Learning about therapy from Ted Lasso
One of my favorite current shows is the AppleTV show, Ted Lasso.
As a fan of soccer, I remember the original NBC Sports promos featuring Jason Sudeikis as a fun-loving American Football Coach commentating on European football (soccer as we call it). I thought it was some of the best comedy I had ever seen. So when I heard a show was going to be produced I got excited.
As I watched the first season, I enjoyed seeing the portrayal of Coach Lasso and how he interacted with all the manners of people within the community of AFC Richmond (whether team execs, players, or fans). When the second season was announced I thought it would be more of the same just the added challenge of explaining the deeper nuances of European football to the viewers (mainly so Ted would understand).
However, as season 2 wears on, a dynamic between a hired team psychologist, Dr. Sharon Fieldstone, and Ted begins to develop. Even the “Life-coach” style of leadership that Coach Lasso offers needed another stepping stone to unpack the deeper themes of this show. A team psychologist, who becomes concerned on a deeper level with these players became the imagery offered by the producers. She is meant to exemplify the healthiness of mental care and yet has to overcome the stigma that comes with her profession (sound familiar?).
It is in a scene after Ted has a panic attack during a big match and finally decides to have a session with Dr. Sharon that hits me, and I think plays to the bigger stigma of therapy in society. When Ted walks into this session he is all sorts of uncomfortable, but he and Dr. Sharon finally get down to the business of conversation.
Dr. Sharon (S) – I take it you’re not a fan of this kind of work?
Ted Lasso (T) – No, ma’am.
S – Why’s that, do you think?
T – You want the truth?
S – I’m only interested in the truth, Ted.
T – Hmm. ‘Cause I think it’s bullshit. You don’t know me. We don’t have history. And yet you just expect me to spill my guts about all the gory details of my life. The fights, the mistakes, my deep dark secrets. But you ain’t listening ’cause you care about me. No. No, you’re only listening to me ’cause you’re paid to listen to me. You’re getting paid to just jot down your little notes and diagnose my tears. And then what? Probably just blame it on my folks, right? I mean, you say you’re only interested in the truth. And yet here you are, charging an hourly rate for only 50 minutes of work. Like I said, it’s bullshit.
This initial interaction of therapy left a lot to be desired. Viewers had the promise that Ted might be able to have someone he could confide in with all the panic and anxiety we had seen build up over the last season and a half. While I figured, thanks to the magic of television, this issue would be resolved at some point and Ted would maybe begin to open up and his emotional and mental needs, it felt like God’s honest truth that needed to be put in the room. I mean many of us are probably thinking this about therapy.
I need to “pay” someone to listen to me, and then they are just going to tell me everything wrong with my life. Yea that sounds about right for therapy, and probably a reason many folks don’t go…
I have often heard the adage, “They are called a ‘Shrink’ because they will shrink your head.
I found myself frustrated at Ted, for not being more open but could see and understand why based on his only other experience with therapy (as well as his upbringing). The fact that Ted harkened the door of a therapist’s office, or even presented his usual optimism toward a therapist seemed miraculous to me. However, it seemed that at the end of the day, it would be another issue that would go unresolved in someone’s life because they were unwilling to address their “issues.”
Thought it was not to be, because Hollywood writers (or wherever the writers reside and write), knew this was a teaching moment, a moment to overcome the stigmas. Thankfully, they were able to bring a small resolution in that same episode. Here is the next interaction between Ted and Dr. Sharon:
S – Hello, Ted. I thought you’d be back.
T – Really? Why’s that?
S – You said you never quit. Can I be honest with you about something?
T – What? I got a boogie in my ‘stache?
S – ( sighs )
T – No… I’m kidding. Sorry, go ahead.
S – I was quite offended by what you said about my profession… That just ’cause a therapist is being paid, they don’t actually care. Let me ask you something. Would you coach for free?
T – Yeah, I would.
S – But do you?
T – No, ma’am.
S – And yet you care about your players, right?
T – Yes, ma’am.
S – Then why would you assume it’s not the same for me? I don’t assume that all coaches are macho dickheads.
T – (Chuckles ) Ah, it’s a good point. Consider me dunked on. And look, I’m… I’m really sorry about that, you know. Getting all worked up and saying stuff like that, then storming outta here.
S – It happens. Self-care can be scary. Fight or flight is a natural response. You just happened to do both. Impressive range really.
T – Yeah, well, watch your back, Glenn Close. ( both chuckle ) So you think I’m scared, huh?
S – Yes, I do.
T – Yeah. Maybe I don’t wanna learn the truth.
S – Ted, the truth will set you free. But first, it’ll piss you off.
T – Well, then maybe your new nickname should be “The Truth.”
S – Well, I can’t be your mentor without occasionally being your tormentor.
T – Ooh, I like that.
S – I knew you would. Let’s get started, shall we?
T – Yes, ma’am1
I love that line:
“Self-care can be scary.”
It truly can be, especially when we are left to put our care in the hands of those whom we not only don’t even know but who work in a field that has so many preconceived notions attached to it.
As a pastor and one who also has many preconceived ideas attached to my vocation, I empathize with Dr. Sharon. I often try to be there for people who don’t want me to be or are afraid of what it may do to them. However, for therapists, I can imagine it is immensely more difficult because they rely on people coming to the individual, whereas I rely upon and minister (oftentimes) to folks who are already there.
To be clear, therapy is not bullshit. I think Dr. Sharon clears that up for us. It is a healthy practice of mental health. It allows us to release things in a safe space with someone who is both trained and (I hope) generally interested in caring for us.
If this interaction teaches us anything, it is that there is truth in addressing those underlying issues in our life. It might reveal difficult realities about our past or who we are, but in the long run, it makes us healthier and more self-aware people. We owe it to ourselves and the ones we love to have this sort of relationship in our lives. Sometimes it is tough because of insurance or financial restraints, and in that situation, it takes a bit more work and commitment. However, if the ability is there, why not take it?
When I first started seeing a therapist regularly it took a bit to get over those notions. It took a bit for me to be comfortable. I had folks telling me the same thing I am telling you now, but still had my mental hurdle to climb. It is still going to be there for some folks (others may jump right in and be ready). We are hesitant creatures, and sometimes that trauma-informed skepticism is telling us something. However, listening to this voice and unpacking the true feelings will leave us in a better place.
Yes, we need to find the right mental health professional for us, and that may take going through some folks. It is often not as quick as it happens in Ted Lasso, but I can promise you the space that is provided is worth it.
Take it and grow!
Transcript from Ted Lasso Season 2 Episode 7: Headspace. Found at: https://tvshowtranscripts.ourboard.org/viewtopic.php?f=1020&t=45809