In Treatment

About a week ago, I started watching “In Treatment” – not a very original choice for someone undergoing therapy, I know. It’s a really interesting show – you can’t get more character-driven than this – but the first impression was that most of the clients display rather unfriendly and rude behaviour: hardly anyone ever says hello or goodbye, they slam doors, arrive late to or leave early from sessions, they tell the therapist, “I’m paying you 150 dollars per hour, I want a happy session.”

I am aware that for TV you have to dramatize, add interest through interpersonal conflicts. But I am still a little shocked by the general lack of courtesy displayed. Surely one could still entertain a notion of civility and still clash with the therapist on a show?

My therapist and me shake hands at the beginning and end of each session, we greet each other and say goodbye; I try to and so far always have been punctual because he takes his time for me as well, and I acknowledge that by making sure no time is lost or stolen if I can prevent it. I’d never dream of calling him names or attacking him, even if we were of different opinions.

Some of the differences are due to character – I’m not a very confrontational person and it would make me very uncomfortable if I thought my therapist dreaded sessions with me. Part of it might be due to the fact that I actually get treated for a mental health problem, an illness, and that I am immensely grateful that he is helping me to make my life better. All of the clients I saw on “In Treatment” so far had problems in their lives, but none was at the point where they could not function or not keep everyday life going anymore.

As mentioned before, part of the treatment programme is feedback on my behaviour: how I come across, what kind of reaction certain types of body language elicit, what kind of message one sends verbally and nonverbally. It raised my awareness of my own behaviour immensely and maybe it’s not only the difference between my own sessions and those on the series that strikes me as significant, but simply the fact that I am paying more attention to this right now.

As a whole, the show really made me wonder what other people’s sessions look like.

3 thoughts on “In Treatment

  1. I find the show addicting, but I don’t care for it. I don’t think it’s very realistic. But then again, I only have my own therapy sessions to compare it to. You’re right: everyone is overly confrontational. I think at the beginning of therapy, when you are just finding out about yourself, it can be difficult. You want to push back when you’re therapist is brushing against subjects that make you feel uncomfortable. On the show, there is tremendous push back. That’s not how I operate.

    I also think the show paints an unrealistic look at therapy. There’s an epiphany of sorts in every session it seems like. In reality, again in my sessions, we go months without seemingly accomplishing much.

  2. rachelle

    Haven’t seen the show, but yeah, they certainly have to beef up the drama for fiction. And likewise, a single episode has to stand alone when geared for the channel changing audience (compared to the audience who prefer shows like “24” or “Lost”). So everything is wrapped up by the end in some way. Some people need/want to be reminded of the “goal” and some people need/want to be reminded of the “journey”. I suppose we are all at various points in that process at any given moment.

    I saw a therapist last Fall. Went to a few of sessions and she really helped. But then there were times that had me a little uneasy. She was extremely laid-back, which was good, but on top of that, she was clearly sleep deprived. She expressed how she was tired a lot of the time, yawned quite a bit, and was kind of a scatterbrain sometimes. I really wished it had worked out because she was extremely helpful when it counted. But I guess the breaking point for me was the last session. I noticed she was literally forcing her eyes to stay open. She also wears a lot of mascara, which made her eyes look even more unnaturally wide and creepy, and she totally looked like a crazy person, sitting there, nodding her head as I talked. That can never be a good thing. I will no doubt need to see someone again as soon as I can afford it. My life is undergoing major transistion and upheaval, with a lot of pain in store, but I will totally see someone else. I never want to appear less crazy than my therapist, ha.

  3. Thank you for your comments!

    @ Mike: it’s not how I operate either. I really dislike roleplaying, for example, but would never dream of telling my therapist off over it. Or refusing to do them.

    As for epiphanies… I sometimes have one, but they are not of nearly as much consequence as those on the show, at least usually.

    @ Rachelle: Glad to hear you tried therapy and that it helped, but sorry that she was so tired. No matter how nice someone is, if they have to force themselves to stay awake, that raises the question how much attention they are really paying. If she treated someone like me, with social anxiety, that would probably trigger all kinds of worries and make me feel uneasy – not quite what one wants to acieve when undergoing treatment.

    Finding the right therapist is hard and I believe I really lucked out in that regard, because mine turned out utterly right for me and is very competent. But I heard some really horrible stories from/about acquaintances and friends who encountered therapists with rather questionable opinions: telling someone who has all the standard symptoms of depression that he’s not depressed, for example, and just needs a girlfriend.

    I hope you find someone fitting, and that all turns out well for you.

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