Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hope Springs

I recently went to see the film Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell. I found it charming, funny and entertaining -- although Oscar material it's not! And while it was well received by most of the folks in the theater, Ruth and I were, without question, the youngest people there!

I guess the movie appeals to an older audience, which makes sense since it's about a couple in their sixties (Kay and Arnold Soames) whose marriage has become boring, routine and intimacy-free, causing Kay to enroll them in a week of intense marital counseling with renowned therapist Dr. Bernie Feld, played by Steve Carell.

Although Carell's character is a tad stereotypical (Ruth kept asking me, "Is that how you sound when you're working with clients?"), the way in which he works with the Arnolds renews hope in the possibility of restoring intimacy and closeness to a relationship, even after years of mundane living. It may involve a few false starts (so to speak!), but success is definitely possible. In other words, as the movie's title connotes, there is always hope.

As a therapist, about a third of my practice involves working with couples whose relationships have fallen into stagnancies of emotionless routine, and who find themselves facing the choice of either doing some really hard work, or simply (that's an understatement!) calling it quits. For many, understandably but unfortunately, giving up often seems to be the easier road. 

In fact, most of the issues couples face cannot be solved by a week of intensive therapy. I wish that were the case, but it's not. Sorry about that. For those who choose to put in the needed effort, however, the results can be well worth it.

Is Hope Springs worth seeing? Absolutely! And well worth the $8 ticket price. On the other hand, was the popcorn and soda worth the $10 they cost? No. Absolutely not! 

What are your thoughts? Did you see the movie? Say more about that...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

There's a Darkness on the Edge of Town

I became a Bruce Springsteen fan back in 1975 while going to college in southeastern Pennsylvania, not all that far from the Boss's Asbury Park stomping ground, and almost 10 years before Bruce and the E Street Band rose to mega-celebrity with the 1984 hit, Born in the USA. In the years since, Springsteen has sold over 100 million albums, and continues to play sold out concert venues around the world.

While his music has matured over the years, from the get-go Springsteen's lyrics have expressed wonderfully a perpetual sense of hope amidst despair, as seen though the eyes of one whose background and soul know first-hand the depth of life's struggles -- a theme prominent not only on his early albums like Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town, but one that is present still on his most recent release, Wrecking Ball.

As both a counselor and musician, I was fascinated by a recent article in The New Yorker, in which Springsteen shares with writer David Remnick his life-long struggle with depression and the fact that he has been in therapy for the past 30 years. (I can't quite imagine having Bruce as a client -- but I am willing to give it a try!)

I think it's always a good thing when celebrities go public and disclose the fact that they, too, have issues they can't handle on their own, choosing instead (and wisely!) to seek professional treatment. In so doing they encourage many, who previously struggled in private, to seek much needed professional care.

I find it encouraging that someone with the fame and following of Bruce Springsteen can admit to struggling with depression, and be willing to acknowledge the need for help. We've related to the message of his lyrics for the past 35 years, maybe the fact that he has seen fit to get help with his mental health issues can resonate with us, as well. What do you think? Say more about that...