Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

In their last session together, it seemed to me that there wasn't much therapy going on and that their session may have devolved into nothing more than naked hostility towards each other.

Melfi started it by referring to Tony as Elliot's "favorite patient". I think she was really saying she was angry with Kupferberg about his previous attempts to talk with her about Tony because he was just trying to get some vicarious pleasure from her work. She has a right to be angry. If true, he is wasting her time and money and acting unprofessional by ignoring his role as her therapist.

But Dr. Kupferberg sure ain't no slouch. He countered by telling her about those studies that concluded talk therapy with sociopaths was essentially a waste of time. I think what he was really saying was that she shouldn't be giving him shit about wanting to talk about Tony because she was just wasting her time trying to give Tony talk therapy and she was being a bad therapist to boot because she didn't even realize that she couldn't help Tony. Although it seems silly to me to say she can't help Tony. Surely there must be some way that talking with her can be of some value to Tony.

I forget exactly when during the exchange she accused him of smirking. I know that I didn't see any smirk. But that's not really important. She knows him a lot better than I and maybe she really did see a smirk. Or there may not have been any smirk. I've learned in this forum that different people can easily experience the same events and come away with wildly different opinions of what they experienced.

But I do think Melfi should get a new therapist, regardless. Or at least discuss this issue with him. I also think she should check into these studies and if it is actually true, she should stop wasting her time and Tony's time and money.

But, the larger issue is what Chase and the other writers may be saying about Melfi and Tony here. Do they really think that all the time they have spent together has been little more than a waste of time? If so, are they preparing us somehow? Preparing us that if something terrible happens to Tony and his family that we shouldn't blame Melfi, afterall?

Re: Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

I'm not sure I agree that Melfi and Elliott's relationship and exchange in the last episode is that off the mark from what goes on in any typical long-term therapeutic setting. add to that the fact that they are both psychiatrists and the longstanding ethical issue of Melfi's treatment of Tony (an issue repeatedly brought up by Melfi herself and even leading her at times to have a drinking problem, cut ties w/Tony, etc.)

sure, Elliott is arguably smarmy and condescending about Tony - but one could look at it as a tactic to pierce beneath Melfi's own defensiveness and conflicted feelings about her professional responsibilities in this case .... the most recent Melfi-Elliott 'shop talk' also, in my opinion, is a sly commentary on the hand wringing/navel gazing and all-too-fallible profession of psychiatry. (nobody knows nothin' - as Tony might say)

that's not to say that I think Chase or the other writers think psychiatry is useless, etc. - just flawed like anything else

as far as Elliott's musings about sociopaths - I understand why he brought it up b/c the issue of how effective talk therapy is for various categories of people (i.e. the extremely depressed/suicidal; psychopaths, etc.) is constantly being debated within the field - but I disagree that Tony is a true sociopath.

Elliott brought up 'crocodile tears.' in just the prior episode we saw Tony openly sharing with Melfi that what he saw as his own crocodile tears at Christopher's wake, etc. made him feel like a hypocrite b/c others were in real pain (though I think Tony is in his own real pain over this - it's just extremely reprssd right now) he then takes it a step further and, in what I saw as one of his most self aware statements of the series, says this in turn made him angry at those in pain

of course it's true that we've seen Tony use what he's learned in Melfi's office to become a more effective mob boss (i.e. Tony B., etc.) so Elliott certainly has a point there - but that's been Melfi's dilemna from the start

I'm not sure how I woud 'label 'Tony. A strong case could be made for antisocial personality disorder and he maybe has some sociopathic tendencies - but I don't agree that he lacks empathy.
It's all complicated by the fact that he's part of this subculture of the mafia and, within this subculture, he's not only relatively normal but I would argue more evolved and self aware than the average mobster (hence the panic attacks/depression, etc.)

One consistent aspect of Tony that I always find touching and quite tragic is how obvious it is - given different life choices and/or opportunities - effective how effective he would have been in a 'legit' leadership/entrepreneurial position (Finnerty?) his football coach obviously saw this and throughout the series we've seen Tony at his most shrewd and dynamic when he's figuring out ways out of problems/keeping the peace/putting together a deal, etc. This is why, IMO, he admires and likens himself to be more like a Hesh than the 'murderers' he hangs out with

I always thought the scene when Johnny Sac so quickly rejects Tony's 'power sharing' idea as very sad because I think if it had been accepted or even considered it would have done a lot for Tony's self esteem and provided positive reinforcement for possibly pursuing more non violent solutions in the future.

on the other hand, maybe I'm just REALLY letting Tony off the hook in a big way. didn't he ultimately choose the path he's on?

