How many of you have been watching the award-winning HBO Series, “In Treatment” with Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, and John Mahoney? This HBO series is currently near the beginning of its second season, centered around how Dr. Paul Weston (Byrne) conducts therapy sessions with four different clients, and then his own individual therapy process with his own therapist, Dr. Gina Toll (Wiest).
In my opinion, the “In Treatment” series is more accurate about the layered complications of the therapy process than the brief bits of therapy shown in Showtime’s “United States of Tara”. The snippets shown of Tara’s therapy were with an overwhelmed, under-trained, uneducated wimp of a therapist. I suppose it is true that all too many therapists are overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with the healing process for trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Hopefully a referral to a more specialized trauma therapist in season two of Tara will lead to deeper, more meaningful presentations of her therapy process.
With the “In Treatment” series, the clients present with relateable issues, and the therapists become real people – likeable, emotional, genuine, flaws and all.
“In Treatment” shows how therapy is different from person to person. While staying the same, the room “changes” and feels different and unique to each client. The therapists and their rooms are the same from session to session and client to client, and yet they become totally different places as each individual client comes in, exposing his or her own life, pain, feelings, energy, thoughts, and emotion.
It shows how the therapy process challenges therapists to be their best selves at all times, as impossible as that might be.
It shows how much people actually say about themselves when someone is listening closely to what is being said. And it shows how much people do not listen to their own selves, and how they don’t hear the words that come out of their own mouths.
It shows how families speak to each other – or not. And how helpful family members can be to each other – or not. And how loving, kind, supportive, and caring family members can be to each other – or not.
It shows how people wrestle with their emotions, their feelings, their realities, and the denial of those realities. It shows their emotional conflict, turmoil, grief, depression, anxiety, suicidal actions, passive suicidal feelings, anger, panic, fear, dismay, agony, self-harm motives, struggles with life and death.
It shows how the therapy process, while focused around the expression of words and feelings, can be enhanced by paying close attention to the communication from the physical body itself, which sometimes says more than clients can put into words.
It shows how therapists get invested in their clients, and how they build connections and bonds with their clients. The caring can be a real thing.
It shows how important it is for clients to make their own life-decisions, how much people wrestle with their own life decisions, and how quickly therapists get blamed when these decisions do not work out as hoped.
It shows how tender and fragile people can be, even when they outwardly appear to be strong, powerful, and in control.
It shows the importance of being heard, understood, listened to, and recognized as a worthwhile person, first by others, and then by yourself.
These television shows can lead to a lot of personal thinking and reassessment about your own therapy process, your relationship with your therapist, and how your life is changing and progressing. How do you relate to what you are seeing “In Treatment”?
* What is your therapy process like?
* How is your therapy impacting your life?
* Do you see your therapist as human as Dr. Weston presents in “In Treatment”?
* Do you blame your therapist when your life plans do not work out as hoped?
* Is your therapist as central to your life as presented in these series?
* Are you more attached to your therapist or to your therapy process?
* What would you do if you realized how human and flawed your therapist is?
* Do you expect your therapist to be something more than a real person?
Kathy Broady LCSW