Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Jun 13, 2022

Portrayals of Mental Health and Therapy in the Media: An Interview with Danah Davis Williams, LMFT

Curt and Katie interview Danah Davis Williams, LMFT on the portrayals of mental health and therapy in the media. We explore responsible portrayals as well as the harmful practices that some writers and studios engage in. We also talk about the opportunities for modern therapists to have an impact on how diagnoses and mental health treatment are represented on film and television.

Transcripts for this episode will be available at!

An Interview with Danah Davis Williams, LMFT

Danah Davis Williams is a Licensed Psychotherapist, an Actor, a Psychological Creative Consultant, a Podcast Host and current Past President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).

As a therapist, Danah is in private practice in Santa Barbara, California (California Coastal Counseling) where she specializes in helping people break destructive patterns of coping through the use of practical, evidenced-based coping skills and personal process. She is extensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

As a consultant, Danah provides personalized psychological consultation for filmmakers, executives and creatives committed to socially responsible, captivating storytelling through authentic characterization of mental health, its treatment and interpersonal impact. She runs a psychological consulting business helping entertainment industry leaders ensure accurate representation of mental health: working with filmmakers, writers, execs, and high-profile actors from networks like FX, CBS, ABC, NBC, Freeform and MGM.

Danah is also the host, producer and co-creator of the Reel Psychology Podcast on Fireside, where she and Jon Lee Brody are raising mental health awareness by talking about fictional characters and their mental health.

In this podcast episode, we talk about how the media often portrays mental health

We invited our friend Danah Davis Williams to join us to talk about mental health in the media.

What does the media get wrong when portraying mental health and therapy?

  • Inaccurate portrayals of diagnoses
  • Manipulative or unethical therapists
  • The problems with “guilty pleasures” that include inaccurate or harmful portrayals

“I really feel that one of the ways that we can see more authentic representation is to have more diversity and more people with mental health background in storytelling, in the writers’ rooms, or becoming creators themselves – because people write what they know.” – Danah Davis Williams, LMFT

The opportunities for therapists to be creators and consultants

  • Translating clinical work into consulting and creating
  • Vulnerability when sharing journey as a therapist
  • Using skills from practice building to create opportunities as a creator
  • The process of consultation for scripts and what to consider when providing feedback
  • Ethical thoughts related to representations
  • How to build a network and consulting business

How the storytellers look at mental health and healing

“What I've had multiple times is a filmmaker or studio coming to me, and they're looking for the silver bullet. They have a character that has had some trauma or struggling with a specific diagnosis or relational conflict or what have you. And they want to know, what's the silver bullet, one- or two-page scene that we can include? (And sometimes not even that.) What's the five second dialogue that we can include that shows that they have worked on their mental health, they have recovered, and they are thriving? And it's like, it doesn't work that way.” – Danah Davis Williams, LMFT

  • The silver bullet that “heals” the client
  • Inaccurate portrayals of therapy or healing and the impact on clients
  • Ethics to consider (especially given you’re not acting within your profession with an ethical code)
  • The challenges of unscripted shows

Shows that get it right when it comes to mental health and treatment

  • This is us – Toby
  • Comprehensive and realistic, tapping into lived experience within actors and/or writers
  • The attempts to portray diversity and the experience of marginalized communities and their interaction in the mental health system

Diversifying Media and the Portrayals of Mental Health and Therapy

  • Ava Duvernay’s Array program
  • Michael B Jordan hiring students and mentoring the next generation
  • Decreasing stigma for folks who have not typically sought mental health services

How to advocate for accurate mental health portrayals in the media

  • Calling things out on social media that are good and things that are done poorly (or are harmful)
  • Content creation about shows you watch (like blogs, articles, etc.)
  • Discussing content in sessions to help process what folks are viewing or their own experience
  • Not watching or purchasing tickets to content that is harmful (not reinforcing “guilty pleasures”)




Our Generous Sponsors for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:

GreenOak Accounting

 At GreenOak Accounting, they believe that every private practice should be profitable. They’ve worked with hundreds of practice owners across the country to have the financial confidence and information to make data-driven decisions. We want our client's businesses to be profitable so they can focus on fulfilling their mission.

GreenOak Accounting specializes in working with therapists in private practice, and they have helped hundreds of therapists across the country reach their financial goals. They offer a number of monthly packages to fit a growing practice's needs - from bookkeeping to CFO services. Other specialized services include Profit First Support, compensation planning, and customized KPI Dashboards. They help therapists achieve their clinical goals by making sure they have a profitable practice, and offer unsurpassed support along the way.

If you’re interested in scheduling a complimentary consultation, please visit their website at to learn more.


Thrizer is a new modern billing platform for therapists that was built on the belief that therapy should be accessible AND clinicians should earn what they are worth. Their platform automatically gets clients reimbursed by their insurance after every session. Just by billing your clients through Thrizer, you can potentially save them hundreds every month, with no extra work on your end. Every time you bill a client through Thrizer, an insurance claim is automatically generated and sent directly to the client's insurance. From there, Thrizer provides concierge support to ensure clients get their reimbursement quickly, directly into their bank account. By eliminating reimbursement by check, confusion around benefits, and obscurity with reimbursement status, they allow your clients to focus on what actually matters rather than worrying about their money. It is very quick to get set up and it works great in completement with EHR systems. Their team is super helpful and responsive, and the founder is actually a long-time therapy client who grew frustrated with his reimbursement times The best part is you don't need to give up your rate. They charge a standard 3% payment processing fee!

Thrizer lets you become more accessible while remaining in complete control of your practice. A better experience for your clients during therapy means higher retention. Money won't be the reason they quit on therapy. Sign up using if you want to test Thrizer completely risk free! Sign up for Thrizer with code 'moderntherapists' for 1 month of no credit card fees or payment processing fees! That’s right - you will get one month of no payment processing fees, meaning you earn 100% of your cash rate during that time.


Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!
Danah Davis Williams on Fireside Chat (Reel Psychology Podcast)

Danah on Instagram: @danahdaviswilliams

Danah’s website:

Ava Duvernay’s Array Program

Michael B. Jordan Outlier Society Youth Fellowship

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Therapy with an Audience: An interview with Doug Friedman, LCSW

What Can Therapists Say About Celebrities? The ethics of public statements

Grow Your Impact as a Therapist: An interview with Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT

Reflections on Content Creation and the Therapy Profession

You Do Not Have to be a Thought Leader


Who we are:

Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


Buy Me A Coffee

Podcast Homepage

Therapy Reimagined Homepage






Consultation services with Curt Widhalm or Katie Vernoy:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Connect with the Modern Therapist Community:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group


Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano