Iowa State University psychologists David Vogel and Douglas Gentile and graduate student Scott Kaplan studied 369 Iowa State students to see how television shows may contribute to negative perceptions about psychological services.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, found TV exposure was related to perceptions of the stigma associated with seeking mental health help.
"Generally, it seems like therapists are portrayed unethically -- like sleeping with the client, or implanting false memories, or talking about their clients outside the session," Vogel said in a statement. "These are things that almost never happen with real therapists, but on a show -- because they're probably more exciting -- they happen more frequently."
But it's not just the portrayal of the therapists -- often are portrayed as buffoons -- that may be keeping people out of therapy, the portrayal of the clients is probably as bad or worse, Vogel said.
"Why would you seek therapy if you believe you're going to be perceived negatively and you're going to see someone who's incompetent and not able to help you?" Vogel asked.