Media Watch Committee Awards Golden Psi to Law & Order: SVU

Adam R. Fisher, MA

2013 was the 15th year the Media Watch Committee has monitored portrayals of mental health professionals in film, theater, video games, and on television.  Every year the committee works through a process of nominating potential candidates and rating each in a variety of areas including ethics, accuracy, portrayal of positive psychology, and criticisms.  For 2013, there was one recipient of the Golden Psi award, from TV sub-domain.  The following episodes from Law & Order: SVU, Season 15 were recognized: Imprisoned Lives (aired 9/25/13), American Tragedy (aired 10/2/13), and Dissonant Voices (aired 11/6/13).

In each episode, actor Bill Irwin plays Dr. Lindstrom who sees one of the main characters, Sergeant Benson, for ongoing therapy sessions related to her struggles after surviving some traumatic events.  The portrayal of Dr. Lindstrom in these episodes is subtle and does not fall into typical stereotypes of mental health professionals often seen in fictional media texts.  He comes across as neither a miracle worker nor an incompetent quack, but rather as a competent professional doing his job.  Based on input in both nominations and ratings from the sub-domains of the Media Watch Committee, this portrayal was chosen as the only one that met a high standard.  Notably, this is the second time Law & Order: SVU has been awarded the Golden Psi, as it received the award in 2004 for two episodes from season 5.

For more information on the Media Watch Committee, please contact a committee co-chair (Ryan Niemiec or Adam Fisher) or check out the Facebook page, Psychology on Screen. 2014 is shaping up as a busy year for the committee with a new couples therapy show in the fall, Good Session, starring James Roday (Psych), Mandy Moore, and Tracey Ullman.

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