'Work in Progress' Episode 2 examines patient-therapist attachment as Abby converses with dead shrink’s photo

'Work in Progress' Episode 2 examines patient-therapist attachment as Abby converses with dead shrink’s photo
Abby McEnany in 'Work in Progress'. (Source: Showtime)

Showtime’s new comedy ‘Work in Progress’ is a remarkably well-written story of a self-proclaimed “queer d**e” and her anxieties. Abby (Abby McEnany) is depressed and suicidal.

In episode  1, when she talks to her therapist about suicidal thoughts, she finds her therapist dead; mid-session. Obviously, that leaves her broken. And we see how in episode 2, at her therapist’s funeral and wake, Abby spends a sizable amount of time talking to her photo.

She talks about her depression, her relationship with her sister, her budding relationship with Chris (Theo Germaine), a trans man half her age. She keeps on rambling like it’s a therapy session until she is asked by other people, waiting in line to pay their respects, to move.

Abby’s insistence on sticking to her therapist (even after she’s dead) may seem comical. But it really isn’t. Therapy is a complicated thing. To find someone you can open up to about all your problems, to be vulnerable in front of a stranger, to speak your mind freely with them requires an immense amount of trust -- that takes time to build.

And once built, it’s not easy to let go. “Generally I would just tell someone, ‘That makes sense,’” says Laura Reagan, a clinical social worker and trauma therapist in Maryland who hosts the ‘Therapy Chat’ podcast. “Not having the same ongoing connection and interaction with them that you used to can be hard, and that’s okay.”

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a plethora of tales where people of all ages, genders, races, and nationalities have written about how much they miss their old therapist. It may seem like a classic one-sided love story, but it isn't. It is so much more nuanced.

According to Dr. Jeffery Smith, author of ‘Attachment to Your Therapist: A Conversation’, “The consulting room is an emotional candy store. It is a place where you are the only person in the world and it’s all about you. The therapist has no other mission but to understand you just as you are and help you heal and grow. It is as close as you can come in adult life to the one-way relationship of childhood where you receive but don’t have to give back. In the case of psychotherapy, you do give back, but in a different currency, that allows for all the feeling of being taken care of.”

Like in the case of Abby, even though it is meant as a comic element, her attachment to her now-dead therapist does not look toxic. Hopefully, that arc will never take such a turn. She just seems to be missing her confidant, her friend, her safe space.

'Work in Progress' airs Sundays at 11 p.m., only on Showtime.

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