Re: Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

I have had a thought in the past and posted, probably lost in shuffle.

Is Melfi feeling that she becoming more powerful or riding on Tony's power? Is she sort of living the fantasy life as we are when viewing the Mob via the Sopranos and she views it through Tony? Almost Consigilarie-like sp? This is like when you can't do something yourself, don't have the nerve to do it yourself you have a proxy do live it for you. It is a drama she might enjoy that Tony puts into her own mind and she addicted to it, as people are addicted to things like power.

Now I think of it here, Melfi is almost US POSTERS, but more as if what we said here influenced what the character does. Perhaps if writers read what we thought, empowering the character, Tony.

Melfi would never kill someone (I don't think), probably can hardly run a business , or have employees work for her as maybe many people in her profession. Of cause they hire book keepers and administrators to keep themselves in line and compliance.

She all in all gets to be what she can't be via Tony. She is addicted to Tony's power. She proximating (is that a word?) via Tony's personna. After typing the above, I have to say it Melfi is US, We are Melfi.

Re: Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

Stu, you raise a good point, but there's the other side of the Melfi-Tony relationship (which indeed may be the viewer-Tony relationship): she can't bring herself to stop seeing him because it's so hard to look away from a train wreck. Just like so many posters here recognize the flaws in Tony, in fact may even have come to dislike him or root for his demise, yet can't stop watching because it's so fascinating to watch someone circle the drain this way.

I also really think Melfi believes she has a professional responsibility to be there for him, or a moral responsibility, as though if he were to stop therapy abruptly, he would act out more violently than usual. And I must say I don't feel any ethical obligation to keep watching ... but I do. :)

Re: Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

I think Melfi's credentials as an impartial, rock-solid therapist were cemented in stone with her refusal to ask Tony for help in "Employee of the Month" (Season 3). Remember that we, as viewers (along with Melfi's immediate family), are privy to the knowledge that she was violently raped but refused to tell Tony about it. Has Melfi shared her rape or issues stemming from it with Kupferberg in a therapy session that has aired on the show? If it hasn't we have to assume that, just like Tony withholds damning information crucial to his therapy from Melfi, Melfi may withhold key information from Elliot from her therapy sessions with him.

Regarldess, ever since 'Employee of the Month' I have never doubted for a moment the core of inner strength and professional dogma that guides Melfi in her therapy sessions with Tony. Kupferberg's ethics though... after seeing that water bottle raised twice against Melfi in a childish 'dick measuring' contest between shrinks, I don't know! :icon_mrgreen:

Re: Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

I agree with those on this thread. What strikes me is that Melfi genuinely seems to care about Tony getting better. The therapy is about Tony. The last few sessions with him have shown her to be considering her to lose faith in his recovery, but then he does suddenly come up with something insightful.

I think the real thing is to see the difference between Melfi and the other two psychiatrists on the show, Melfi's and AJ's. Neither of them seem to care as much about their patients.

I really like the idea of us being mini Melfis. That is what it feels like sometimes. But again, it's because we care about the characters and their development. There isn't a 'right' answer to these issues or we'd have no dialogue. I think that's the writer's perception of psychology.

Re: Melfi v. Kupferberg - Therapy or Hostility?

dad1153 wrote:Has Melfi shared her rape or issues stemming from it with Kupferberg in a therapy session that has aired on the show?

Yes, in Employee of the Month. Twice, in fact. Once right after the incident, and once right after the dream about the soda machine and the dog. It's in therapy with Elliot where she reveals how torn she is between telling Tony and keeping it to herself. This all goes down after the cops bungle the investigation and let the rapist free. Melfi says - in honestly one of Bracco's shining moments as an actress - that it feels good to know that if she wanted, she could have that bastard's head on a platter, or something to that effect. I'm surprised you don't remember that part of the episode. Anyway, she's definitely shared that with Elliot. I seem to remember it coming up around the time that she was drinking before her sessions with Tony, too.
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