Lockdown thwarted many a schedule this year, including production of season 2 of the fascinating fly-on-the-wall documentary series, ‘Couples Therapy’. Instead, host, therapist Dr Orna Guralnik continued working with her clients via Zoom sessions.
As with all of us, new challenges were stacked against Dr Guralnik and the couples this year: maintaining or building trust through computer screens, facing loss of income, navigating heightened isolation and loneliness, and being in much closer proximity to loved ones than we’re used to.
Two couples from season 1 appear in the special: transgender woman Lauren and her nonbinary partner Sam. They’ve let go of the desire to have a child and are dealing with Sam’s wedding photography business being sidelined. And DeSean and Elaine, who are now living in Florida, are contending with texts DeSean has sent to another woman.
When the news comes through of the murder of George Floyd, DeSean is hit particularly hard. It prompts Dr Guralnik to seek counsel from Black therapist, Kirkland Vaughans to navigate his pain in the most empathic and helpful way.
We also meet new clients James and Michelle, who are juggling the challenges of raising their 3-year-old while harbouring resentment towards each other, and Lara and Trey, who’ve been together since their teenage years, have weathered the storms of Trey’s affairs and long periods apart. Turns out, being together all the time isn’t helping matters, nor is Trey’s job loss.
The special is compelling in its rawness, just like the first season was. But the addition of the shared experience of lockdown and its impact on our home lives this year – including seeing into Dr Guralnik’s everyday life – makes it particularly affecting.
A full season 2 will arrive later, but for now, this one-hour special will prompt nods of recognition and acknowledgement of what’s been an especially trying year. As Dr Guralnik says, ‘There’s an ongoing attempt to blame the person in front of you, when in fact, there are deep and profound issues that are rattling us all.’
The show ends on a semi-return to normal as Dr Guralnik begins to reinstate her regular in-person sessions. And that feels somehow fortifying.
Couples Therapy: The COVID Special is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Season 1 episodes are also now streaming at SBS On Demand.
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