How’s the Therapy for You?

We have now come to the end of S7 on AcornTV, and that means I feel free to publish my thoughts on a number of things about it. Here is the first of several posts:

During the promotion for S7 marriage counseling/guidance was brought up as a key facet of how Martin and Louisa would be dealing with their marital problems. Since “Doc Martin” is a dramedy, we would be surprised if there were a lot of lengthy counseling scenes; however, in the operating room scene at the end of S6 we heard Martin tell Louisa that he needed help from her to become a better husband. Prior to that we heard Ruth tell Martin that if he wanted to get Louisa to return to him, he would have to work hard to change. It didn’t seem like too much of a leap to expect some real effort to use marriage guidance to improve their marriage.

We have been through 6 series that have contained many medical emergencies and lives saved. We’ve learned about a myriad of rare medical disorders and all have been treated properly by Martin Ellingham with an expertise that demonstrates his superior medical knowledge and skill. We would expect no less from any depiction of marriage counseling. Sadly, that is not what we get. The following is my view of the marriage counseling and where it disappoints. Whereas we can learn about how to diagnose and deal with a variety of medical conditions from watching this show, we should not accept what we see in S7 as a good representation of marriage therapy. (Abby and Santa, regular participants of this blog, reviewed what I wrote and provided me with feedback and their professional experience. Abby is a practicing therapist who sees married couples for counseling and Santa is a retired therapist. They have written some previous posts on psychological aspects of the show and its characters.) This post is intended to focus on the accuracy of the therapy sessions first. I will add a few thoughts on the purpose of the therapy scenes at the end. Please bear with me on this because it’s going to be a long post.

In series 7 each episode includes a brief look at therapy sessions. We have to keep in mind that what we are shown is only a couple of minutes of each therapy session that is scheduled for one hour. I would like to think that what they choose to show us is the most important exchange of each session, but no 2-5 minute interlude can give us a sufficient amount of information. We are left with many unknowns about the therapy. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s fair to excuse the problems with how the therapy is depicted simply because of the brevity of what we’re shown.

Our first introduction to the therapist recommended by Ruth is that she conforms to how Ruth described her, i. e. she is a no nonsense, direct person who has set standards and practices and will not change them for anyone. She demands that Martin shut off his phone and leave it at the entrance to her office; she tells him that being late for any reason is unacceptable and could lead to a termination of their sessions; and she won’t be deterred from treating his problems by any questions he poses about her background and reason for being in Portwenn. She won’t allow him to usurp her role as leader in this setting. These rules seem a little too rigid because he is the only doctor in Portwenn. According to Abby, it would have been better for them to clarify what constitutes the kind of emergency that would be an acceptable reason for him to arrive late for a session. Dr. T wants him to make therapy a priority and the act of discussing this issue would be a good way to convey that message.

Her approach appears to work well with Martin and he exposes more of himself to her than we’ve heard him tell anyone else, including Louisa. He recognizes that due to his being an unwanted child he has an inability to form adult attachments; he exhibits poor communication skills; he has unrealistic expectations of others, and a blood phobia. Of course he’s done his homework and decided what her diagnosis will be, but she is quick to brush off his easy judgement and makes clear that therapy is not like surgery; it’s a process. Although Dr. T appreciates Martin’s effort to arrive at a diagnosis, she doesn’t dispute it. Abby notes that “the first order of business, other than taking a history, is to establish a therapeutic alliance.” We can now look forward to watching the process proceed. We have set before us a series of issues that Martin has delineated and that we would assume will be how Dr. Timoney will plan her therapy.

Dr. Timoney begins quite understandably with asking Martin what he is coming to her for. He tells her, after asking her about herself, that he wants his wife to return to him, that he wants her to be happy, and that he blames himself for her unhappiness. Dr. Timoney’s first command for Martin is she wants to meet Louisa. That seems reasonable since Louisa plays an important role in the direction of the therapy. On the other hand, Martin probably has no idea when Louisa will return and appears to have neglected to tell Dr. T that important fact. Fortuitously, Louisa returns soon after, and that night over dinner Martin has a chance to inform her that he’s been seeing a therapist and that she wants to meet Louisa. Luckily, Louisa agrees to meet Dr. T even though she has some reservations. She figures she’s going to shed some light on Martin’s problems for Dr. T. In other words, we start therapy on tenuous footing including that as far as we know Martin has only seen the therapist once prior to Louisa’s return, due to time constraints he needs her to agree to see Dr. T on the same night that they are reunited, and he tells her nothing about his session with Dr. T.

