Closely based on an Israeli series, BeTipul, In Treatment is an HBO series featuring Gabriel Byrne as Paul, a therapist in the Washington DC area. There are nine weeks, with five sessions shown per week. The clients are Laura, a young doctor, Alex, a fighter pilot, Sophie, a talented teenage gymnast, and Jake and Amy, a couple deciding whether to have an abortion. The final meeting of the week is with Gina, Paul's therapist. We also occasionally see Paul's wife and children before and after sessions, and his wife attends some of the sessions with Gina. Each episode is about 24 minutes long.
The acting is strong and the writing is superb. The dramatic form means that a 50 minute session is portrayed in less than half that time, and the clients we see are chosen to give a variety of problems. They are also more eloquent that most people are in therapy. So it is not a very realistic representation of therapy on a minute-by-minute basis, but it is emotionally convincing.
Along the way we see Paul confronting several ethical problems. He is attracted to one of his patients, and she wants him to admit it, but he is very reluctant to do so. At many points, his clients ask him what they should do, and he always says he cannot tell them, but can only help them come to their own decision. We also see Paul's own extreme fallibility and distorted perceptions of his interactions with his wife, and his inability to cope with similar problems as his patients have, and one can wonder whether he is in a position to help others. Quite often he wonders whether he helps his patients.
The DVD has no extras, which is disappointing. However, having the DVD is worthwhile since it enables one to watch episodes several times. This is especially rewarding because one can see what is going on in people's faces and body language which is not expressed in the content of their sentences, and it helps one to see the clues that therapists must use in order to know what is going on with their clients.
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.