In Treatment rocks

I’ve been watching the HBO drama series ‘In Treatment’ as a friend kindly burned it for me. It’s really addictive.

It’s the continuing saga of a beleaguered psychiatrist, played by Gabriel Byrne (that’s him at left), and his patients. Each episode is one patient’s session. Byrne is a very appealing psychiatrist – smart, concerned, insightful…Sign me up for therapy with Gabe! He is maybe 60 but still sexy…

It’s also a very grown-up saga, in that the whole episode is just two people having a conversation. Any sex or violence is only described.

However with my usual cynicism, I just have to punch some holes in this, even as I continue to enjoy the show

Things I find kinda Hollywood

1. All patients are young and beautiful. The age of patients ranges from 16 to mid-thirties. No one is disheveled. Personal grooming and make-up is top notch for patients.

2. All patients are clever and successful. They confidently spar with their therapist and are never intimidated in the least. They describe their lives in engaging detail. Their dilemmas are subtle and have not hindered them from being wildly successful in their lives so far. No patient ever has money worries.

3. No one is depressed. OK, so one patient attempts suicide (in the therapist’s office!). But no one has an air of hopelessness or defeat. All are feisty and sure Gabe’s interpretations are all wrong.

4. When a patient falls in love with the therapist, she is a gorgeous super-model type with a promising medical career in front of her.

5. When his patient confesses her love to Gabe, he confesses to his own therapist his own love for the patient. Transference issues are barely mentioned. (Honestly – this plot line so exasperates me).

6. No patient has anxiety problems that are in any way visible. They are super-confident socially, they don’t worry, they are very very cool.

7. The therapist cares deeply for each and every patient. This is what makes him appealing of course. And anyway, what’s not to like with these ‘super-patients’…

But I like it
But in other respects, the series fascinates me. Problems aren’t resolved in one session, as is the norm for American TV. In fact, it’s not clear that some problems can be solved, at least not by Gabe.

The therapist also has his own pressing problems – his marriage is dissolving, his kids are acting up, his own therapy is not going well. In other words, he is not our perfect hero, and I like him the better for it.

Then the approach is humanist – no one is told that their brain is defective and the solution is a magic prescription which they’ll need to take forever. It’s assumed that conversation can make a difference. It is so much more heartening to believe that we can make some sense of our lives, rather than believe that we are the victims of a bio-chemical malfunction.

I’ll continue to watch In Treatment as long as possible. I’m on episode 33 – Yikes, I’m going to run out of my daily fix of therapy soon!

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