When Louisa meets Dr. T for the first time, we see her enter the building but it appears that we pick up the conversation sometime after it begins. By the time we are brought into the conversation, Louisa is in the act of explaining that Martin has a hard time expressing his feelings, although she’s sure he loves her. Louisa then makes some derogatory comments about Martin’s parents, all deserved. She is especially clear that Martin’s mother is very cold and that she can understand why Martin is emotionally repressed. When asked about her parents, Louisa identifies them as normal, but she does reveal that her Mom left home when she was 12 and that her father was incarcerated when she was a child.

Since the show has made a fairly consistent effort to inform us of the childhood traumas of both Martin and Louisa, we have been led to believe that these are critical to the formation of these two characters. We’ve met all four parents over the years and, through a dream sequence that Martin has one early morning after James has been born, and probably triggered by a butterfly crib mobile, we know that Martin has suffered from the harmful effects of a bad tempered father when he was young. We also know that he’s been punished by being locked in  a space under the stairs and by physical means, and that he wet his bed until he was 11. Thus, when the counseling sessions begin with Dr. T learning some intimate tidbits about their parents, we anticipate more inquiry into the parent/child dynamic. Childhood is when the most significant impact on our lives occurs and we deem it crucial to this couple. But that is not to be after all.  Dr. T does not pursue this line of analysis and we do not hear her ask much about their childhoods after this. At the very least a good therapist would have explored how these experiences may have negatively impacted how Martin and Louisa relate to each other. The best therapy would have delved into their childhoods and considered how these experiences shaped them.

Instead, even though Dr. T wonders whether there is some connection between how Louisa’s relationship with her father might correspond with how she deals with Martin, she decides that it would be best for them to enter couples therapy. There is no transition during which she looks into Martin’s individual concerns. Since he made the initial contact, she might have wanted to probe more deeply into Martin’s feelings about why things were difficult before Louisa left. What does that mean anyway? Moreover, we see Louisa immediately resist the notion of couples therapy. We also note that Louisa is not receptive to the suggestion that both parties may be in some way responsible for the problems. Nonetheless, Dr. T moves on with couples therapy without a second individual meeting with either of them. Once therapy transitions to couples counseling, the objective changes. In couples counseling it is the marriage that is effectively the client and not any individual. The mission is now to set goals for the marriage to reach a satisfactory level of success for this couple.

Our introduction to couples therapy with Martin and Louisa begins with E4. When we join the conversation, Martin and Louisa are already seated facing Dr. T and Martin appears to be answering a question about whether he thinks environment has a strong impact on personality development in children. For some reason he mentions that his parents would leave him with his aunt every summer as related in some way to his conclusion that environment is important. Once again, Dr. T does not follow up and asks nothing about his relationship with his aunt or about what visiting her might have meant to him. (From what we’ve seen, we would think that it was a very positive experience during which he received the love, affection, and acceptance he had been missing at home.) He has mentioned that he was an unwanted child, which is pretty significant, but has left out the abuse and neglect he suffered. Most therapists would have wanted to know what brought him to the conclusion that he was unwanted. But here Dr. T moves on to asking Louisa if she’s uncomfortable. (Abby writes that she would have asked Louisa what it was like for her to hear what Martin is revealing. She notes that “it is important to develop empathy between them” and that Dr. T’s question about Louisa looking uncomfortable could have been a good way to transition to this. Unfortunately there is no follow up that takes place.)

Both Martin and Louisa look uncomfortable, and the seat they are asked to use certainly seems very hard and stiff itself, but also they are estranged and have never been extremely prone to overt expressions of affection, especially in public. Martin asserts that he appreciates Louisa, which is more evidence of Martin trying to change and become more expressive. This leads to Dr. T asking whether Louisa considers Martin appreciative. She rightly says that to her he is usually quite nice but not so much to others. Dr. T appropriately cuts Louisa off once she gets going on listing all the things she finds troubling about Martin, and we get the impression that Louisa has a lot of pent up criticism about him. It may be a sign of Dr. T’s observational skills that she notices their self-containment and asks them to list three positives about each other. Louisa is able to produce three things fairly quickly, and they are telling in that they are rather impersonal: Martin is a good doctor, he dresses smartly, and he keeps the house tidy. This last item is strange to find on Louisa’s list because she usually isn’t so happy about it. Then it’s Martin’s turn and his list is much more personal: Louisa is a good and caring mother, she’s active, and she’s very beautiful. Their choices represent well what is important to each of them. For Louisa Martin’s outstanding medical ability has always been preeminent. She is also attracted to his outward appearance and professional attire. After that she seems to struggle for a third thing to add. For Martin Louisa’s interest in being a good mother is preeminent and why he has nothing to say about her achievements as headmistress. Being active matters to him on a health level, and we know he has considered her beautiful from the moment he first saw her. Louisa seems flattered despite the omission of her ability as a headmistress.

