The Family Man’s depiction of therapy has been objected to by counsellors, who believe it might deter first-time patients from opening up to mental health professionals. Experts clear the air
While The Family Man’s second season has been receiving rave reviews from fans, it has also attracted the ire of mental health professionals, who are calling out its portrayal of counsellors. From the therapist (played by the late Asif Basra) meting out advice to him talking to clients from a position of authority, there are several aspects of the on-screen therapeutic process that deviate from real life and, worryingly, may deter those considering seeking therapy from doing so. Experts debunk common misconceptions.
Dr Nahid Dave
>> A therapist will tell you what to do
“You will not receive direct answers or guidance about what to do with your life. That is not the role of the therapist. What your therapist will help you with, however, is to become more capable of making your own decisions,” explains Dr Nahid Dave, a psychiatrist at Thought Matters. She adds that therapy is not about convincing or persuading someone to do something, which is often an expectation expressed by clients’ partners or parents. “Therapists are not mind readers or messengers. It is a two-way process that will require willing and active participation and groundwork from the client as well,” she adds.
>> Your therapist will always be available to you
One of the most common challenges that therapists face is of establishing boundaries, says Dr Dave. “Clients often expect the therapist to be available on call whenever they face a crisis. Being constantly available isn’t just impractical but can also be detrimental as it enables dependency,” she says. It is therefore important to understand the difference between therapy and an SOS helpline.
>> You must research online
Many clients will seek answers for their problems online and then come to the session with a ready diagnosis. Through the session, they want to seek validation for their assumptions, says Dr Dave. “Remember the diagnosis often shifts as people change and evolve. The label is very fluid, and has no real bearing,” she adds. Instead, she recommends taking some time to make a list of every traumatic or difficult situation that has had a negative impact on your mental health. This will enable you to present a succinct summary during your first consultation instead of wasting time on unnecessary details. If a particular incident warrants further investigation, it can be explored during successive sessions with the therapist.
>> You will instantly feel better
Therapy is often an emotionally uncomfortable journey. While the first few sessions will make you feel better as they are designed to help you bond with and open up to your therapist, as you progress, your thought process will be challenged, and you will be called on to become accountable. “Every therapy session will not go well. However, this doesn’t mean that therapy isn’t working for you,” advises Arti Shroff, a clinical psychologist. “However, if you do not feel heard or understood, or your feedback is not acknowledged and incorporated into your treatment, consult another therapist,” she summarises.