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Can watching Showtime’s “Couples Therapy” help me too?

I looked at the whole thing Couples therapy from my nursery when I visited my parents in July. It was a time and place as appropriate as any to entertain some heavy psychoanalytic ideas that would undoubtedly make me ponder my life. The Showtime documentary series follows Orna Guralnik, a real New York psychologist who works with couples for several months. Well into the second season, Guralnik challenges a woman to consider that the outbursts of anger she feels towards her husband are not actually caused by him, but are motivated by the fear of a demanding mother who believed herself to be a failure . “Fear tells you something about your parents’ misfortune and that you are being recruited to do something about it,” Guralnik tells the woman.

At that point I had to close my laptop and stare at the wall for a few minutes. Had I run errands for the two people in the hallway without realizing it? I wasn’t sure if it was wise or fair to my parents to apply what Guralnik had said to my own life, but I had some ideas on how to do that.

Couples therapy makes good television: the couples seem lively and serious, but there’s still a lot of drama, if not quite the exaggerated kind of thing you’d find on reality shows like The bachelor and Real housewives. They point their fingers, reach stalemates, and struggle to see how past traumas have shaped their dealings with their partners. Over time, some of them will progress, understand their role in the negative relationship dynamics, and learn to be more empathetic with their partner. The show belongs to an emerging genre – let’s call it “therapy voyeurism” – in which real counseling sessions are recorded and packaged for mass consumption: Couples therapy, there is Vicelands The therapist and Esther Perel’s couples therapy podcast, Where do we start?, both of which debuted in 2017. (The first lasted a season, while the fourth season of Perel’s podcast came out last year.)

My own experience of watching Couples therapy led me to the question of whether therapy voyeurism can be more than just entertainment. Right now people would have good reasons to turn to these shows as a substitute for or in addition to actual therapy. The pandemic has ushered in a profound psychological crisis, and although many people have been kept out of therapy in normal times for lack of time and money, even those who are now actively in treatment have been through one Lack of therapists with openings in their timetables. Coincidentally or not, a Showtime spokesperson said viewers were streaming from Couples therapy had doubled from its debut 2019 season to its second season, which came out in April. I reached out to a few psychologists to get their opinion on the phenomenon and they were very clear: Therapy voyeurism isn’t real therapy – but that doesn’t mean it’s completely pointless either.

In all likelihood, viewers will see an episode (or even a season) of Couples therapy with guidance on dealing with their anxiety, relieving their depression and solving their relationship problems. But in the simplest sense, it can help you see how Guralnik guides couples to the root of their conflict through a combination of questions and observation to get a better understanding of how to deal with your feelings. This, says Steven Tuber, a professor of clinical psychology at the City College of New York, is not so different from the outcome of actual therapy, where psychologists are generally less concerned with telling their patients exactly how to handle a situation supposed to be than giving a new way of thinking about their problems. “If you give a person a fancy interpretation, they’ll feel a lot better that day,” he told me. “But if you teach them to think psychologically, they can do it for a lifetime.”

Guralnik definitely crossed my mind. After watching the show, I thought about my own role in maintaining certain dynamics in my relationship rather than assuming that they start and end with my boyfriend. I became more open to the possibility that my negative reaction to something he was doing might have more to do with my existing fears than with his inherent falsehood. (Though he’s, yes, completely wrong at times.) Expecting these ideas, I didn’t feel particularly bad in relationships – after all, I’d just seen several other people do the same thing.

Another potential benefit of therapy voyeurism, Tuber said, is that these shows could encourage people to see a therapist by showing them what treatment actually looks like. (Provided, of course, that they can get a mental health support appointment amid the onslaught of the pandemic.) Although the stigma of therapy has diminished over time, it remains a significant one for many people who might benefit from seeking help Barrier. “If [the psychologist] when it comes across as thoughtful and multidimensional, it’ll make it easier for the people on the fence to say, ‘This isn’t that scary, I’ll see this,’ ”he said. People who are already in therapy can also gain something: they can see how they react to different approaches, which makes them more informed consumers and potentially leads them to find a therapist who better suits their desires.

I reached out to Guralnik through Zoom last month and she confirmed to me that I am not alone with using it Couples therapy as a lens through which I can see my own life. (Her dog, Nico, an Alaskan Klee Kai and an adorable presence on the show, slept on the couch behind her.) “People usually watch the show with other people,” she said. Parents and children, romantic partners and friends tune in together and take a break to discuss their own relationships. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, he reminds me of you’ or ‘He reminds me of me,’” said Guralnik. “We didn’t know that was going to happen.”

Guralnik does not see Couples therapy as a substitute for couples therapy. “Hopefully people won’t use the show for that,” she said. But, in her view, it can help that it’s not an adequate substitute for the same reason: it’s not about you. Just as children’s games allow them to deal with scenarios they might encounter later in life, Guralnik sees her show as a space where adults can imagine their own problems from a safe distance. This distance gives us the freedom to think more creatively, find different solutions, and have more compassion for ourselves and others.

But this means that therapy voyeurism is just one of many activities that give us this productive distance from ourselves. In fact, they’re all around us: books, movies, games, and even sports can all serve a similar function. In a couples therapy program she teaches, Chicago psychotherapist Karen Bloomberg instructs Alain de Bottons The course of love, a novel that tells the story of a long love affair and ends each chapter with an analysis of the couple’s dynamics. “It sounds kind of weird, but it’s very well done,” she told me. She and her husband eventually discussed their own relationship after both reading it, and she recommended it to her adult children. As with therapy shows, it offers a new way of seeing your problems: “It’s not you, but it could be you, and it could hold the room until you’re ready to look at yourself that way,” she said.

None of the psychologists I spoke to mentioned any major drawbacks to consuming therapy shows and podcasts, although it seems possible that some viewers might over-extrapolate from them in the same way WebMD does spur People believe that their little problems are actually cancer. But the irony of therapy voyeurism is that its potential benefits may be limited by the scope of the genre. Tuber said he was skeptical that therapy shows would go beyond the relatively narrow segment of the population already open to the therapeutic process: in 2019, fewer than 20 percent of adults had received mental health treatment in the past year. according to CDC, and those who did were far more likely to be white and female. “When people are struggling with problems, speak overwhelmingly to a family member, religious figure, or their GP before seeing a therapist,” said Tuber. (Guralnik said she heard from viewers around the world, even though Showtime did not reveal details about demographics of the show’s audience numbers.)

I had considered the idea of ​​therapy long before I heard about it Couples therapy, and the show spoke to me precisely because I wanted to dive deeper into this world. I felt good looking at it: smarter because I could clearly see when someone was blaming their partner too much; more benevolent, and maybe a little more sacred, because I’ve learned to empathize with those on the show who initially seemed like absolute villains to me. These lessons, if not self-exaltation, were a good thing, and they were possible in large part because of the neutrality and emotional buffers given to me as an outside observer. But while this buffer can be useful, it has to come down if you really want to invade your own psyche.

Unfortunately, bingeing a show didn’t fix all of the problems in my life. “We talk a lot about ‘getting something into the room’. That means you really experience the vulnerability in the moment with the therapist, ”said Bloomberg. “That doesn’t happen if you watch.”


Thank You For Reading!

Reference: www.theatlantic.com