What follows is an assignment to hug three times a day and say something positive to each other every day. As I wrote in my post on Hugs and Kisses, this assignment makes sense because it asks them to add physical touching, and that can be extremely effective in bringing people closer. It also requires them to think of something they can say to each other that should be complimentary. It switches the emphasis away from the negative.

As always, we know that watching Martin and Louisa hug three times a day will be both amusing and endearing, and it is. This was precisely what I hoped therapy would do for the show and this couple. By the end of E4, we see a lot of progress even though Louisa still struggles to find something positive to say to Martin. Therapy is making a difference despite being relatively lacking in thoroughness.

E5 starts with Martin already having a bad day due to an unpleasant confrontation with a young girl and being shadowed by Buddy. They arrive a bit early for their therapy session and are seen waiting in their car by another patient, something they both appear to dislike. Dr. T asks about how the hugging assignment went and Louisa answers that Martin has trouble with spontaneity. Martin immediately accuses her of the same. But we are quickly off to Louisa asking about doing something with Martin’s blood phobia. Louisa has finally raised that condition with Dr. T.  because she would like to redirect therapy to make it about Martin. At this point, according to Abby, most therapists would acknowledge the importance of Martin’s haemophobia but make sure the hugging exercise wasn’t neglected. There was too much material involved with the hugging for the therapist to simply move on without spending more time on it. Dr. T can’t really address the haemophobia specifically with Martin if she is focusing on the marriage, but she suggests the blood phobia is connected to Martin’s desire to be in control, and despite his disagreement with that, she sticks to her analysis and gives them another assignment. (There is some dispute here about the origins of the haemophobia because we’ve heard Ruth tell Martin that this sort of phobia often has roots in childhood trauma. Abby would be inclined to agree with Ruth even though Martin certainly has control issues. As a person who needs to feel in control, Martin probably felt safe until the event that brought on the blood phobia took place. The onset of the phobia was enough to bring on significant anxiety and make him terrified. Since then, he has found a way to maintain control, but each time the phobia reappears, it reminds him that he isn’t in control and he is thrown into another state of fear.)

This time their assignment is for Louisa to take charge of an activity and Martin must do whatever she asks of him. The odd thing about this is that he’s trying to do even more than that already and has chosen to live in an unsavory place so that Louisa and James can stay at the surgery. He also offers to bathe James regularly and to take care of James when Janice is unavailable. He’s very cognizant of not impinging on Louisa’s privacy and treads lightly around her. But both Louisa and Martin agree to this assignment without objection either.

The picnic Louisa chooses as her activity is disrupted by Angela Sim having a mental breakdown at the beach and that breaks up the family occasion. On the other hand, Louisa is grateful that Martin was there to help Angela and the episode ends with both of them entering the surgery together, which should be a good sign. Then again, there is no mention of how that assignment went to our knowledge but we join the session near the end this time. (Abby finds this assignment strange because Dr. T should have noticed that both Louisa and Martin have control issues. Louisa has tried to take charge of most of the sessions. “If she gave them this assignment to show how Louisa sets Martin up, then why wasn’t the assignment explored the next session?  Why did you choose a picnic?  Is it something you thought Martin would like?  What food did you pack?  Were there things both of you like?  So much valuable material that could have been gleaned from a discussion like this.”)

Once again Dr. T decides to give them another assignment which entails going on a date together. Dr. T makes a valuable contribution when she comments that Louisa may equate love with being left alone, since her parents left her when she was a child, and now she has fallen in love with a man who she says she didn’t think would last in Portwenn. Her comment that Louisa sets Martin up for failure is also so that she can continue to be disappointed in him. Abby notes that Dr. T was planting seeds that she hoped would germinate either during therapy or afterwards. Each time in the world of Dr. T’s therapy, however, there is so little follow up that we can only be frustrated, and that shows poor practice methods.

It is here when Louisa admits that falling in love with Martin was not a conscious act in any way connected to how she might conceive of the emotion of love. Perhaps that is a nod to the incomprehensibility of choosing Martin as the man she wants to marry. We can’t explain what leads us to fall in love and love is rather mystifying. Again, as far as we can tell, Dr. T just leaves that hanging too.

Dr. T provides very few guidelines for the date so it’s particularly nice to see Martin bring flowers for Louisa, make reservations at the location where they first met and make special note of that. They have a slightly tense conversation about Louisa’s impression that Martin wouldn’t last 5 minutes in Portwenn. Then Martin brings up Danny and confronts Louisa about telling Danny about their private lives, but Louisa is honest in her answer and quick to apologize. For me her behavior is conciliatory and she hopes to have a nice dinner. The disruption comes when Louisa takes a call from Danny that causes her to feel compelled to leave. It is understandable that she would leave her phone on to be available for any calls about James, but she should never have accepted a call from Danny, and he should never have called her.

