HBO’s new show, In Treatment, after a good start, is beginning to go down the tired road of most TV portrayals of psychotherapy. The therapist is as crazy as his clients, if not more so. He’s incapable of handling the attractive narcissistic young woman who has an "erotic transference" with anything close to honesty or skill. He’s hugely defensive with his wife and his therapist, showing no insight into his own process. Yada, yada, yada. Same old thing.
And I’m absolutely addicted to this show. Monday through Friday, from 9:30 to 10, I get to watch someone else’s therapy sessions. And his clients are pretty wild. This week Paul’s Monday narcissist, after being romantically spurned by by him, and ineptly asked to consider if she’d like to leave therapy, seduces the Tuesday PTSD client. This plot seemed vaguely familiar. . . Tony Soprano seduces and later kills the borderline client of Dr. Melfi in the 4th or 5th year. . .In 30 years of practice, I’ve never had an existing client start to date another client. I’m obviously not doing it right.
There is one good therapy: Sophie, the Wednesday client, is a 16 year old, suicidal gymnast, who is way too involved with her coach and his family, and way too ignored by her depressed mom and narcissitic, absent father. Paul handles her beautifully. I’d use her therapy, at least so far, as a training video. He has boundaries, humor, connection, and true caring for this girl. He handles her evasions and confrontations skillfully. He’s just about perfect with her. This being TV, I fear that Sophie will be dead by the end of the series.
In Treatment is taken, sometimes session by session, from an Israeli TV program. It has Israeli producers and writers. Some parallels are obvious. The black, perfectionistic, aggressive Iraq war pilot who inadvertently bombed a madrassa and killed 16 children, could easily have an Israeli counterpart. I imagine that his most chilling family story (his father strangled the grandfather while trying to keep him quiet when the Klan invaded their home) started as a Holocaust story. All the clients are loud, confrontive, and combative. They all constantly interrupt the therapist. Each characters is much more a bold Israeli than an overly nice American.
I’m going to watch until the end. I posted my advice to the therapist a few weeks ago, but it somehow got deleted. I may consult to him again.