'In Treatment' Has Therapists on the Edge of Their Couches

Maybe therapy isn't so bad after all.

A cushy couch, freshly brewed coffee and even a handsome doctor are all part of the deal, at least for Paul Weston's patients.

Weston, played by Gabriel Byrne, is HBO's latest incarnation of a psychotherapist on the network's new drama "In Treatment."

The program airs frequently — 30-minute episodes five nights a week for nine weeks — and, now at its halfway point, has been lauded by many psychotherapists who say it's one of the most honest and accurate depictions of the profession they've ever seen.

"The writing in ['In Treatment'] is extremely credible from the standpoint of psychotherapy," said Glen Gabbard, a professor of psychiatry and psychoanalysis at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "The writers have been very thoughtful in trying to put one foot in real-life therapy and one foot in what works dramatically."

This isn't the first time HBO has featured a therapist in one of its dramas — there was the mob-advising therapist Jennifer Melfi in "The Sopranos" and the relationship guru and psychoanalyst May Foster in "Tell Me You Love Me" — but Weston's patients have little in common with Tony Soprano or the relationship-challenged couples Foster treated.

The series, produced by "Six Feet Under's" Rodrigo Garcia and based on a hit Israeli series, depicts a different patient taking a seat on Weston's couch each day of the week, allowing viewers to follow their progress from week to week.

On Tuesday, there is a young Navy pilot suffering the effect of a botched mission in Iraq and a subsequent heart attack; on Wednesday a precocious and suicidal teenage gymnast who also happens to be sleeping with her coach; and on Thursday, a couple arguing over their unborn child seek treatment.

Weston even visits a therapist himself on Fridays, venting about his patients and his own crumbling personal life — his wife is having an affair.

But it's Monday's patient, Laura, played by Melissa George, who has viewers and psychologists talking.

Laura, who is as appealing as she is repulsive, is madly in love with Weston, proclaiming her love for him in almost every session and even cornering him in a doorway to ask him if he "wants her."

The issue of erotic transference — when patients develop sexual feelings for their therapists or doctors and even try to seduce them — is not uncommon, and psychotherapists told ABCNEWS.com that Laura's plot line is yet another example of how "In Treatment" succeeds at providing the often wary and skeptical public an accurate insight into the complex world of therapy.

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"It's common for a therapist who is listening sympathetically and focusing completely on the patient and their needs to become a love object to the patient," said Gabbard, who has not only begun studying "In Treatment" but is the author of the book "The Psychology of 'The Sopranos.'"

"Some patients never mention these feelings, others mention them with great embarrassment and a very small number demand or beg for a sexual relationship like Laura does [on the show]," Gabbard said.

A sense of intimacy is inherent in therapy, and speaking one-on-one with another person privately often invokes feelings beyond a typical professional relationship.

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