A Cultural Analysis of Psychologist Boundary Violations

Film and television portray mental health professionals as willing to violate doctor-patient boundaries based on the amount of time spent with the patient. The way mental health is portrayed and perceived grows increasingly important today. Furthermore, film and television hold great influence over the opinions of the masses. This project’s aim is to investigate the most common violations of mental health professionals in film, what practicing professionals think of these portrayals, and finally the impact these inaccurate portrayals have on the masses. I have conducted a cultural analysis of psychologist boundary violations. First, I reviewed numerous movies and television episodes that focus on a mental health professional. I then reviewed which boundaries are crossed most often and determined the effect the amount of time spent with the patient has on these violations. I then researched the effects and consequences these portrayals have on the perceptions of the masses. Finally, I spoke to a mental health professional to gain more insight. I concluded that contradictory to reality, mental health professionals in film often violate boundaries with the intention of helping their client and the outcome is almost always pleasant. Unfortunately, these inaccurate portrayals negatively impact people’s perception of mental health professionals.