Lucy's psychiatry booth is a running gag in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. In a parody of the lemonade stands which are operated by many young children in the United States, Lucy van Pelt operates a psychiatric booth. Other characters come to it to tell Lucy their problems. She responds by spouting useless advice.
The psychiatric booth is a prime example of the more adult-oriented humor that Schulz incorporated into his comic strip, making it accessible to people of all ages.
The booth's very first appearance was not in the strip itself, but in the back cover illustration of the appropriately-titled reprint collection You're Out of Your Mind, Charlie Brown!, published in February 1959. The booth's debut in the strip proper came shortly afterward on March 27, 1959, as a one-off event at the time, since it did not appear again until January 28, 1961, nearly two years later. The price for advice has typically been a nickel, although it has varied throughout the strip's history.
Lucy's advice is almost always useless. For instance, the first time Charlie Brown goes to Lucy's booth and tells her that he has deep feelings of depression, Lucy replies, "Snap out of it! Five cents, please." That typifies how Lucy answers every problem and her advice normally makes Charlie Brown feel worse about himself.
Sometimes Lucy's advice is unorthodox but still useless and likely made up. For example, in one strip her advice to Charlie Brown, who claims he is depressed, is "go home and eat a jelly-bread sandwich folded over". Only rarely does she try to give useful advice, like the short series of strips where she counsels Snoopy about his fear of the dark. (And even then, she garnishes his supper dish after he cannot pay her.)
Charlie Brown and Linus are probably Lucy's most frequent customers but Schroeder, Frieda, "Pig-Pen", Shermy, Patty, Violet, Rerun, 5, Snoopy, Sally, and Woodstock have also appeared at the booth. (Although in strips from later years, Sally mostly talks about her problems with the school building instead.) Lucy even consults herself at her own booth in two strips, holding both sides of the conversation at once. (Ironically, in one of them, her "doctor self", tells her "patient self", "You're cracking up!")
In one strip Lucy has Snoopy fill in for her when she takes a day off, and in another, Schroeder does so; but neither do any better than she does. Snoopy falls asleep while Charlie Brown is talking to him, while Schroeder's "advice" to him is, naturally, to go home and listen to classical music.
Beginning with the strip of May 4, 1961, a sign on the front of the booth declares that "The Doctor is" in or out, depending on if Lucy wants to take problems or not. In the strip of July 31, 1965, when Schroeder substitutes for Lucy, and later that year with Lucy herself in the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas, the signage reads "Real In", perhaps a reference to the "hip" culture that was in full swing in the mid-1960s or, in Schroeder's case, a reference to "musicians' slang", and even, in the TV special, possibly meaning "really in" (not just "in") because Lucy is anxious for business (in keeping with the program's theme of the commercialization of Christmas). The title panel of one Sunday strip shows Lucy chewing gum, and the sign reads "The Doctor is Preoccupied."
Lucy claims to have a license to practice psychology, but due to her horrible advice (and the fact that she is only a little girl) she is obviously lying. Furthermore, psychology and psychiatry are two different disciplines.
Lucy's fee always remained a constant five cents a session for almost the entire run of the strip. A major exception occurred in a storyline from January 1964 in which she showed Charlie Brown all of his faults in a slide presentation. Her subsequent bill included 43 dollars for expenses incurred, plus 100 dollars as her "personal fee", leading Charlie Brown to scoff indignantly, "'Five cents'! HA! That's a laugh!" Apart from this instance, there were two strips where she raised her fee to seven cents for "seasonal rates"; on January 28, 1979 her fee was 25 cents for the one occasion; and during 1981 a temporary inflationary spiral sent her price up to 10 cents, then 34 cents, and finally 50 cents, before returning to the standard five cents afterward.
Snoopy has apparently competed with Lucy twice, in one strip setting up a booth that offers "Friendly Advice" for two cents, and in another strip charging only one cent to "Hug a Warm Puppy". (The expression on Lucy's face in the latter suggests she was losing business from him there.) In Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?, Snoopy takes over the psychiatric booth when Lucy moves away. Snoopy presents a more serious appearance than Lucy, dressing like an actual doctor. Snoopy charges much more than Lucy, 50 cents, which causes Charlie Brown to exclaim "Good grief!" However, Lucy takes back the booth when her family returns.
Although the booth is almost always used as a psychiatric booth, sometimes Lucy temporarily transforms it into something else. In the strip of May 27, 1968, she starts selling a food item called "Goop" for five cents a bowl. Snoopy doesn't like it, but Charlie Brown needs it; after another failed attempt to introduce himself to the Little Red-Haired Girl, he says that "a good way to forget a love affair is to eat a lot of goop!" In the strip from July 22, 1980, the booth is transformed into a travel agency, which Lucy uses to help Schroeder.
In It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown, Lucy uses her booth as a "courtroom" and appoints herself the judge. In this special, the booth's sign can be changed with a rotating lever, and her rate for legal cases is two cents more than psychiatric help, at seven cents.