I have a love/hate relationship with HBO's dramatic series In Treatment. It gets plenty of love from reviewers and therapists (including excellent posts from fellow PT bloggers Ilana and Jeremy), but I have my reservations. Am I the only shrink who feels this way?
Many movies and TV series include therapy as an element of the show, but for In Treatment, psychotherapy is the show. In case you missed it (and with a viewership of only 657,000, most of you have), HBO has an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning fictional drama about therapy. Each week we eavesdrop on four sessions between Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) and his patients as well as one "supervision" session with Dr. Gina Toll (Diane Wiest). The half-hour episodes are wrought with conflict, awkward moments, boundary testing, statements dripping with layered meaning and the inevitable cliffhanger. Entertaining for all, conflictual for me.
Honestly, In Treatment depicts therapy better than any other fiction I've seen (sorry Drs. Seaver, Katz and Freedman). It also has enough frustrating elements to leave me truly ambivalent; retaining equal parts admiration and disdain for the show. I've had mixed feelings plenty in my life, but rarely toward a TV program. I thought this was worth a deeper look.
I tried to arrange an interview with a writer or producer from the series to get some clarity and enhance your reading experience. Unfortunately, that idea went down in flames - much like the ill-fated Alex. It appears my interview luck ran dry. Instead, I'll just go with the old pro and con list to sort out my feelings. I'm even ambivalent about this post because I don't like sounding like the guy who complains that "the book was so much better than the movie." Regardless, here are my In Treatment pros and cons:
"Hello, what's your complaint?....A psychologist having an affair with a patient? Yes, that is a reportable offense. What is the psychologist's name?....W-E-S-T-O-N, thank you. Are you the patient? No?....Okay, her name is Laura, and your relationship to her?....On a television show? Is it a reality TV show?....I'm sorry, In Treatment is a drama on HBO and Dr. Weston is the actor Gabriel Byrne. Ever see "The Usual Suspects"? You know, Keyser Soze?....Perhaps you should call the Screen Actors Guild...(.....dial tone......)"
I'm not sure if board complaints are a compliment to the writing and acting or a slam on the viewers. Either way, it's making an impact on people.
So I'm torn. Half of me wants to scrap the series like I did Deadwood and Lost. The other half says this may be a Six Feet Under experience. I think I'll just tolerate this ambivalence each Sunday and Monday night for the next couple months. Winnicott says tolerating ambivalence is a sign of emotional maturity; but I should probably just watch less TV.