I got to blind react to Tony Soprano’s first therapy session in the Pilot of The Sopranos. Yes, I haven’t seen The Sopranos – I’ve wanted to for a long time but just never got round to it.
When I found that I was blind reacting to Tony’s first session, I thought it was the perfect way to explain what happens in that session, for real. And, I also got to see how accurate the show was.
Silence is golden
How the session begins is Tony looking nervous and then not being able to gauge what he should be doing or what was the right thing to do.
This is actually something I’ve seen many times with new clients. You are essentially going into a room with a stranger and expected to tell them your biggest fears and issues.
But that isn’t expected from the get-go. What Tony does is first understand where he should sit. Then there is a long silence before Doctor Melfi starts a conversation about why he is there.
You are in an unknown space and the therapeutic relationship has to start with that understanding of power.
As Tony does, he expects her to begin and as he is used to getting what he wants in his life, he will not say anything first.
When your session starts the room is yours to do as you wish, you may come in, or not, you may talk, or not. If I gauge that you want me to start, I can. You pay for that time to have a space to understand yourself and how you fit into the world.
Therefore, there are no expectations of what to do or say (or don’t say).
Who has the power?
One thing I’ve mentioned already is this element of control that Tony needs within the room. He says, ‘They sent me here.‘ when he refers to the doctors who diagnosed his panic attack. What he’s doing is ensuring that the power stays with him, that he establishes that he could leave anytime he wants to and that it wasn’t his choice.
Whether you were referred to therapy or if it was your choice, it is always worth assessing how to use this time for the better. Also what you would like to gain from it.
What I’m thankful Sopranos did was bring mental health (especially for men) into mainstream conversation. From the beginning of time, a man’s strength has been his ability to not show weakness. And for a woman, their instinct is to be the calm and rational one.
All of this is exhausting if you haven’t found an outlet for your inside feelings and more negative emotions.
What this does, however, is weaken your ability to build existing and new relationships. Showing emotions and weakness are what helps build trust and comfort around others. When you do this you find yourself unable to find your place in the world – and that can be a pretty lonely place to be.
What has happened to Tony is that all of this bottling up has resulted in a physical reaction -a panic attack. And this could be true for many of you.
By Tony just stepping into that therapy room, he has made it ok for anyone to feel safe about looking after their own mental health.
Bringing mental health to the forefront of everyone’s mind is what I hope to continually do. So, I’m grateful whenever I see it shown and discussed in the media too.
If you want to know more about what you can expect from therapy we answer any questions you may have here. If you would like to know more about many of the issues out there, browse our Find Help For Guides.