John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

In Treatment

In Treatment (the HBO show)

Now that the HBO program “In Treatment” is out on DVD, I’ve been catching up. I’ve been watching the first season. So far, I like it. But how true is it to real therapy?

The tube and the big screen have not been especially kind to therapists. It’s easy to make us the butt of jokes or play us for comic relief. And in some cases, we’re actually portrayed as the bad guy. So at least “In Treatment” is a big improvement over how therapists are usually played. The program does a good job showing just how complex human problems really are, and how they can be linked to factors outside of everyday awareness.

Problem is, as good as “In Treatment” is, it’s still not realistic. Remember, television programs need to entertain us. If they don’t, we don’t watch. What this means is that, even though the program focuses strictly on the therapy process itself, it’s still portrayed in the most dramatic light possible. Something needs to happen every hour, otherwise we’d lose interest.

In real therapy, we’re not trying to entertain anybody--we’re trying to help you. There is no dramatic climax that happens each session, like clock-work. Real treatment takes time. Progress is rarely even. Insights happen, but probably not the way they do on television.

And yet... For once it’s nice to see a television program that takes my profession seriously. Hey, I’ll watch.