I watched that show In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne. I enjoyed it. I’ve watched about 3 seasons of it. What strikes me is that there is always antagonism and misunderstanding between therapist and client. There’s always a struggle and misunderstanding and tension. On the positive side, I suppose that shows that it’s really a relationship. We see conflict in Paul Weston’s dealings with his clients and in his dealings with his own therapist. It’s always an argument.
Is that bad?
When I think of my own experience in therapy, counseling and being ‘in treatment’ with doctors and others, it has generally been more benign and friendly. There isn’t much confrontation. The one time that my treatment was both quite confrontational and productive, it was a bit of an extreme and unusual situation and I kind of needed that ‘kick’.
But generally, it’s unwelcome. To my mind, therapy that involves conflict and confrontation – therapy where you are arguing with the therapist – is not helpful.
Helpful therapy is like a game of tennis. After initial introductions and you telling your story, the therapists serves the ball, trying to get it to land in the right area – they make a suggestion about your issues. And then you say something like, yes, that’s partly true but there’s more to it…..you hit the ball back, again, trying to land it in the right place….then they respond….and so on. Together you work towards an understanding of the problems and ideas about some solutions.
I suppose that, to make it good TV, in the show they have to emphasise the conflict aspect. But also, as I alluded to, the more extreme situations and issues – which will also be the most interesting – do require the therapist to challenge the client.
That’s why Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is, I think, one of the best therapies, especially for people with issues that are causing them a lot of distress. Because, in DBT, the emphasis is on the dual action of challenging maladaptive thoughts and behaviours while, at the same time, affirming the positive qualities, achievements, merits and value of the individual.