Ascension Behavioral Health

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Gypsy on Netflix

(Spoilers. It's been out for weeks, I waited!)

Naomi Watts in Gypsy

Oh, Naomi Watts. The ONLY reason I even made it through 10 episodes of difficult to watch, (clinically) but intriguing enough, television. Gypsy is a series about a psychotherapist (PhD, so not sure why she's not considered a psychologist; I digress) who crosses SEVERAL professional & personal boundaries by getting involved in the lives of people her clients discuss in therapy with her. The show is promoted as a psychological thriller, and while I give it that, it was so predictable that the "thrill," did not last for long. There are so many cringe-worthy boundary violations that my head was spinning and I actually fell asleep several times, likely due to the predictability and annoyance, but maybe because I was also very tired this week. Even though I know it's fiction, it's still hard to watch such an important role of a therapist being portrayed in such a bold and sinister way. If I knew Jean, I would report her to the board of psychologists, never refer to her AND cross the street if I saw her coming! Keep that bad JuJu all the way over there, lady. 

Dr. Jean Holloway (alias: Diane Hart) portrays an outward narrative of "the good life," i.e. long term husband who loves & desires her, fun loving child, swanky NY therapist office and wardrobe....but what we quickly see is that none of this equates to happiness or fulfillment for her, contrary to popular belief. In turn, Jean suspects that her husband's assistant wants more than a professional relationship with him, her daughter is showing gender fluidity and Jean is unsure how to navigate this, she doesn't fit in with the neighborhood "mom" group, and she also shows some tension with her colleagues (but that appears most related to her clinical reports not always adding up and not taking constructive clinical criticism well). There are also hints at a toxic relationship with her mother and boundary violations with a previous client who was recently "released." I obviously want all the tea on the mother-daughter dynamics and I am absolutely sure that her issues in relationships with others now are rooted in this relationship.

 

The three clients' lives she steps ALL the way into include:

-a young man struggling with the breakup of an intense codependent romantic relationship (I work heavily with relationship codependence in my work and recommend Melody Beattie, CoDependent no more to help; see my Resources page) 

-a young woman struggling with addiction and a codependent romantic relationship rooted in this addiction

-an older mother having a very difficult time with her adult daughter's push for independence and wanting to maintain a codependent relationship with her

 

....see a theme? Jean having boundary issues with several clients with their own boundary issues isn't lost on me (or on her, as she's seen writing this down in her notes during one of her sessions) and she makes specific moves to gather more information about these people from her clients, in order to better pluck herself into their lives. As she begins to integrate herself into their lives, she makes more mistakes, and what continues to happen is inevitable, because--people are people, and you CANNOT control them. So, she loses her anticipated control over their lives, i.e. Sidney being her reckless & wanton Sidney self, Tom showing up to therapy with Allison, & a pending mother-daughter session that could go down in history; and Jean therefore loses control of her own lies. She has influence on her clients, and when things go awry for her, she tries to get her clients to do things that will preserve her personas. You really suck, Jean. 

It's clear that something is missing enough in Jean's life for her to act out these intrusive & invasive fantasies with the people in her clients' lives, but the show doesn't really help the viewers understand this. Or, at least, doesn't want us to understand until S2. With her lies and blurred ethical/moral codes and inability to keep up with it all, she consistently puts her clients at risk, her license at risk, her group practice's reputation at risk, her marriage at risk, her daughter's emotional security at risk and her family's overall stability at risk.  

Near the end, when Jean was able to utter, "I'm in over my head. I'm scared," to her husband, I was THRILLED. Finally, some honesty. Finally some acknowledgement of lack of control and (some) mistakes made. Her life is falling apart all around her, but what brings her to this place is fear of her physical safety with a car lurking outside; interesting. I assume Tom will become more dangerous if the show continues, he did after all, threaten her. Jean was scared then, but she is now, as she should be. Also, and so importantly!! We finally see her reconnect with her therapist in the final episode, but this internal processing throughout the show would have been much better for context and to slow some of the drama down a bit.

As a psychologist, I still find myself (only slightly) confused as to whether Jean really wants to understand more about her clients in order to actually help them, living out some fantasies because she's unhappy, or whether she really is just that manipulative, terrible and seeking control/power in some area of her life. But, in remembering the last line of the season: "Those people who truly desire power are actually only trying to control one thing: themselves." Seems telling enough, right? While I would love to diagnosis Jean with a more severe mental health issue wrought with delusions and a disconnect from reality, intermittent psychosis; what blatantly comes across is Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder and plain ol' karma coming for her and now she's scrambling. Jean, go away. And leave Dolly with us, I like her vibe. 

Due to stigma, it's difficult enough to get clients into therapy to address short term and long term concerns as it is, and Dr. (rolls eyes) Jean Holloway doesn't make it any easier for us to do the healing when she's on the screen! I do greatly hope that viewers are able to separate fiction from reality, but I recognize that some eyes & ears to the show may not be able to do that, and may feed into widespread myths about therapists being manipulative and potentially making their lives worse. I try my best to decrease the stigma and be an inviting resources to a special & life changing relationship individuals can have with a therapist, but there's but so much that can be done when the field of psychology is up against so many barriers.

What I would recommend happening next? Dr. (gag) Jean Holloway: Stop seeing clients IMMEDIATELY. Stay away from Melissa. Intensify your own treatment with your therapist. Quit the field entirely. Go to marriage counseling (preferably with an Emotion Focused Therapist). Once you increase your insight and decrease your acting out, do whatever you are recommended to do next by your therapist(s) and mind your business. Preferably on the other side of the street from me. Fingers crossed?

Lastly, I still have no clue why the show is called Gypsy and what that has anything to do with the plot. Maybe that will be explained in S2? (can't guarantee I'll make it, but let's see how my life is set up when Netflix drops this). Keep up with me for more #PsychReviews of shows & movies that pique my interest. Hope you enjoyed the read!