Here’s how much of a fiend for the HBO series In Treatment I am: I watched the entire series when the show first aired about a decade ago. Then every few months, I kept looking to see if there was a new season. When it didn’t come, I just watched the old series over again. Four times. So imagine my surprise and delight when, out of habit, I looked up In Treatment online, to find that there is a new season out, with Uzo Aduba as psychologist Dr Brooke Taylor. I was ecstatic. A smart Black woman in the therapist’s chair, holding it down professionally while battling her personal demons. Irresistible.
In Treatment Seasons 1-3
In the first three seasons of In Treatment, Irish actor Gabriel Byrne was spectacular as Dr Paul Weston, a psychologist with a private practice from his home (which allowed us to see him fumble around in his family relationships). He was brilliant as a psychologist but deliciously flawed and vulnerable in his personal life, as seen in his interactions with his wife, his therapist Gina, and – spoiler alert – a patient he falls in love with. Dr Weston’s Irish lilt, penetrating insights, wry sense of humor, deep commitment to his vocation, and poetic melancholy reminded me of my first therapist, also an Irishman, when I was in Kenya in my twenties – I’ll call him Frank.
The Irish therapist
I ended up as Frank’s patient through a frustrating comedy of errors that is a story for another day. But we connected as soon as he invited me to sit in his office, and I instantly knew that he was the perfect therapist for me. He made a deep impression on me and inspired me to become a therapist, which is how I ended up leaving my teaching job in Nairobi to come to America to study psychology. He signed off on my hours of personal therapy, a prerequisite for my graduate program.
Frank introduced me to the ideas of, among others, Irish poet John O’Donohue, humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, and psychiatrist Carl Jung. He prescribed Anam Cara to me as bibliotherapy, which I couldn’t find in the local bookstores in Kenya at that time. But in an uncanny display of synchronicity similar to the one that led me to Frank, the book fell off the shelf of a bookstore I visited in Johannesburg a few months later, landing at my feet. Later, Frank and I shared a moment of laughter and awe when I described the encounter in session. I brought that book to America with me when I was accepted into my counseling psychology program. It still sits on my shelf today, two decades later.
There are so many things I love about this new In Treatment season: a formidable Black woman therapist who, like her predecessor, is brilliant yet flawed, making her at once inspiring and relatable. A fantastic cast of ethnically and culturally diverse patients, resulting in rich explorations of race, class, culture, gender, language, and sexual orientation. We learn about clinical stuff like maternal and erotic transference and alcoholism. Carl Jung is quoted a couple of times, and there are references to dreams and the unconscious. There are raw and real conversations about topical matters such as the stigma of mental illness and trauma in Black communities, racism and Black Lives Matter, environmental and LGBTQ issues, politics and white privilege.
We drop in on telehealth video sessions with Dr Taylor’s patients and see them navigate the challenges of COVID-19. We hold our breaths listening to Dr Taylor’s eloquent and unstinting views on white entitlement and misogyny, marvel at her political activism, and cringe every time she falls into self-imposed traps and dysfunctional behavior. Actor Liza Colon-Zayas is outstanding as Rita, Dr Taylor’s friend and AA sponsor, whose piercing insights and fierce love will move you to tears.
I am delighted that In Treatment is back in this superb iteration. I adored Dr Paul Weston, and now I get to revel in Dr Brooke Taylor’s life and foibles, and those of her patients. In Treatment Season 4 is a deeply satisfying and refreshing portrayal of the broad range of people and messy issues that make up today’s America (and show up on therapists’ couches near you).
OK then. Time for me to get back to eavesdropping on Eladio, Laila, and Colin’s juicy sessions.