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 first appeared on March 27, 1959, and 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 is normally how Lucy answers every problem and her advice normally makes Charlie Brown feel worse about himself.
Sometimes her 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", 5, Snoopy, Sally, and Woodstock have also appeared at the booth. (Although in later years, Sally mostly talked about her problems with the school building instead).
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 A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy reverses the placard from displaying its "Out" side to reveal the words "Real In", perhaps a reference to the "hip" culture that was in full swing in the mid-1960s when the special first aired or meaning "really in" (not just "in") because she 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 eight years old) she is obviously lying.
Her fee always remained a constant five cents a session for the entire run of the strip, except two strips where she raises it to seven cents for "seasonal rates". Snoopy has apparently competed with her 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.)
Although the booth is almost always used as a psychiatric booth, sometimes, Lucy temporarily transforms it into something else. In a strip May 27, 1968, she starts selling something 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, it is transformed into a travel agency, which Lucy uses to help Schroeder.
Lucy's booth appears in A Charlie Brown Christmas where she first tries to gauge Charlie Brown's fears (eventually confirming that he has pantophobia, the fear of everything) and then suggests he direct the school play, hoping getting involved in an activity will help his Christmas anxiety. (One of the rare times she tries to give helpful advice.)
In the later special, It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown, Lucy uses it as a "courtroom" and appoints herself the judge. In this special, the booth's sign can be changed with a rotating lever.