A therapist’s couch becomes crowded and more complex in the aftermath of city-wide trauma.
Kate Myers

29 Nov 2021 - 11:07 AM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2021 - 11:07 AM

In the chaos of our current global climate, it’s not hard to recognise the importance of therapy. The deluge of fear and unpredictability in the last eighteen months has uncovered long-dormant issues that have led many, including those previously resistant to the idea, to seek the help of a professional. Allowing yourself to let go, feel all the feels, and unburden yourself without judgement has never sounded so appealing.

Set in the aftermath of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, In Therapy, the French iteration of the acclaimed Israeli drama BeTipul, explores life after this kind of trauma and the promise of renewed clarity that accompanies a session on the couch. In doing so, it challenges many of the preconceived notions that still exist about psychoanalysis and even therapists themselves; it turns out no one is immune to the lasting impact of being caught up in such an event, even shrinks.

As much as we love the quips and quick-fire banter that permeate pop culture’s version of psychotherapy (Frasier fans will know the score) there are no drive-through style solutions offered here. This is therapy in its most real and raw form, and meaningful breakthroughs take time. The compelling storytelling in In Therapy is brought to life by a strongly talented cast. 

Philippe Dayan (Frédéric Pierrot) is a psychologist based in the heart of Bataclan, just a stone’s throw from where the attacks took place in the north of the city, and in the days and weeks that follow, he sees an influx of individuals on the brink coming to his office.

Philippe is everything you could want in a therapist: calm, attentive, and completely unaffected by the revelations and admissions of his clients. Or so he would have them believe. The series follows the highs and lows of one of his appointments, capturing the disarming vulnerability of his clients, the difficulties posed by the crossroads they have reached in the wake of this devastating event, and the personal consequences for Philippe in absorbing a portion of their trauma into his own life with every session.

In the first episode, he meets with Ariane (Mélanie Thierry), a doctor who was in the emergency room on that fateful November evening. She might be young, successful and undeniably intelligent, but the horror of what she witnessed over forty-eight hours in the hospital seem to have taken their toll.

That’s the thing about the people that find themselves face to face with Philippe; they are the very ones that, in the midst of trauma, hold it together, but eventually and understandably fall to pieces once the dust has settled. Ariane, however, refuses to believe that the sadness she is feeling is a sole consequence of the attack, nor can she accept that she may be the instigator of the uncertainty now plaguing her personal life; she places a significant share of the blame for that onto her partner Cédric and his penchant for ultimatums.

But none of this is the reason for her session today. It’s clear from the moment she takes a seat that, for Ariane, the session is as much about testing Philippe as it is about getting to the source of her own insecurities. A year into therapy, she has come to know him almost as well as he knows her. As she deflects, distracts, and debates the advice and explanations he gives her, Philippe remains unshaken, managing to refocus with a simple “I’m listening” whenever the session steers off course. Well, most of the time. Even twelve months in, Ariane finds a way to surprise him when he least expects it.

Though Philippe appears to be an expert at remaining objective (that is the basic definition of his job after all), in slowly chipping away at the exterior of his clients, he makes discoveries that begin to demand more and more of himself and make it increasingly challenging to remain impartial. As the series continues, and relationships between therapist and clients are built, a theme begins to emerge among the individuals that arrive on his doorstep.

Whether it’s the denial of self-assured cop Adel (Reda Kateb), the troubled life of seventeen-year-old Camille (Céleste Brunnquell), or the undeniable tension between couple Damien (Pio Marmaï) and Léonora (Clémence Poésy), each are seeking someone to fill a void and help them make sense of what has happened. Some simply want to have difficult decisions taken off their hands.

For a brief moment, Philippe becomes the voice of a father, partner or friend, albeit one determined to keep his distance, but shouldering the problems of your clients, along with your own, while dealing with the emotion of the brutal situation you have all encountered is too much for anyone to bear alone.

It’s here that Philippe seeks the counsel of his own therapist Esther (Carole Bouquet) after a decade long hiatus, and gets the chance to unburden himself, proving that trauma can be both incredibly clarifying and confusing for therapist and client alike. Old wounds are reopened and his life proves to be just as complicated as theirs, if not more so. The reserved and somewhat aloof persona that he has constructed in his sessions, both in an attempt to protect himself and hide his own struggles, is shattered.

The cast of In Therapy are, without question, its greatest asset in bringing a refreshing humanity to the depiction of therapy. Each character is a real and relevant portrait of modern life, emotional and even dramatic at times, but believable and authentic, without the overacted volatility that so often accompanies representations of mental health. The series highlights the demands that therapy places on all involved, and in revisiting each individual’s story throughout, it normalises the setbacks and fragility that they bring. More than anything else, in the experiences of the characters and the stories they share, the series serves as an important reminder of the healing that can come with finally being heard.

In Therapy premieres on SBS at 10:55pm, Wednesday 1 December. Double episodes air weekly. (Each episode is 30 minutes.) Catch up at SBS On Demand anytime.


More from The Guide
SBS reveals next three artists for ‘Eurovision – Australia decides’ 2022
SBS and production partner Blink TV have announced three more artists who will be competing in ‘Eurovision – Australia decides’.
Spies to love: delve into the Spies and Lies Collection now streaming at SBS On Demand
The Spies and Lies Collection comprises 10 brilliant series from around the world.
Watch award-winning Israeli drama ‘Manayek’ before Hollywood remakes it
Israeli drama ‘Manayek’ is unmissable viewing; an intelligent combination of political intrigue, police procedural and family conflict, within a map of moral grey zones.
Top new series in December 2021
December is all about documentaries and crime dramas, with some comedy and sci-fi thrown into the mix.
‘Tell Me Who I Am’ is Spain’s gritty spy saga with a female James Bond
This story of a Spanish socialite turned wartime spy is a gritty tale of globe-trotting espionage that’s Spain’s biggest TV series to date.
Sex, guns, politics and police: a complicated, compelling drama set in Algeria
‘Algiers Confidential’ is now streaming at SBS On Demand.
Sofia Helin talks us through her picks on SBS On Demand
The star of 'The Bridge' and 'Atlantic Crossing' talks about her top selections from SBS On Demand.
Here’s what’s leaving SBS On Demand in December 2021
It’s drama central this December. Catch a host of outstanding series before they leave, as well as documentaries and movies galore.
Norwegian–German drama 'Furia' weaves a tangled web in which a female cop risks all to fight extremism
Typically in terrorist-crime dramas, it is a burly big man in camouflage who is depicted as the saviour of humanity. Not in the Norwegian–German drama 'Furia'.
Secrets strike at the heart of young love in 'My Different Ways'
Vitus is a twenty-something stuck in a rut, and he thinks a woman in a lobster costume is his only way out.