On the Soap Shrink’s Couch: The Young and the Restless’ Katherine Chancellor, Daytime’s Greatest (Though Most Self-Destructive) Dame

By Damon L. Jacobs

When you think of The Young and the Restless’ Katherine “Kay” Chancellor, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  Is it her fiery take-no-prisoners passion?  Is it her unsinkable resilience?  Could it be her sharp tongue or trademark short blonde locks?  I think we can agree she embraces all of these qualities.  But at the same time this “Duchess” can be incredibly vulnerable, sensitive, and arguably the most self-destructive leading lady in daytime history.  How can all these qualities exist in one person?

When we were first introduced to Genoa’s City premier desperate housewife in 1973 (the celebrated Jeanne Cooper has played her since the beginning), she was increasingly using alcohol to numb her pain and despair in her marriage to Phillip II.  This would become a pattern over the next three decades — when the going got

By working through pain and guilt instead of trying to drink them away, Katherine learned that she is strong, she is capable of confronting her inner demons, and that she doesn’t have to do it by herself.

rough, the rough would start drinking.  She drank heavily when Philip turned to her young assistant Jill Foster for sex and intimacy.  She drank when Philip came to her for a divorce.  And tragically she drank heavily when she crashed the car that killed Philip in the passenger seat — thereby sparking the life-long fireworks between herself and Jill (Jess Walton).  This rivalry involved several rounds of blackmail, competing over men, screaming matches, physical fights, and a prolonged custody battle over Philip Jr., the child Jill gave birth to after Philip II died. 

After Philip II’s death, Katherine’s trips to the bottle were few and far between, yet would resurface under emotional duress.  Even in sobriety, however, Kay carried around a sense of nervousness and intensity, single-handedly puttomg the “restless” in Young and Restless.  What was continuing to fuel the angst in this complicated woman?

In my experience, people abuse alcohol when they are either:  A) trying to repress certain feelings;  B) trying to avoid traumatic memories;  C) have an overwhelming need to feel in control of a chaotic situation, or D) all of the above.  Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs never solve these problems, they just push them down so they’re more intense when they surface — similar to trying to hold down an inflated beach ball under water.  With Katherine, we have recently seen the answer as “D”, as more and more skeletons from her past have come to light. 

In the past five years, Katherine has been confronted with not one but two traumatic secrets she had desperately tried to hide from others, and from herself.  The first was the fact that she had given away a baby daughter she had given birth to during the days she and her friend Charlotte were busy sleeping around, or “painting the town red.”  Kay was shocked to learn that this baby had grown up to become her nemesis Jill, and it wasn’t long after this that Katherine once again turned to the bottle to help her cope with these overwhelming revelations.

After completing a stint in rehab, Katherine once again found herself disturbed by intruding thoughts and painful memories which she could not identify.  This time instead of drinking she decided to work through the trauma, and eventually came to recall that she had switched Jill’s baby Philip Jr. at birth with another newborn boy.  Jill’s biological son was later found to be alive and thriving in Australia under the name of Cane Ashby (Daniel Goddard).  By working through the pain and guilt of these disturbing actions instead of trying to drink them away, Katherine learned that she is strong, she is capable of confronting her inner demons, and that she doesn’t have to do it by herself, as Jill ultimately came to accept her and forgive her for her drunken crimes.

Based on how she handled this most recent crisis with Cane, I am hopeful that Katherine may have finally learned the benefits of confronting her problems directly, and sober.  She is going to need to draw upon these strengths soon, as Kay has been mistaken for dead by her friends and family, and all of her estate and belongings have been divided amongst her family and friends.  

I can’t help but wonder, however, what led Katherine to begin abusing alcohol prior to our introduction to her in 1973?  We know through Charlotte Ramsey that Kay had at least one wild year of her life in which she drank frequently. Is there a family history of alcoholism?  Are there still lingering feelings for her gal pal Joanne who left town in 1977? Or is there another secret from her youth that is continuing to get pushed beneath the surface?  What do you think?


Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of the newly published book, Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve.  For more information, go to www.shouldless.com.


  1. Preacher'swife says:

    Catherine is one of the few remaining bright spots on Y&R. Maybe she can straighten out this mess between Nikki & Victor. Did the forget to put heart in Victor’s chest when they supposedly did the transplant? Why else would he be acting so heartlessly?!!!! BTW I think Nikki is Catherine’s daughter.

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