A lot of my therapy patients watch the new HBO series, "In Treatment," and many wonder how accurate the portrayal of the therapist is. Paul, the therapist, is very well played by Gabriel Byrne.
But is he really representative of what therapists are like? Do most therapists have similar struggles in their personal lives?...with their relationships, their children, their sense of themselves?
The answer is simple: therapists are people, and people have issues. Therapists, like everyone else, handle some issues better than others. Therapists, like everyone else, are both insightful and clueless, sometimes in awareness and sometimes in denial, have good days and bad days. Nobody has the key to a stress-free, problem-free, issue-free existence.
In other words, no matter what the self-help gurus say, there's no cure for life.
So I guess I like that the therapist Byrne portrays is a flawed, conflicted person. Even when he does (and says) things that make me wince. Even when he's too intrusive with his patients, or too knowing. Hell, even when he seems like a selfish, self-pitying jerk.
Why? Because at least he's not depicted as diabolical, manipulative, and psychotic. Or, worse yet, homicidal.
Think about it: have you noticed how often male therapists are used as the villain nowadays on TV and film? Hollywood used to see male therapists as models of the patriarchal system: wise, nurturing, compassionate. Like Claude Rains in Now, Voyager. Gregory Peck in Captain Newman, M.D. Lee J. Cobb in The Three Faces of Eve.
So how the hell did we get from there to Hannibal Lecter?
Well, I happen to have some thoughts on the subject... If you're interested, you might want to listen to the Commentary I did for NPR's "All Things Considered." Here's the link:
Click here: NPR: A Male Therapist on Screen? Odds Are, He's a Heel.
Let me know what you think. --Dennis
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