Feb 06

When Your Friends Need Therapy: How to Help Them Out

Do your friends need therapy? Have you ever tried to get one into therapy? I mean, other than using the old “You need therapy” and leaving it that.

Below are two pop culture examples of friends “encouraging” friends into therapy; in addition, one psychologist’s advice regarding this issue.

I. In this very brief clip from sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) firmly tells George (Jason Alexander) not just that he needs therapy—but, in so many words, that he needs more than anyone can usually get:

II. In the dramatic film Reign Over Me (2007) Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), a successful dentist who’s married with kids, isn’t as happy as he thinks he should be. Although he could use some therapy, he can’t seem to take that step.

By chance he runs into Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), an old school roommate whose wife and kids were killed on 9/11. It’s made super-evident that Charlie needs professional help—and badly. It becomes Alan’s mission to get him that.

When Alan does manage to get the resistant Charlie to see a shrink (Liv Tyler), Charlie can’t tolerate it. He won’t open up; he won’t even stay in her office. She advises that if he can’t talk to her, he should find someone else to tell about the tragedy that’s so messed him up.

So, he does; he unburdens himself to friend Alan. Not long afterward, he tries to commit “suicide by cop.” Oops—guess he really wasn’t ready to talk. Now he’s in even deeper trouble.

Meanwhile, there’s something happening within Alan. Carrie RickeyPhiladelphia Inquirer: “As he extends a hand to help Charlie, the last thing Alan expects is that this simple act of kindness will be the shock therapy he needs to jump-start his own dead emotional engine.”

The trailer can be viewed below:

III. In her recent post “Encouraging Family & Friends to Seek Psychotherapy“, Jill Stoddard lists some do’s and don’ts. Consult the article for further explanation of her points.

  • DO begin by emphasizing how much you care and how worried you are.
  • DO NOT confront them or shout at them regarding some of their behavior or choices, as this will only lead to the person feeling ashamed, cornered, and defensive.
  • DO get the advice of local professionals, and consult their research or pamphlets when considering how to express your concern. Local support groups, psychotherapy clinics, and community centers are almost always willing to help.
  • DO NOT take this approach for the wrong reasons…Make sure you have sorted out your own motives before attempting to talk to this person. If not, they will likely see through your attempt, and it may damage your relationship.
  • DO realize that this is not the least-confrontational course of action, and may impact your relationship if the individual does not take the suggestion well.
  • DO NOT be impatient. Even if your friend has a non-negative reaction to your suggestion, he or she may not reach out for help right away.
  • DO offer to help this person seek therapy, whether that means finding a doctor, booking an appointment, or just giving him or her a ride to an appointment.
Nov 09

“Flight”: Airline Pilot in Denial About His Addictions

Like the movie Smashed addressed in yesterday’s postFlight, another new flickis mainly about the addiction issues of the main character, an airline pilot named Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington).

At the start of this mystery thriller directed by Robert Zemeckis, Whitaker makes a needed and harrowing crash landing. The outcome is that it saves just about everyone on his plane and makes him a hero. A followup investigation, however, finds that Whitaker had been under the influence of alcohol and cocaine.

Basically, the film’s focus goes from a disastrous event to a life in disaster. Connie Ogle, Miami Herald, capsulizes the aftermath of the crash landing:

Flight, then, is not about post-traumatic stress or survivor’s guilt; it’s an examination of a man’s inability to come to terms with his alcoholism. But once you get past the intriguing fact that although Whip’s job puts hundreds of lives into his hands on a daily basis yet he’s cavalier about protecting them, the movie doesn’t feel much different than any other exploration of addiction. All the usual cliches are here. Whip has a shattered marriage in his past and is estranged from his teenage son. He hooks up with a young drug addict (Kelly Reilly) who’s trying to get sober. He lashes out at anyone who tries to help him even as he promises, ‘I can stop on my own.’

Other notable stars include Don Cheadle as Whitaker’s lawyer and John Goodman (in real life a recovering alcoholic) as his “Dr. Feelgood hippie” drug dealer and friend (Miami Herald).

The Addiction Struggles

Lisa KennedyDenver Post: “His sins are more of the denial variety, but he’s infuriating and manipulative. His ex is fed up. His teenage son despises him. In the grip of vices, he’s an addict and not in any hurry to stand up and make that declaration. Root for him and he’s likely to fail you, too.”

Tom CharityCNN: “When he picks up a fellow addict…and offers her shelter in the out-of-the-way farm where he grew up, it’s a toss-up whether he’s trying to help or looking for a like-minded screw-up and enabler…”

Forrest Wickman, Slate:

And though the crash sobered him temporarily, he soon decides he can manage his drinking. He landed a broken plane while coked up—can’t he steer his own addiction?

…(W)hile Flight is hardly an endorsement of drunk driving (let alone flying), it’s startling to see a character spend so much screen time getting away with it—most on-screen drunk drivers can’t drive a block without finding a telephone pole.

But Did You Like It?

Lisa SchwarzbaumEntertainment Weekly: “AA, God, and prayer are invoked by various characters with various religious convictions in John Gatins’ unflinching screenplay, each time with a seriousness, modesty, and ease rare in so many movies about drunks and their journeys.”

Andrew O’HehirSalon: “Slowly but surely, ‘Flight’ degenerates from a tale of moral paradox and wounded romance into a mid-1990s after-school special about addiction and recovery.”

Regina Weinrich, The Huffington Post: “That a hotel mini-bar can be scarier than a plane flailing in midair is a measure of this classic cautionary tale, one of the best pictures as award season approaches.”