In Treatment Review*

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In Treatment

Illustration by Wes Duvall

(Photo: Claudette Barius/Courtesy of HBO)

As promised in my Session Splash May 26, 2009 Part 2*, here is my review of HBO series “In Treatment”, for the first season. I found the show very addictive and watched the whole season in just a couple of days! Please note that if you have not watched the series, there are some possible“spoilers” here.

I especially enjoyed and identified with the story line for the character “Sophie”. It was very interesting how her story unraveled itself and I feel that this does parallel many people’s truth when unveiling their abuse stories; at least from what I have read on the iSurvive forum over the past few months. Overall the show was very touching and was also just good drama, but may be a little slow for some people.

I want to make a very important point here. This show is definitely sensationalized. Spoiler alert – I don’t think it is very common for patients to try to commit suicide in their therapist’s offices, as Sophie did. Besides odd situations, I also felt the way the therapist spoke to his patients, and the types of suggestions he sometimes makes, were also slightly out of line and over emphasized to make good TV.

For example, I do not think a therapist (spoiler alert) would every say to a patient “I think you should have an abortion” even if it was just to make a point. It is just not professional for a therapist to offer direct suggestions or solutions to problems. This can lead to a lot of complications, such as the patient blaming the outcome on the therapist and the loss of learning to make decisions for yourself. I think a good therapist will lead you in the right direction, and correct your path, but never set it for you. You should always be in control.

That all being said, the last point I want to make about the sensationalism of the show is that therapists are not supposed to let so many of their personal issues interfere when treating their clients. Even when I discussed this show with my therapist, she agreed. She said that a good therapist will recognize when something comes up for them in session, and set it aside so that can deal with it personally later. This allows them to present for their clients, while still allowing room for their own feelings and issues as well.

After all, therapist are people to. I think it is commendable when a therapist is also in therapy. To me this means they do not think they are better than anyone else. And to be honest, who couldn’t be helped from a neutral third-party perspective, especially a professional one who is only looking out for your best interests? (If you have a good therapist!)

So as long as you understand that the show is sensationalized, because of course, they had to make good TV, I do find it a helpful perspective on what therapy can be about. From a self-help perspective it does give only a very limited perspective, but as long as you recognize all it’s limitations, it has a few useful perspectives of what therapy can be like.

The most relatable stories that I liked were of “Sophie” and the ‘Cell Phone” couple “Amy and Jake”. Watching all these different people go through their therapy did give me some perspective on my own therapy too.

I learned while watching everyone in this series that very few had pre-conceived notions of what they wanted to resolve in their session. I find I am very structured, probably because structure puts me at ease. But maybe I am structuring myself out of some real, deep healing? I cannot help but think that more spontaneity would lead to deeper healing, and more intuitive connections.

Also, I find that everyone on the show is more connected to their feelings than I currently am. I know this is due in part to my many years of practice with dissociation, so I forgive myself for it. I also know I have gotten a lot better, a lot more connected. But it is still frustrating none the less. I find that I try to intellectualize everything, to the point where there is no emotion left, no feelings to be felt. Of course, this is easier for me, but feelings/emotions CANNOT be intellectualized. I now recognize that at some point I am going to have to just let go and trust myself to go down the right emotional path.

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I would love to hear what you liked and disliked about the show if you have seen it, and what you learned about yourself from watching. Please feel free to comment!

My Monster Has A Name… actually many. This blog is a safe place for me to share my healing journey from childhood abuse. The topics covered are at times controversial, offensive, horrific, and hopefully sometimes inspiring. Thank you for sharing in my journey.


  1. I started watching this show yesterday, its really good! I have only seen two of the “Sophie” sessions, but I am hoping to buy the first season this weekend. Currently I am watching the “April” sessions from this season…I can identify with her a lot.

  2. Hello Paul-

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with you about the drama, but still found it good enough for me, probably because I was so curious what ‘therapy’ looks like for others.

    Thank you also for sharing your self-harm therapy experiences. It really opens up my eyes to the reality of the situation. I have really tight control of myself in therapy, and I think your comment helped me realize maybe TOO much!

    I am also glad that they put the story partly from the therapist’s point of view as well. It is for sure a two way street. After all therapists are human too. I often made my therapist cry in the beginning, with me of course being dried eyed and disconnected. So of course, they are people too…

    I still have not seen Season 2, wow Season 3 already. I will be watching!


  3. Great review. I found that I lost interest a bit. So, maybe that’s why they need to up the drama factor. Keep in mind that they only cover, what, 8 sessions per patient. So, they have to condense everything with lots of insights and progress made in each therapy session, when we all know that it’s much slower than that. So, even though the therapy pace was fast, it still was somewhat boring to me at times.

    I have been in experiences where I’ve tried to hurt myself in therapy. This was many years ago. I’ve seen people taken out in restraints from therapist’s offices.

    I’ve also had therapists who have been very pointed with me and work hard to challenge me. Some circumstances have been very provocative because the stakes have been so high. I am largely not there anymore, so gladly don’t have to have so much drama in my therapy.

    I was particularly glad they made the story lines include the therapist and his life. In the real world the therapist has a bit more ability to keep his life out of the therapy. But they really wouldn’t have a show if they didn’t always make you realize that it’s a two way street. The reality is that even though therapists tend to do a good job at not showing you how they are affected, they always are. So, while it was maybe made a bit too dramatic, it’s quite real.

    Anyway, that’s my take… Can’t wait for season 3. And I’ve only watched Sophie from Season 1, so I have some episodes to watch that are saved in my iTunes.


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