How accurate is HBO's In Treatment?
June 7, 2008 9:48 PM   Subscribe

How accurate is the HBO show In Treatment in its portrayal of psychotherapy? Is it safe to say if you find the show boring you would likely find being a therapist boring, and vice-versa?
posted by shivohum to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Outside "The Wire" and certain cities "Animal Cops," I have not seen or heard of a TV show which is both supposed to be about something and enjoyed or at least admired by people I know who are good at that something.

I'm going to guess that unless you typically like soaps, "In Treatment" will bore the socks off you.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:40 PM on June 7, 2008

seems like people aren't answering the question of how accurate the show is.

I am not a therapist, but I do have a BA in psych (woo!) I think the show is fairly accurate, in the sense that it portrays people with problems coming in to talk about them- that's what therapy is.

However, since it is a tv show, all the problems are very dramatic, and the timeline is sped up- real breakthroughs, if they happen at all, take much much longer. So I think someone who finds the show boring might find real therapy incredibly boring. (but then again, being in the room with a real person might make a difference)

I certainly don't think show is "fake." it's a narrative tv program, not a documentary, so it's bound by the requirement of drama: to condense time and dramatize situations enough to entertain and communicate with the audience. I think asking if a work of narrative fiction is "real" is kind of a meaningless question, but I personally feel the show is a basically honest attempt to depict therapy.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:50 PM on June 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

"I have not seen or heard of a TV show which is both supposed to be about something and enjoyed or at least admired by people I know who are good at that something."

Law & Order. You'd might be surprised how widely respected the show is by law professors and other folks like that.

...that said, it's clearly the exception and not the rule. Basing your opinion of a career on a so-called "reality" show about that career is silly.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:52 PM on June 7, 2008

The question didn't ask whether someone who is bored by the show would be bored visiting a therapist; it asked whether someone who is bored by the show would be bored acting as a therapist.

In answer to that question: no, not necessarily. There are lots of things that would be excruciatingly dull to watch someone else do on TV, but that many people find very stimulating in real life. I've worked as a writer for chunks of my career, and if I saw a TV show where someone else sits at a desk and tries to bang out prose, I'd change the channel immediately, even though I think that's an awesome job.

Engaging with another person who is in the midst of what is, for them, a personal crisis, is intensely stimulating for a lot of people who work as therapists. It's an active process, and you get the satisfaction of feeling as though you're helping people, especially when they actually get better. Watching two fictional characters pretend to do the same thing: no such satisfaction for the viewer, and far less engaging when the problems aren't real. So even if In Treatment is the most accurate show about therapy ever made (and I have no idea whether it is or it isn't), your interest in it isn't a good measure of your affinity for a career as a therapist.
posted by decathecting at 11:12 PM on June 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

Poster, please define the word "being" in your question. I don't read it as if the poster is going to be acting as a psychotherapist, but perhaps interested in becoming a psychotherapist. The question is not terribly specific. The vice-versa tacked onto the end is also confusing.
posted by jeremias at 6:17 AM on June 8, 2008

I have an MSW and did counseling during one of my graduate internships. I think that the portrayal of therapy in In Treatment is only somewhat realistic. The types of questions that the therapist asked were realistic and the types of problems people came in with were realistic. However, as drjimmy11 pointed out, everything is intensified for dramatic effect. The therapist has a very confrontational style, which adds to the drama. Usually confrontation is something that doesn't happen for a while in therapy, a solid rapport and therapeutic alliance need to be developed first, which takes time. Another thing that was totally unrealistic (or at least really unprofessional) about the show was the lack of boundaries the therapist had with his clients. He shouldn't have allowed that one client to leave the espresso machine in the office. And of course, pursuing a romantic relationship with Laura was a huge no no, even if she was no longer a client. The way in which the show demonstrated his struggles I thought was pretty realistic. Like how he struggled with his attraction to Laura and the things he disclosed in his own therapy about how he felt about his clients.

I liked In Treatment a lot, but I also liked providing individual counseling. To me, it's anything but boring because you have to constantly be aware of so much as the process unfolds. Maybe I liked In Treatment because I could analyze which therapeutic techniques he was using. So in a way I could relate to what was going on in his head, since I have been there myself.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the thoughts!
posted by shivohum at 8:56 PM on June 8, 2008

« Older Things to do at PSU.   |   I smell dead people. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.