Just what we needed – another engaging TV series that'll add to our backlog of unwatched DVR recordings. But we're hooked on HBO's "In Treatment."
My wife is a retired psychotherapist. So not surprisingly, Laurel finds watching Gabriel Byrne fascinating. He plays Paul Weston, a psychotherapist who acts like a traditional psychiatrist because he's so non-directive (he also seems semi-depressed).
But Weston must be something else, since he has plenty of time for his patients and doesn't whip out a prescription pad. So far, at least; we've only watched five of the forty-five episodes.
After my first viewing of "In Treatment" I thought it might be boring to spend 30 minutes listening to people talk about their problems. I've found that it isn't, something Laurel already knew, since she spent quite a few years doing just that – for real.
I bet this has happened to you. You're sitting around with some friends, chit-chatting about this and that. Safe topics. Politics. Weather. Sports. Family.
The evening wears on. People have an extra glass of wine. The mood loosens up. Finally someone blurts out, "Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I've got to get this off my chest. I need to tell someone."
Ooh! Some covers coming off a psyche's façade! Every head turns toward the revealer. Expectant. All ears. Raw honesty is about to supplant polite superficiality.
That's what I find fascinating about "In Treatment" – the ever-changing balance between telling it like it is, and how it isn't. Weston's patients struggle to find that balance. So does Weston himself, whose professional life and marriage have their own sore spots.
After each episode Laurel enjoys critiquing Weston's psychotherapeutic technique. He strikes her as overly passive, doing a lot more listening than talking.
These days insurance companies don't let therapists get away with lengthy non-directive counseling. You're supposed to get the problem dealt with in a few sessions, while Weston apparently has been seeing some of his patients for a long time.
But all in all "In Treatment" reflects the flavor of psychotherapy pretty well. If it didn't, Laurel would be saying much more often, "That's not real!" (one of her favorite critiques of TV shows or movies, whereas I enjoy a healthy dose of illusion in my escapism).
On the message board of one of my blogs someone recently posted Zen Sarcasm. One item says:
Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
Absolutely. "In Treatment" reminds us that we're all abnormally normal. Meaning, normally we cover up our weirdness, hang-ups, bizarre beliefs, relationship craziness, and other manifestations of our humanity.
Psychotherapy is one place it's OK to let all that hang out. Along with closing time at a bar when you've had way too much to drink. Or in other altered states of consciousness.
Not to my wife and me. It's fascinating to look into other people's minds when the covers are off, even when their psyches are scripted.