What Kind Of Therapist Is Jean On ‘Gypsy’? Naomi Watts’ Character Needs A Lesson In Boundaries
Netflix has kept many of the details surrounding Gypsy under wraps, other than the fact that it features "a therapist who begins to develop dangerous and intimate relationships with the people in her patients' lives," according to the show's official description. But what kind of therapist does Naomi Watts play on Gypsy, exactly? After all, that's a rather vague job description that encompasses a wide array of specific duties.
Inserting a therapy scene into your TV show is a surefire way to plumb some juicy drama, given that it requires characters to literally analyze their own feelings and motivations. Think of Tony Soprano trying to reconcile his double life with the help of his therapist on The Sopranos; Laurie Garvey failing to provide solace for her patients in a world rocked by the Sudden Departure on The Leftovers; or Celeste Wright forced to face the painful truth about her abusive relationship with her husband on Big Little Lies. Granted, those shows are about a lot of other things in addition to therapy — so just think about how juicy a show that's all about a therapist and her patients is going to be.
Given how little information Netflix is letting slip about their newest original program ahead of its June 30 premiere, the exact nature of protagonist Jean Holloway's profession won't be officially confirmed until viewers tune in and find out for themselves. But it's pretty easy to narrow down the list of possibilities based on what has already been shown in the trailers.
Here's what Jean Holloway definitely is not: she's not a couples counselor, as she's only ever seen interacting with patients in a one-on-one scenario; she's probably not a psychiatrist, since she doesn't appear to be prescribing medication; she doesn't seem to be a behavioral therapist, as she appears to be helping people more with general life and relationship problems rather than specific habits, phobias, and disorders.
From the evidence that is shown in the trailer, it seems most likely that Jean is a psychoanalyst. "I used to believe that people determine their own lives," Watts' character says in the promo. "Yet there's one force more powerful than free will: our desires." This does seem reflective of the tenets of psychoanalysis, which the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) defines as being "based on the idea that people are frequently motivated by unrecognized wishes and desires that originate in one's unconscious" (emphasis mine).
Earlier in the trailer, Jean asks her male patient to close his eyes and pretend that she's his ex-girlfriend. APsaA also states that those aforementioned desires "can be identified through the relationship between patient and analyst. By listening to patients' stories, fantasies, and dreams, as well as discerning how patients interact with others, psychoanalysts offer a unique perspective that friends and relatives might be unable to see." While I can't speak to the ethical implications of actually asking your patient to imagine that you're his object of desire, Jean's goals with the exercise do seem in line with this definition of psychoanalysis.
If Jean is indeed a psychoanalyst, this separates her somewhat from other onscreen portrayals of therapy — like Dr. Paul Weston, the protagonist of HBO's In Treatment, perhaps Gypsy's most famous predecessor in the field of television series entirely centered around therapy. Gabriel Byrne's Dr. Weston was a psychologist, which is different from a psychoanalyst in that it's less focused on Freudian theories of the subconscious and thought exercises, and more focused on contemporary research and practical techniques, according to Psychology Today.
Regardless of the nature of Jean's therapist — and regardless of whether the show even provides an explicit designation — what's clear from the trailers is that she's a highly unprofessional one who doesn't so much blur the boundary between patient and therapist as she does blow it to smithereens. Perhaps viewers shouldn't be so caught up in the exact definition of Jean's job, given how little they're supposed to idolize her conduct. Better to just sit back and watch her wreak havoc on her life — and the lives of her patients — from the comfort of your own couch.