Back in March there was a New York Times article which asked, “Does Couples Therapy Work?” In this article the author explored the myriad problems that exist for therapists attempting to treat struggling couples. One of the key issues, the author points out, is the lack of empirical and theoretical insights that distinguish couples therapy from individual therapy. Often a therapist can jump in there with the same bag of tools she might bring to individual therapy only to find those tools lacking. Couples therapy, it turns out, is a unique bird that requires unique approaches. You run into anger and volatility, issues of allegiance, and depression and anxiety that might exist separately from the spousal relationship. David Frankel’s new film, Hope Springs takes a close look at a marriage that has been bled dry and the process of plodding through couples therapy.
In this film, Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are a middle aged couple, mired in routine and boredom. His back problems led him to a separate bedroom years prior, where he remains, contributing to the dearth of intimacy in their marriage. Each morning she places his breakfast before him – same thing each day; egg and toast. He eats, reads the paper, kisses her habitually on the cheek and departs for work. Each evening he falls asleep in his recliner, ESPN on the television. Like Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, Kay and Arnold carry on the proverbial clock-in each day, stepping into their roles as the dutiful husband and wife. The problem is, Kay wants more. And so she insists that the couple attend a week-long therapy session with renowned couples therapist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell).
This article first appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of TILT Magazine ~ Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.
Click here to read the entire PDF version of the Tedium: Marriage and Couples Therapy in Hope Springs article.
Jean-Anne Sutherland is assistant professor of sociology at University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA, with one of her research focuses being the study of sociology through film.
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