Wednesday, January 19

‘Couples therapy’, an educated foray into intimate disagreements | TV

Psychoanalysis may have few curative effects, as its detractors insist, but it cannot be denied a capacity for seduction that has been used many times by the small screen (and the big one). There is the extraordinary series In treatment —US version of the Israeli original Be the guy-, with his analyst (now without a couch) and his tormented patients, of which adaptations have been made in different countries. Following in its wake, Couples therapy, of Showtime, which already broadcasts Movistar + in its second season, proposes an immersion, although educated and without intimate excesses, in the complex fabric of couple relationships. Only here there is no scriptwriter or characters. Nor is there any dramatic action beyond that which takes place in the sessions themselves.

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Everything is real. From the psychotherapist —the very photogenic and natural 57-year-old psychoanalyst Orna Guralnik— to “her” patients: four couples (Sarah and Lauren, Evelyn and Alan, DeSean and Elein, Annie and Mau) in the first season and others. three in the second (Gianni and Matthew, Michal and Michael, Tashira and Dru). All recorded during actual therapy sessions using discreetly camouflaged cameras in Guralnik’s office. The producers and directors of the series (Josh Krugman, son of therapists, Elyse Steinberg and Elie Despres, to whom Kim Roberts is added in the second season), did a kind of casting to choose the participants from a multitude of applicants.

The selection seems to obey a double desire: to offer cases of interest and to abide by the forced ethnic and gender diversity. Tensions differ between traditional marriages and the couples formed by Sarah and Lauren, a transsexual, or Gianni and Matthiew, a gay man tormented by his father since adolescence. Everyone, New York neighbors. In the series, close to the documentary, his interventions are credible and natural, even though we witness something as private as a real therapy session. Merit of the realization and of the couples who handle themselves before the camera as consummate actors. What has led you to accept such an extreme proposal? According to the creators, who rejected all applicants with a desire for television notoriety, they are driven by the desire that their stories be useful to other troubled couples.

Beyond all this, the series engages for its dialogues, for the staging of intimate disagreements and the capacity of the psychotherapist to define problems, to undo the web of guilt. The affective mismatches between Tashira and Dru, the veiled and explicit reproaches between Gianni and Matthew, or Michal’s explosive complaints about her passive husband, also reveal the weight that pathologies have on our relationships and affections. Guralnik dissects emotions and behaviors, while his own relationships remain in the shadows. The second season offers a brief portrait of the city confined by covid 19, with a psychotherapist and patients communicating by videoconference, and a special tension in the air because, as Guralnik points out, the confinement closes all the escape routes. Once the worst of the pandemic has been overcome, the doctor reopens the consultation to her patients who, in the end, seem to have overcome their differences in some way. With what the series manages, in addition to being interesting, to publicize the benefits of couples therapy.

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