Is Tony's Therapy Working?

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 7

Is Tony's Therapy Working?

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 7

Is Tony's Therapy Working?
Talking television.
Oct. 28 2002 10:52 AM

The Sopranos: Season 4 Analyzed; Week 7

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We all keyed in on the question of Tony's impulse control inside and outside therapy. And how we see the interaction with Jennifer will determine what we make out of the whole therapeutic endeavor. Two questions about their exchange:

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1) Are Tony's apparent gains in self-observation and impulse control real, or is he playing Melfi for all she is worth? I heard an experienced forensic psychologist argue that talking therapy with sociopaths tends to backfire. Not only do they use the lingo to scam the therapist into thinking there is something real going on, but they also use their new psychological insights to be more manipulative. Glen, I'd like to know what you make of what I see as Tony's ability to pull back and hear what Jennifer is saying and his supposed impulse control with the crack addicts.

2) There's usually a divergence between what's going on in the treatment and what's going on life. Sometimes behavior on the outside doesn't change until late in a treatment—and we often only hear about it obliquely. Again, what do we make of the difference between Tony's apparent progress in the treatment—if we accept there is any—and what he does on the outside?

Finally Peg, I disagree when you say that this late in a treatment Tony shouldn't be acting out in the office as much he does. In my experience, treatment isn't linear, but is often marked my dramatic ups and downs. I think the impact of Gloria's suicide and his fear that Jennifer cannot protect him are enough to explain the regressive outburst on Tony's part.

Joel

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., is a professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and author of The Psychology of The Sopranos, inspired by this discussion. Philip A. Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D., is a senior faculty member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. Joel Whitebook, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Columbia Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research. Margaret Crastnopol, Ph.D., is on the faculty of the Northwest Center for Psychoanalysis. All are practicing therapists as well.