Therapist Boundaries (Violence): Two Movies

Do a Google search about therapist boundaries, specifically therapists and violence, and you’ll find plenty about clients attending therapy for being violent.

But can you find any reliable info about therapists being violent? Against their clients? No? Do we have to (misguidedly) look to the movies for such things?

I. Good Will Hunting

Will (Matt Damon) in the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) is one character who has to attend therapy after an episode of violence. Finding the right shrink for Will, who trusts no one who tries to help him, turns out to be no easy feat. Well, maybe the less traditional, more directive kind of therapist we eventually find in Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) will fill the bill.

But before Will gets anywhere close to the meaningful catharsis the film wants him to have, he has to put Maguire through the usual hoops, in one instance meanly and provocatively maligning Maguire’s dead wife. What follows is this disturbing scene involving terrible therapist boundaries:

Lesson #1 (You Wouldn’t Pick Up From The Movies): It’s never okay to choke a client. (Or harm a client in any way.) (Unless, of course, in self-defense.) Even if the client then backs off and actually moves on to have one particular wowie-zowie life-changing therapy session.

JC Schildbach, LMHC, RespecttheBlankie.com: “Despite what the filmmakers would have us believe, this is not a valid technique for establishing rapport or ensuring appropriate transference with clients who have suffered abuse–even when therapist and client are both from south Boston and the client just shit-talked the therapist’s dead wife.”

II. What About Bob?

Next up, there’s actually worse things a shrink can do. In the film What About Bob? (1991), the psychiatrist played by Richard Dreyfuss goes nuts himself dealing with Bob (Bill Murray), his dependent client who follows him, uninvited of course, on vacation.

Lesson #2 (You Might Not Pick Up From the Movies): Even unsuccessful attempts at killing one’s (annoying) clients are not allowed.

Well, at least Leo Marvin’s “death therapy” doesn’t work, and while there’s an unhappy ending in store for him—catatonia and psychiatric hospitalization—there’s a happy ending for Bob, who marries Lily,  becoming Leo’s brother-in-law. And there’s more: We find out in the Epilogue that Bob goes on to get his psychology degree and to write the bestselling Death Therapy.

1 visit(s) today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *