As fans of TV, we watch the shows, we laugh at the characters’ shenanigans, and we shake our heads at their nuttiness—but now it’s time to actually help them be emotionally stable people. Join actual therapist and pop culture addict Emily Gordon as she breaks all her ethical standards and lets you peek at the case notes for some of your favorite characters.
Presenting Problem: Jeff Winger, a student, came to the Student Health Center complaining that a recent sequence of events had inspired him to sign up for an extraneous course, throwing off his “four-year plan” of graduating on May 23, 2013 (see Episode 123, "English as a Second Language"). Jeff was initially excited about this plan, but is now “freaking out” that he will not be able to graduate in the time he has allotted himself, causing feelings of intense anxiety.
Jeff presents as a well-dressed, well-groomed man interested in appearing younger and looking “cool” (see Episode 116, "Physical Education"). He wears expensive clothes and clearly works out (see Episode 116, "Physical Education," and Episode 122, "Modern Warfare"). He presents himself as charming and easygoing, though he often visibly struggles with anxious thoughts. He seemed uncomfortable during the session and often qualified his thoughts with “I really don’t need to see a therapist, I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
History: Occupationally, Jeff successfully practiced law for several years before he was disbarred upon the discovery that his college degree was invalid. He places a lot of value on his former lifestyle and brings it up constantly. He has had some financial trouble due to his disbarment, and when he was evicted from his apartment (Episode 107, "Home Economics"), he lived in his car rather than ask others for help. Socially, Jeff seems to have several friends that he is loyal to despite often attempting to use them for his own gain, like convincing a friend to play football against his best interests in order for Jeff to have his face removed from a promotional flyer for the school (see Episode 105, "Football, Feminism, and You"). Over and over, Jeff learns to value his friends, only to forget that lesson and have to relearn it. Jeff has reported having trouble in romantic relationships, often focusing on “mindless flings” (see Episode 117, "Basic Genealogy") and chasing women who are unattainable to him (see entire series) rather than developing real connections. When questioned about his family history, Jeff is nonforthcoming, only admitting that he grew up in a home where he was pampered and told that he was the best at everything (see Episode 118, "Beginner Pottery").
Initial Thoughts on Diagnosis: Given Jeff’s upbringing, it is not surprising that he is dismayed, confused, and angry about his current lifestyle. His obsession with status symbols, success, and power, as well as his pervasive belief that he is entitled to more than others, points to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is qualified by his lack of empathy towards others, even those he cares about, as well as his willingness to exploit his friends and family.
Recommendations: At this point, the recommendation is continued sessions with Jeff in order to explore more fully his ideas about how and why he is “special” or “different.” Behaviors that support him showing empathy will be rewarded and reinforced, and Jeff will be confronted with how his actions affect others. This will include exploring the idea that Jeff continually hurts and manipulates others so that he can later solve all of their problems and be the hero. It is possible that he finds validation in making himself necessary to those around him.
Presenting Problem: Kenneth Ellen Parcell, NBC Page, was recommended for treatment by his coworkers, who reported feeling increasingly uncomfortable with his behavior. Kenneth himself doesn’t think he needs to be in counseling at all, and instead was quite interested in finishing the session and getting back to his page duties as soon as possible. Kenneth presents as a clean-cut young man with an intense smile and relentless optimism. He came into my office wearing his page uniform despite the fact that he had the day off. Though he answered all questions asked of him, Kenneth remained incredibly closed off and expressed no emotion other than enthusiasm. When asked what he enjoyed, Kenneth would only say “everybody and television” (see "Believe in the Stars").
History: Kenneth’s life history is spotty at best, as he appears to have experienced far too much for someone his age. His parents raised him in Georgia, until the passing of his pig farmer father left him to be raised by his mother alone. Kenneth is extremely attached to his mother. He has family members with a history of violence, namely a cousin that kidnapped a TV star and attempted to assault him (see "Hiatus"). He attended Kentucky Mountain Bible College, where he studied television theory (see "The C Word"). Though Kenneth appears to be a young man, there are several clues that point to him being much older, including the fact that he owns a bird he’s had for 60 years (see "Cutbacks"), and appearing on a dance TV show in the 1950s (see "Into the Crevasse"). Kenneth is incredibly religious and has a very strict and narrow view of the world around him, dividing things into good and evil. He also reports that he has a disease that causes him to have “donkey spells” if he doesn’t take medication, but the medication, when checked, was shown to be Tic Tacs (see "Future Husband").
Initial Thoughts on Diagnosis: There is grave concern about the health and safety of both Kenneth and the people around him. Kenneth’s demeanor, confusion over his own age and history, and apparent hallucinations (when asked how he sees the world around him, Kenneth described a scene from Sesame Street, with his coworkers appearing as Muppets that sing and dance; see "Apollo") indicate serious mental illness). His twin obsessions with television and religion point to a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Disorganized Type. This diagnosis is supported by his odd, inappropriate affect, i.e., laughing and smiling at strange things, and expressing odd thoughts.
Recommendations for Treatment: At this point, the recommendation is that Kenneth be hospitalized for further testing. His obsession with his menial job and his coworkers causes concern for the safety of those around him. Jack Donaghy, Vice President of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming for General Electric, has said of Kenneth that “in five years we'll all either be working for him... or be dead by his hand.” While hospitalized, Kenneth will undergo tests to determine his age and neural health, and at that point, we will re-evaluate and create a treatment plan that focuses on heavy medication.