Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Character Therapist Blog

It’s Writer’s Journey Wednesday, and today we’re featuring a unique blog for writers. The Character Therapist was created by writer and licensed therapist, Jeannie Campbell. We invited Jeannie to visit and explain exactly what The Character Therapist offers novelists as they continue on their journey to publication.

Character Therapy: The Basics
by Jeannie Campbell


Character Therapist [kar-ik-ter ther-uh-pist] noun. A person trained in the use of psychological methods for diagnosing and evaluating fictional characters to help authors write more realistically.

This is what I do. So how can you—a published or aspiring writer—and your beloved characters benefit? Rather than tell you, I’ll give you a few examples of the types of questions I field each week.

* “I have the man so tied to his mother that he can't break away from her. Do I need a good reason behind this?”

* “How would compartmentalizing parts of self damage a person? How would the buried parts manifest themselves? How easy would it be to slip up? He's pretended to be someone else for so long...what if he's that new person now, and can't find himself anymore?”

* It was brought to my attention it is against the law for a therapist to date a client for two years or something to that effect, but I took artistic license and played the story out the way I wanted to. Am I staring down the barrel of some serious issues here?

* “Is it feasible for a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome to take a driving test, fail, and then want to take the test again?”

* “If someone has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and they are triggered, would they have ‘panic attacks’ that would send them to the hospital for a few days?”

* What makes a womanizer tick?

* If a child was young when they lost a parent, will they remember the parent? And if not, should they be reminded?

Internal motivations, effects of external conflicts, plot feasibility, character strengths and weaknesses, behavioral manifestations or limitations…a character therapist’s playground.


All I need to work with is a character sketch. I’ve gotten sketches that were a short paragraph to some several pages long. Some of the more fun assessments I’ve posted on my blog were the result of email “sessions” between the author and myself as we delved deeper.

I welcome specific questions, but otherwise, I look at the overall psychological picture. Quirks, pet peeves, family history, hobbies…all these things add up! I might not diagnose every one of the characters I do therapy on, but quite a few of them qualify.

Character therapy is just another tool in your writer’s toolbox to take your writing to the next level. Pick my brain so you don’t have to pick yours.

I look forward to therapizing…er…terrorizing…uh…analyzing your characters!

Jeannie Campbell
is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She received her Masters of Divinity with Specialization in Psychology and Counseling at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and her BA in both psychology and journalism from the University of Mississippi. Her passion is helping those not afflicted with mental disorders to understand and have compassion on those who are. You can find her at The Character Therapist (where she posts Treatment Tuesdays and Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts) and her writing blog, Where Romance Meets Therapy.


  1. Oh! I have a character that is giving me fits right now. I'm going to have to email you about her. :) I'm trying to decide how she would react to certain situations. I'll be in touch. :)

  2. Jeannie has great posts, and there is always something in them that sparks an idea for one of my stories. Glad you featured her here.

  3. Jeannie, thanks so much for visiting. The characters that baffle me are the ones furthest from my own experience. That's when the therapist's couch would come in handy! Glad to know you're there.

    :) Annette

  4. for some reason my earlier comment didn't go through (?)

    i was glad to be here, annette and dawn! thanks for inviting me.

    Eileen - thanks for the kind comments. :)

    lynnette - i'll definitely do what i can to help!


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