6 Great Mental Health Moments in BoJack Horseman’s 6th Season

Katie Gordon

Katie Gordon

Katie Gordon is a licensed clinical psychologist, writer, and co-host of the Jedi Counsel Podcast which discusses the science of psychology & mental health through fictional characters, current events, & interviews. You can follow her on Twitter at @DrKathrynGordon.

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8 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I appreciate this article, but I feel like some of the quotes you’re pulling have meanings deeper than simply therapy; in particular, they relate to meaning, to modern nihilism. The question of what’s the point of going through therapy and building this toolbox and becoming a person who can cope with adult existence when there’s no point to that existence? If you find a place where you can stand up and look at your life clear-eyed and unafraid, and what you see is someone who’s spent forty-plus years waiting for it to be Time To Get Something Done–and waiting not because of fear of moving, or incapability, but simply because nothing ever came along?

    Like, maybe I have the tools to build a roof to keep the rain out, but it’s still raining out.Report

    • Thanks for reading, and I think your point is totally valid. I tended to focus through a simpler therapy lens here, but there is so much going on in the show that goes well beyond that, including the larger point you’re making.Report

  2. I haven’t seen the show (and may not), but I enjoyed this post (and the last one I read, about the movie “Joker”).

    Because I haven’t seen the show, I have a couple follow up questions about no. 6. Does Bojack (or any of the other characters) find themselves leaning too heavily on therapy, so that they want to keep doing it long after they need to? Conversely, do characters ever try to quit therapy only to be talked out of it by the therapist?

    Of course, by asking these questions, I’m also fishing for your thoughts on terminating therapy, should you have any you wish to share. But if not, that’s okay.

    (Finally, I should be clear about where I’m coming from. I have very mixed feelings about most forms of mental health therapy that I, as a layperson, am aware of. I’m also not 100% sure how well it works, or if it does work. There’s also a weird set of power relations. Some are acknowledged, and some not. There’s a social class issue involved, too. I’m not against therapy, however. I’ve been a client, and am not opposed to others doing it. I should add that if I “have” any bona fide mental illness, it’s probably sub-clinical. So obviously my mixed feelings might not scale with others’ experiences. Finally I should admit that I embrace certain attitudes toward science that other people sincerely believe are “anti-scientific.” I disagree with them, but acknowledge that I give that impression.)Report

    • Thank you, Gabriel – so glad you enjoyed the posts!

      Most of the characters are pretty reluctant to engage in therapy, and we don’t see much therapy except for when BoJack is in rehab. He dislikes it at first, but then likes the routine, and enjoys staying away from his problems and the reminders of the horrible things he’s done in the past. I like that the therapist urges him out when he’s ready. He tells him to leave residential treatment, but encourages him to continue outpatient treatment (e.g., with a psychiatrist). The first part of treatment for him is helping him to be well, gain insight, and develop coping skills, but his therapist seems to recognize that staying any longer would be driven by BoJack’s desire for avoidance, which would be unhealthy.

      I’m happy to share my thoughts on treatment termination – I co-wrote an article on it in grad school: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/eead/3954e38df2253faa5be0aaa0645793998fec.pdf. Basically, the gist is that a reasonable time for treatment termination is when goals have been met, there’s persistent symptom decrease that’s stable over time, life quality and meaning improve, functioning and relationships improve, and the person can attribute this to new skills learned or changes made (rather than random fluctuation). Another big sign is if they effectively cope with challenges during previously high-risk times (e.g., did they make it through a stressful situation without drinking because of their new skills? did they manage their anger in a healthy way as opposed to previous times?).

      These are good thoughts to have about the complexities of therapy, and I appreciate you raising them. I think that therapy effectiveness varies a lot depending on the person and the situation and type of treatment, but that it can help people make desired, positive changes in their lives. I think that therapists vary in their ability and fit with clients and that you’re right that there are power and other types of dynamics therapists should be aware of and address, as relevant.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments – I hope I addressed some of them, but if not, feel free to let me know.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I am very much not a fan of the show Big Mouth but I (hate)read a synopsis of one of the episodes that I found surprisingly moving.

    The “Depression Kitty” is a giant cat that shows up and says “hey, we’ll just sit in a dark room and have half-melted ice cream and we’ll turn Friends on and we don’t even have to face the television… we can just listen to Friends and drink our ice cream.”

    And, at first, this is vaguely comforting. Then the character wants to stop but the giant cat just lays on top of the character and the character has to call out to (real) friends for help.

    Which was surprisingly insightful.Report