Mar 17

“Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian” (A Preview)

Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian is that rare movie that apparently has a positive representation of a therapist, in this case a real person, George Devereux, an anthropologist and psychoanalyst who in 1951 wrote a book, Reality and Dream, on which writer/director Arnaud Desplechin based his script.

Also rare in filmdom: making day to day therapy sessions between two main characters the main story.

The Sessions with Jimmy P.

Mark Adams, Screen Daily: “The pair start to spend an hour together each day, with Devereux gently probing into Jimmy’s past and allowing him to gradually talk about his attitude towards women (and his mother and sister in particular), incidents of his past and what happened to him during the war. Jimmy still veers between mental blackouts and moments of lucidity, while at the same time the relationship provides Devereux with a solid project and a much-needed sense of place.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, “…Jimmy and his analyst…form a great movie friendship, unlike any you’ve seen. Its specialness is rooted equally in the men’s culturally specific yet emotionally similar experiences (they’re both sensitive, wryly funny cultural outsiders) and in the old-school Freudian ‘talking cure’ that they pursue together.”

The Patient, Jimmy Piccard (Benicio Del Toro)

He’s a Native American Blackfoot World War II veteran who sustained a head injury that’s been healed—or has it? This man’s experiencing a myriad of symptoms that include severe headaches, dizziness, hearing loss, temporary blindness, and recurring nightmares. It’s in the Topeka Military Hospital in Kansas in 1948 that Jimmy P. gets referred to Devereux due to his specialization in Native American culture.

Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter:

…Happily, breaking another tedious film cliché, he doesn’t resist his doctor in the least and analysis rolls on briskly. Yes, there’s a traumatic Oedipal moment when little Jimmy sees his recently widowed mother in bed with another man, and on another occasion he gets a thrashing after being caught playing in the hay with a little girl. Then there’s the war and the accident in which he suffered a severe head injury. But ultimately, his greatest trauma involves his own mistreatment of his mistress and the daughter she bore him. Once that guilt is peeled away, a whole other level opens up of repressed anger over the prejudice and discrimination he is subject to as a Native American – another source of his blinding headaches.

The Shrink, George Devereux (Mathieu Amalric)

Deborah YoungHollywood Reporter: “…(H)e’s the analyst everyone dreams of – penetrating, sympathetic, every word a direct hit. For once the dreary, cinematically overused drama of transference takes a back seat to pure intellectual detective work as he sets up a relaxed dialogue with his patient.”

Selected Reviews

Mark Adams, Screen Daily: “Each is escaping aspects of their past, and the relationship turns out to be therapeutic for both men. Jimmy comes to terms with the issues that lie at the core of his problems, while Devereux relaxes into the environment, and finds a brief bit of happiness when his is visited by his married lover Madeleine (a delightful performance by Gina McKee).”

Matt PatchesHollywood Reporter: “A milestone case in the world of ethnographic psychoanalysis may not sound like fodder for great drama, but it’s all about who’s the ‘psycho’ and who’s conducting the ‘analysis.’ In the case of Jimmy P…(t)hese guys could read the phone book and make it interesting.”

Scott Foundas, Variety: …(F)ew films have focused so intently on the minutiae of psychoanalysis as Desplechin does here — an uncompromising strategy that will undoubtedly distance some viewers while drawing others further in.”

The Movie Trailer

Jan 23

How Therapy Works: Several Writers on the Subject

Presented below are some brief articles on the topic of how therapy works. I’ll give some highlights, but I think they’re all worth reading in their entirety.

I. Clinical social worker May Benatar‘s “What Good Can It (Psychotherapy) Do?”

“Therapy is about accessing our inner, innate wisdom, not replacing it with someone else’s.”

Two elements of therapy proposed to be enablers of that “inner compass”:

1. “The magic of relationship”: Researchers who’ve studied all different types of therapy approaches find that it’s mostly about the relationship.

2. Listening: “A therapist listens differently than other people…When things go well, a good therapist hears what others do not, even the speaker.”

II. “My Double Life in Therapy,” by Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, who’s in the process of writing a book called Lies I’ve Told My Therapist

In essence, the writer spins tall tales to her therapist—with interesting results. Some quotes:

On starting therapy with inexperienced therapist, Lawrence: “I’ve never been much of an actress, but in that moment I decided that playing the role of normal and sane would be much easier than actually becoming normal or sane.”

On continuing therapy in this way: “The reality is this: Only a crazy person lies to their therapist, right? But it went on like this for six months – me telling stories, Lawrence responding with doe-eyed amazement. I figured I must have temporarily lost my mind, and unexpectedly, the very person I hired to ensure that didn’t happen was now encouraging this behavior, spoon feeding it with his positive responses…”

III. Related to the above, you also may be interested in John Grohol’s “10 Common Reasons to Lie to Your Therapist” on Psych Central.

  1. Painful or embarrassing information.
  2. Didn’t know it was important; denial.
  3. My therapist will judge me.
  4. My therapist will report me.
  5. Trust and rapport with your therapist.
  6. Lying as coping mechanism.
  7. It just takes time. (that is, to build that kind of trust)
  8. Wanting to maintain a positive self-image.
  9. Transference and countertransference issues.
  10. Fear. (many different possibilities)

Finally, a few humorous quotes about how therapy works (for the writers of these quotes, that is):

Therapy hasn’t really made me feel any better, it just made me understand why I feel bad. Corey Pandolph

i go to therapy to deal with people who don’t go to therapy. Lauren Ashley Bishop

I like to call therapy baggage claim. Aparna Nancherla