Who Needs Therapy? Watching IN TREATMENT

Gabriel Byrne - In TreatmentI’m the latest victim to HBO’s insidious viewing experiment. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? For its latest series In Treatment,” rather than introduce the series with one episode per week, HBO has taken the approach of airing Gabriel Byrne and his luscious Irish voice five nights a week. Each night highlights the therapy session of a different patient, with Fridays dedicated to the sessions between the therapist Paul (Byrne) and his own therapist, Gina.

I suppose there that some out there who have sampled the program, decided they hated a certain day’s patient, and have been able to omit that day from their schedule, thus regaining back some of their own life. Not me. I’m as enthralled by the patients I despise (Yes, I’m talking about Laura and Alex) as the one who breaks my heart on a weekly basis (Sophie, anyone?). And I can’t miss Friday, because that’s when you get to hear what Paul actually thinks about having these people lie to themselves in front of him all week.

The show is based on an Israeli series, “Be Tipul,” and the writing has been stellar throughout. Many of the episodes have been penned by the show’s executive producer and director, Rodrigo Garcia (who, in your trivia of the day, is the son of the literature Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez), although many other fine writers have contributed to the series. It must be a major challenge to present compelling drama from what is overwhelmingly dialogue only. And yet, each episode has a short story structure with development and movement. The dialogue is not static and shows us as much as it tells.

I do wonder if there might be a gender divide in viewership, however. The men I have spoken with who have sampled episodes of this show have uniformly disliked it; women seem to be much more intrigued to follow Paul and his patients on their therapeutic journeys.

Who out there is watching? What do you think? I’m listening.

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17 Responses to “Who Needs Therapy? Watching IN TREATMENT”

  1. Rebecca Duncan Says:

    I’m watching. Not real time, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s on too late for me and second, my husband would hate it. He’s never seen it, but I just know. He used to record some show called “Auto Week” or some such title…something I could not be less interested in. Now he calls “In Treatment” my “Auto Week” show. So I record it and watch usually in the stillness of my house at 5am. I, like you, am not able to disengage from those patients that I do not like and like you, Sophie breaks me every time. The youthful actress portraying her is immensely talented. To say that I relate to her, is an understatement to be sure, even at age 56. When I see Sophie, I see myself at that age and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I am able to feel compassion for myself where, at the time, I just thought I was, as Sophie says of herself, “a freak” or truly crazy. Unfortuantely, there are not enough Paul Westons out there.

    I don’t care for action shows or movies. I want to see real people and hear real stories. The more dialog the better. The more flawed the people are the more I love them for their flaws assure me of their humanity and my own. Bravo once again, HBO!

  2. toddiedowns Says:

    Nicely put, Rebecca! I couldn’t agree more that the flaws of these characters are what makes them so human and reminds us of our own similarities.

    On a completely random note, I have to say that the mom in me really hopes the young actress playing Sophie is older than she looks, because that is an awfully intense role for a teenager.

  3. John B Says:

    I think the show is awesome; I watch re-runs two or three times. HBO does such high quality work, I totally agree with their slogan “Its not TV, its HBO.” “Treatment” follows in the footsteps of of “Sopranos”, “Deadwood”, “Entourage”,
    and other fine programs.
    I’ve sat through enough therapy to recognize the patient-led dialogue as being very authentic. Paul’s shrink, Gina, reminds me so much of my last therapist its scary. She was the nice lady who asked me if I’d ever thought about going to AA meetings. That was 26 years ago and I’ve been clean and sober ever since.
    P.S., I’m a guy.

  4. toddiedowns Says:

    Hey, John! I think there must be a bunch of fans (albeit closet fans), since this blog post has been getting a LOT of traffic. Thanks for being open about being a fan:). And congrats on 26 years of sobriety. Impressive. Have you all been watching this week? Could you BELIEVE the Alex episode? Pretty dramatic for a show that’s mostly talk. Wow. I was picking my jaw off the floor.

  5. tammy Says:

    Why are there only three more episodes? this is great!!!!!

  6. toddiedowns Says:

    I actually think there are five more episodes; it’s the last M-F week, alas. Who knows what will happen in those final 3 half hours, though. Somehow, I don’t think it will be therapy. I think the young actress playing Sophie (Mia Wasikowska) is astounding. Every week she has me in a puddle on the floor. I will miss this series, I confess. All I know is, it better end well with Sophie. . .

