzsche Wannabe as he implies that he thinks of himself as a kind of Ubermensch who was entitled to kill his wife because he could get away with it; he later admits that he would probably have killed his accomplice girlfriend at some point too, and perhaps continue the pattern of murder that he had begun, making him Serial Killer in the making.
    • See also the episode A Deadly State Of Mind: A hypnotherapist kills his patient/lover's husband to protect the book he is writing using her, then has her cover for him--even "implanted" instructions in her mind during a therapy session. Yeah, it's Hollywood Hypnosis, but still.
  • Dr. Maggie Walsh in season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Dr. Anson Fullerton on Burn Notice, leader of the conspiracy that burned Michael. He was a CIA psychiatrist, and built up a network of burned spies in order to do off the books operations. He also used his psychology skills to great effect in manipulating people, particularly Michael.
  • The Supernatural episode "Asylum" features the ghost of one of these, who haunts his old asylum and induces insanity in anyone who he touches.
  • Lie to Me episode "Do No Harm" where a psychiatrist kidnaps a few children who where her clients.


Music

  • The title character from "Dr. Jerome, Love Tub Doctor" by The Bogmen, who uses psychotherapy, hypnosis and a hot-tub to seduce patients.
  • Suggested with Dr. X from Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime" album, although it's unclear if he actually has any claim to the "doctor" title or is just a self-taught brainwasher.


Oral Tradition

 Psychiatrist: ...But of course he's nuts. Because the REAL Napoleon Buonaparte is ME!

Psychiatrist: ...What, you eat coffee cups for breakfast and only leave the handles? My, my, you must be mentally ill, because the handle is the tastiest bit!

  • In Polish stock jokes (at least Andrzej Sapkowski's stories mentioned it as such) "What's the difference between..." riddle says that the difference between an asylum's staff and patients is that the former get to sleep at their own homes.


Theatre

  • Dr. Rook, the jailhouse shrink in One Touch of Venus, is not as harmful as the police lieutenant wants him to be, but still somewhat hostile and a little insane.

 Rodney: I'm not the loony one--you are!

Rook: That's what they all say.

  • In The Physicists the head of the sanitorium (Fraulein Doktor Mathilde von Zahnd) is revealed to be this.


Video Games

  • One of the main villains in LA Noire, Dr. Harlan Fontaine, is shown to be a brilliant psychologist and "doctor to the stars". However, when one of Dr. Fontaine's students, Courtney Sheldon, is in a fix and wondering what to do with some military surplus morphine, he says he'll take the morphine off his hands and of course, he gives the money he receives from it to a corrupt conspiracy that has people burning down housing estates to collect the insurance money. He also forces an ex-patient to burn down two families' houses, forcing them to sell their land.
  • The villain in Bioshock 2 is Dr. Sofia Lamb, a brilliant psychiatrist who believes Utopia Justifies the Means and that Individuality is the root of all evil. She uses her skills to manipulate patients and the entire city of Rapture into becoming part of the "Rapture Family," which is just an elaborate ruse designed to obscure the fact that she's using the inhabitants to further her crazy agenda.
  • Alice: Madness Returns gives an especially twisted example in Dr Angus Bumby, whose 'therapy' consists of getting his patients to forget their pasts so he can use them as child prostitutes. He also burns down the protagonist's house to cover his tracks after raping her sister. His Karmic Death is entirely justified.
  • Sheng-Ji Yang, the Chairman of Human Hive in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, had an education in psychology (along with many other areas) before the mission's takeoff. He's implied to have used his knowledge to cheat on psychology tests when applying, and that's before starting his personality cult on Planet.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines gives us Alistar Grout, Primogen of Clan Malkavian. He's been spending centuries trying to cure his "unique condition"... and often does it by doing some very non-APA approved research on those with mental disorders. Oh, and he's such an old school shrink, he thinks Freud was too touchy-feely.
  • Batman: Arkham City has Hugo Strange, warden of the titular facility, who experiments on his inmates using dangerous mind control drugs and ultimately aims to massacre all of them in the name of the greater good.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum has Quincy Sharp, author of the Spirit of Arkham messages. He's a schizophrenic who hates the mentally ill, and various atrocities he's committed against the inmates are detailed in the messages.
  • The Loonies in Grand Theft Auto II are leaded by Johnny Rotten, the asylum governor, who's pretty much as insane as his minions.
  • Dr. Killjoy form The Suffering, whose "unorthodox" methods more often than not resulted in death of the patients of the asylum on Carnate Island.
  • Enclave in the Fallout series. Not only did they set up Vault Project only so they could experiment on defenseless populaces, but also conducted pretty horrible experiments after the war.


Western Animation

  • Danny Phantom: The Emotion Eater Spectra disguised herself as a therapist and deliberately made her student patients more miserable in order to feed off their negative emotions.
  • Darkwing Duck saw a therapist at least twice. Both turned out to be Quackerjack in disguise, using it as a ploy to mess with his head.
  • In Batman Beyond there is Spellbinder, who turned out to be the psychiatrist at the main characters high school, who used his position to hypnotize his young patients into aiding him to steal from their wealthy parents
  • Plankton once passed himself off as a psychiatrist as part of a Batman Gambit to get SpongeBob SquarePants to tell him the secret Krabby Patty recipe.
    • That episode was particularly hilarious since Plankton's psychiatrist alias was Peter Lankton or "P. Lankton". Also...

 SpongeBob: Huh, you're shorter than I expected. I guess that's why they call you "a shrink!" (rimshot)

  • In Metalocalypse, after the band gets in a fight on stage, their manager hires Dr. Twinkletits (pronounced "twink-LET-its") to provide group therapy for them, but the doctor goes on to intentionally make them emotionally dependent on him. Midway through the episode, it's revealed that this isn't the first time he's tried to take over a band in this way, and he actually killed the last one, when he calls their corpses to gloat about being hired by the more popular Dethklok.
  • In the South Park episode "City Sushi" Butters gets a therapist due to his supposed multiple personality disorder, who turns out to be both insane and abusive to Butters.


Real Life

  • The Milgram Experiment, though well-intentioned, was (and still is) cited as an example of this trope in a number of criticisms of the field of psychology. The Milgram Experiment was consequently among the causes for greater emphasis on ethical considerations in modern psychological experimentation.
  • Some real-life psychology students reflect this trope, or are at least aware that they have the potential to reflect this trope.
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