Movies with long, realistic scenes of psychoanalysis?
November 5, 2017 3:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm writing a scene in a book where a character, herself a therapist, is undergoing psychoanalysis. Two questions. First, what are some examples of psychoanalysis done well in film? Second, under what circumstances would a practicing psychoanalyst go to another psychoanalyst? Could there ever be a pedagogical relationship between the two, or would that be beyond the pale of ethics? Thanks!
posted by jwhite1979 to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have an answer regarding the films, but I can tell you that it is common practice for psychoanalysts to be in psychoanalysis themselves from the beginning of their training and throughout their careers.

From the American Psychoanalytic Association :

"While individual programs differ in their specifics, typically they are based upon the core psychoanalytic tripartite training model of didactic seminars, clinical supervision and personal therapy."

I'm not sure how common it is for the analyst to have a pedagogical relationship with the client-analyst or if most training programs separate the two, but I know it happens as I've met analysts-in-training who received both analysis and didactic training from the same analyst. (I'm a therapist though not a psychoanalyst).
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 3:53 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not exactly film, but In Treatment is definitely what you're looking for -- very little of the show is not scenes of therapy (whether you consider this explicitly 'psychoanalysis' is up to you I suppose). There are also episodes that show the main character, a psychologist, undergoing therapy himself.

I can't speak to psychoanalysis specifically but it is definitely the norm for psychiatrists-in-training to undergo talk therapy themselves during their training.
posted by telegraph at 4:01 AM on November 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Watch In Treatment. He’s a psychotherapist, rather than a psychoanalyst specifically (are you looking for Freudian?) but he does have a therapist of his own who, if I remember correctly, sort of as a clinical supervisor.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:03 AM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Jinx telegraph!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:04 AM on November 5, 2017

As has been said, In Treatment is a perfect fit. I'd also suggest The Sopranos. Tony Soprano's therapist has her own therapist, and the therapy method of choice is psychoanalytic, as far as I can tell.
posted by Desertshore at 4:36 AM on November 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Agree with In Treatment and The Sopranos.

I think the In Treatment guy is a psychoanalyst. The way he and the Dianne Wiest character talk about their colleagues and training sounds like it. Most psychoanalysts now don't practice "real" (classical) psychoanalysis, possibly because most people can't afford the 3+++ sessions per week that psychoanalysis involves, but the therapy is still "psychodynamically oriented."

For the OP: what do you mean by a pedagogical relationship? That the analyst he consults with is his former teacher? It's not uncommon to go into treatment with somebody who used to be your teacher. It happens all the time in the closed world of psychoanalytic institutes.
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:02 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might find Yalom’s book “Lying on the couch” helpful.
posted by SyraCarol at 5:36 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Umpteenthing In Treatment. Frankly, even remotely accurate portrayals of therapy are few and far between in tv or movies. In Treatment is quite unique in that regard.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:39 AM on November 5, 2017

Season 1 of the TV series Hannibal features Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen), himself a psychiatrist, receiving psychotherapy from Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson). This is definitely not a realistic example, though it’s fascinating to watch.
posted by ejs at 5:57 AM on November 5, 2017

I nth the In Treatment recommendation. I'd also recommend Esther Perel's podcast, Where Should We Begin? It's not a film, but rather real audio recordings of actual therapy sessions between Perel and her clients, and it is fascinating. Perel is not a psychoanalyist but a psychotherapist; her training is is in "psychodynamic systems theory...psychodrama, expressive arts therapies, and bioenergetics." (via)
posted by ourobouros at 6:09 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

As others have mentioned it is standard for therapists in training to be in therapy.

It is also very common among practicing therapists, usually for:

A) Personal crises (deaths, divorce, etc.)
B) Long term personal growth and understanding
C) Fully understanding how their client's issues interact with their own issues.

The last is in the name of avoiding countertransference and is something most conscientious therapists will do more than once in their career.

A colloquial description of countertransference: helping your client deal with their shit can cause your own shit to rear its ugly head and make you start treating your client differently. For example if your client bullied other kids as a response to a bad home life and you were a badly bullied kid, you would definitely want to make sure you could keep your feelings appropriately separate.

Obviously this can be a tricky and somewhat pervasive issue. For that reason the relationship between supervisor and student during the Clinical Supervision phase can take on an analytic feel as they review countertransference that students may have had with their clients. If you want a place where therapy and pedagogy meet that's probably as close as you'll get.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:03 AM on November 6, 2017

Thanks for all the help, guys. I'm really enjoying In Treatment, and yes, it's what I was looking for.
posted by jwhite1979 at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2017

This is a book, not film, but you might also be interested in Elyn R. Saks' memoir, The Center Cannot Hold. She writes about her schizophrenia, her experiences of psychoanalysis, and also her concurrent education as a psychoanalyst. I don't remember clearly whether any of the therapists she wrote about were her teacher as well, but I think perhaps yes.
posted by snorkmaiden at 12:53 PM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

That sounds amazing, snorkmaiden. Thank you.
posted by jwhite1979 at 2:15 AM on November 19, 2017

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