  7. toddiedowns Says:

    Okay, my shame is public. There are only three more episodes, to my very great horror!! I want five episodes, and must reconcile myself to closure with three. I’m not certain it can be done.

  8. Bonnie McLoone Says:

    I am sorry this is the last episode. In the shows that I have watched this show has made my own therapist, to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude and have much respect for, so much more authentic than sometimes I think she is in real life sessions.

    It is like looking at yourself from a different perspective. It is like seeing yourself as opposed to being yourself.

    At times what I hear in weekly sessions has more relevance than I really give it. I love my therapist even though at times – she makes me see the real who I am.

    I have really enjoyed this series. Hope it continues again into the next season.


  9. toddiedowns Says:

    Bonnie – I thought they finished off the first season beautifully. And while I saw rumors that Wikipedia said a second season was in production, I can find no reference to that currently, so perhaps it got edited out. Personally, I would love to see a second season. I’m certain there’s no shortage of patients to become involved with (as viewers, not like Paul. . .), and Paul’s own story appeared to have him at a crossroads. But even if there is no second season, at least we had a stellar first one.

    It’s been many moons since I was in any kind of therapy situation, and my experience was nothing like these folks’. But the series certainly made me respect the process and respect the people who do this for a living.

  10. Donald Says:

    I have found this show to be quite outstanding. My only concern is that its depth will put those who prefer lighter fare off. I look forward to another season; perhaps more. As an emergency physician and trained therapist, I have been touched by the acting, the writing, and the presence of life as lived via a therapeutic perspective, on screen.

  11. toddiedowns Says:

    Donald, I’m so excited to have the perspective of a therapist jump into the dialogue. Did you find the episodes rang true to your experiences as well? One thing that continually struck me was how often someone was truly angry at Paul for the thoughts and feelings that had been stirred up – my thought was I don’t know if I could do that sort of work and let it just roll off my back like he (most of the time) seemed to.

    Thanks for posting.

  12. geoff miller Says:

    I am also a trained Freudian therapist with a Phd in Film Theory to boot. MY wife and I are totally addicted to the series.

    I find the performances breathtaking especially Sophie. I cried like a baby after watching the last week in one sitting. Gabriel Byrne’s eye response is amazing and very therapist like.

    From a filmmaking POV, the use of sound effects is interesting and quite effective.. Watch the episodes again and listen for dogs, cars, street noise ,etc and map it against the drama. You will find it very interesting .


  13. toddiedowns Says:

    Hi Geoff –

    Sophie’s story arc was for me the breakout one of the series. I was GLUED to the set every Wed. My heart broke as much for her mom as for her. When she finally told her mom they could go for coffee, I too bawled like a baby.

    Now I have to go back and rewatch all of the episodes to see what you’re referring to with the sound effects. I love it when filmmakers have layers upon layers of significance.

  14. Sheila Says:

    I see this serie 4 times a day, if I can. The first at HBO and again, later, at HBO2, the entire week! Even if the pacient is not one of my favorites.
    I hate when it stops. I think that I became an “addict” of In treatment.
    Ooh, only the X-Files had done it to me.

  15. toddiedowns Says:

    Boy, this show’s fans are dedicated! You don’t see my daily hits, but every day, someone is reading this post on In Treatment. Mark my words, THIS will be the cult hit of the year; HBO won’t know what hit them. I only hope that when Emmy nods come out this summer, that Mia Wasikowska who played Sophie is nominated. She was luminous.

  16. casey Says:

    i am male and i absolutely love In Treatment. i started therapy due to a breakup a year back and found this show a great added value to my dealing with the loss. Gabriel Byrne is phenomenol and the cast is perfect. I’ve pretty much followed all the storylines except Sophie’s. Funny, everyone here seems to love Sopie’s story. I guess b/c i was dealing with heavy relationship loss the other stories were more engaging. The Gina and Paul sessions were great. I have recently started to read Irving Yalom’s work on the patient/therapist dynamic. I highly recommend it.

  17. toddiedowns Says:

    I hereby completely retract my earlier hypothesis that this series resonated more with women than men. Clearly it’s just that the men I know are heartless beasts:).

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