Is Dr. Peep — Big Little Lies' Newest Therapist — a Hell Yes or a Hell No in Child Psychiatry?

If you still haven’t recovered from meeting the newest character on HBO’s Big Little Lies, Dr. Peep, Amabella’s cosplaying therapist — hey, it’s okay. You’re not alone. We too are shook. Like, seriously shook. Upon seeing Episode 3 of Season 2 of BLL, we immediately shot to our laptops, hives popping up all over our bodies, to research whether or not there are, in fact, licensed child psychologists wearing freaking Little Bo Peep outfits.

In case you don’t watch Big Little Lies, well, we could judge you for that, but instead we’ll cut to the chase as clearly and succinctly. Dr. Peep — dressed full-out as Little Bo Peep, sporting a ruffled, baby-blue, disturbingly sexy-short frock, gripping a shepherd’s crook — made an appearance as Laura Dern’s character’s daughter’s in-house therapist. Dr. Peep was played by bad-ass actor Kerri Kenney, and her big BLL debut was, uh, really something. Like, it was a MOMENT IN TIME. And it left us — and many, many other viewers — wondering what the writers might have been smoking when they devised this particular character:

In the scene in question, the self-designated Dr. Peep refuses a sleepover with her client — the Kleins’ young daughter, Amabella — after having “so much fun.” So… that’s good, right? Boundaries, yay! But then Dr. Peep tells Amabella that the reason she can’t sleep over is that she really, really has to get back to her sheep. Because sheepherding.

That seems… not so okay, perhaps? Considering this is Monterey in 2019 and there are definitely more seals than sheep, and more Eileen Fishers than, well, Ye Olde Little Bo Peep Frock Shoppes.

When Amabella finally flounces off to watch the sunset on the family’s gazillion dollar deck, Dr. Peep gets real with the Kleins in the living room about what’s really going on with their daughter, letting them know that Amabella is suffering from basic “end of the world” global warming ennui — and her parents’ stress and fighting. That’ll be $400, please. Which insurance? Oh, Dr. Peep doesn’t take that, sorry. She only accepts hay and frilly bonnets.

Seriously, if you don’t watch the show, just absorb the mood below and you’ll be right there with us. Take our hands. Come. We’ve got you.

Um, no lie (big, little, or other), Dr. Peep is also THIS mood:

And a little of this mood:

Yes, yes, we’re not stupid. We know it’s fiction (and damn good, delicious, addictive fiction at that). It’s a freaking TV show that regularly pushes storytelling limits. But we’re parents, okay? Deeply curious, easily freaked-out parents who care a lot about children’s mental health. And we have to know: Are there really cosplaying therapists for children?

And what about trust? Amabella clearly bought the whole act (or pretended to) and was cool with Dr. Peep returning to her flock of sheep. Surely there aren’t actual “character” therapists and this is just a BIG Big Little Lies moment? What about, you know, that pesky thing called reality? Aren’t trust and reality important elements of any therapeutic relationship — especially for kids?

Jennifer Longmore, B.A.S.W., M.Ed., a former Forensic Social Worker and founder of Soul Journeys, spoke exclusively with SheKnows about her take on Dr. Peep. We asked if there were really Dr. Peeps out there, and Longmore replied, “Not that I’m aware of, but if there are, they should be investigated by their governing professional associations.”

Longmore continued, “I interviewed thousands of children who were abused and mistreated by adults they trusted. These perpetrators used child-like behaviors to lure, manipulate, groom and/or make the behavior okay.” She added, “Aside from being gross and highly inappropriate, it confuses children, and at a stage in life where they are trying to discern between fantasy and reality, right and wrong, it can only bewilder the child even more.”

Longmore believes — and yes, we’re getting serious with this, because fiction or not, it’s good to know what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to our kids’ mental health — there are actually potentially devastating ramifications of a cosplaying therapist for kids. Are you listening, Renata Klein? “[There’s] deep-seated mistrust of people in positions of authority, learning to be childlike in order to be heard or valued, even in adulthood, and perpetual questioning of self and reality, just to name a few,” Longmore warned.

Romper also checked in with another pro, Dr. Kathryn Smerling, a practicing family therapist in New York, about her take on Dr. Peep.

“That was hilarious, but I have never in my entire life encountered anything like that. It was unsettling for me to watch,” Dr. Smerling said. “It seemed as though you didn’t know who was the patient and who was the therapist.”

Damn straight, Dr. Smerling.

At the very least, we doubt that fictional Monterey’s (seemingly only other) therapist — you know, the poker-faced one seen by Celeste, and now Madeline and Ed too — will be losing business to Dr. Peep. Dr. Peep seems to be a niche market, and call us boring, but we like our therapists in sensible clothing. We just do. Racked (now defunct) reported on one psychologist’s take on proper therapist attire back in 2017, and we have to say, we may be dull but we’re here for it.

The author of the article, Juli Fraga, was told as a psychology student by her professor, “Don’t wear blouses and skirts with prints or patterns. Plain colors like beige, navy, and white work best. Choose simple accessories like silver stud earrings and small pendants. Never wear black.” Fraga was also warned that wearing patterns and bright colors can distract from a therapeutic relationship — and that sticking with solid neutrals and avoiding black was the way to go, professionally.

To be fair, not everyone was horrified by Dr. Peep and her over-the-top presentation, exactly. Some were just worried about the cost:

Others were pretty down with Dr. Peep and willing to follow her storyline… wherever it might lead. Baaaaaa.

Some folks just want their own special version of Dr. Peep:

And many are left simply asking a lot of existential questions, as are we as parents.

We have reached out to numerous psych providers (not for ourselves, plz, for the ARTICLE — we’re all about you here at SheKnows) to find out if 1) Dr. Peeps actually exist 2) Dr. Peeps can actually be licensed in any state in the nation (licensed as a child psychiatrist and not as, you know, a sex worker in Nevada) 3) If there are any potential benefits — all fiction aside — to a cosplaying mental health provider. No one has taken us up on our offer to quote them on the Dr. Peep situation — yet — but we plan to update this article as soon as more brave psychiatrists of the world step up to educate us on what we saw that now has us locking our bedroom doors at night. Not that it matters, because Dr. Peep has a way of descending the grandiose, brutalistic Klein staircase… right into our nightmares. She’s magic like that.

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