When Dr. T sees them next, Louisa describes the dinner date as a disaster, but that seems a pretty extreme appraisal. Again, Dr. T does not ask Martin to venture his own feelings. Martin’s anger at Louisa for divulging their marital problems to Danny is not similarly played out with Rachel. Time and again Dr. T allows Louisa to be the one to give her evaluation of each exercise with no effort to balance what she says with what Martin thinks. Quickly Dr. T comes to the conclusion that Martin and Louisa should make a list of what they like about being on their own, and tells them they should not consider a decision to separate as a failure. (Abby can’t help having a strong reaction to this procedure, and I decided to include it all: “This scene is so far from good practice that I cringe at the thought that people will think this is what therapy is.  First of all, she doesn’t explore why Louisa found that date to be a disaster.  ((Santa would add, “If there’s anything that’s not typical of therapy, it’s letting pass a pregnant comment that ‘it was a disaster.'”)) She didn’t elicit Martin’s view on the evening.  She didn’t explore the entire assignment:  How was the date arranged?  Who asked whom?  Did Martin pick her up?  How did that go?  What was the drive like?  Where did they go?  How did they feel sitting at the table with each other?  What did they talk about?  Where did the evening break down?  Was there a better way they could have handled it?  There was so much that could be gained from such a post mortem that it is frustrating for me to see it just dropped.  And then to suggest they think about the positives of being separated after such a short time leaves me just dumbfounded.  One might wonder if she was using reverse psychology here, but that would be a very dangerous game.”)

It is also very bad practice to have never explored the history of their relationship and the course of their short marriage. We have no evidence that she ever has tried to investigate these areas.

What we have then is several short-lived efforts to spend time together, hardly any review of what took place during those occasions, usually a willingness to hear only one person’s assessment of the assignment, and ultimately a suggestion that perhaps saving their marriage is not such a good idea, and that that would not be considered a failure.

The final time Martin and Louisa go out to see Dr. T takes place after Dr. T’s car accident and head injury. She acts very erratically and chooses an exercise for right there in her office. It seems a bit silly as she asks Martin and Louisa to march in place. We can no longer take her seriously as a therapist.

When we make a final survey of the therapy, it is hard to be very impressed by it. The length of time they spend going to therapy as a couple is probably 5 weeks. Over that period Dr. Timoney has learned that both Martin and Louisa had childhood experiences that were damaging and are likely to have caused some residual harm. In Louisa’s case she has concluded that Louisa interprets love as being intertwined with being cast aside; we don’t know how she looks at Martin’s childhood. What she thinks about Martin is that he likes to be in control. She notices that they are self-contained, at least around her. Hopefully she also realizes that Louisa has a good deal of bottled up anger toward Martin based on how easy it is for her to express criticism of him. She should also notice that Louisa is usually the first one to give her impression of how each assignment went, and that she often does not reciprocate Martin’s efforts to offer compliments. We see almost no follow-up after Louisa disparages each assignment, and there is very little probing of either Martin or Louisa. Without asking for more information, how can you trust that what’s reported is accurate? (I would argue that it isn’t accurate or reliable.) Needless to say, I would expect a therapist to inquire why Louisa is so angry at Martin and possibly elicit from them what it would take for her to be able to get over her strong vexation with him. It seems clear that Louisa is the barrier to any reconciliation. Furthermore, as Santa notes, “they were never coached in how to talk to each other, which I would think would almost immediately have been identified as a significant issue for them.” Martin has admitted to having poor communication skills. We know that this show is built on Martin and Louisa being unable to complete most conversations for many reasons. It would have made sense to address that.

There are many other problems with the therapy and its short term basis. Most therapy lasts for several months, not several weeks. The marital troubles have built up over a fairly long time and dealing with them cannot be expected to work so quickly. Certainly, any couples therapist would do her best to find a way to keep the couple together, especially since that is why they have engaged her. To give up and advise them to separate after such a limited time trying to help them, would be a sign that this therapist is lacking in proper skills and not gifted as advertised. Both Santa and Abby concur on this point.

(As often happens, I read an article in the NYTimes that seems pertinent and wanted to share it with you. It’s helpful that the article provides both sides of therapy and this therapist is loathe to end therapy when she feels there is still much to work on. Importantly, she notes her own failures in treating this patient and hopes to be given another chance to help. Unlike Dr. T, she does not tell the patient that she is an extremely challenging case and she never implies that the situation is hopeless. What Dr. T says is extremely unprofessional, according to both Abby and Santa. To quote Abby: “You do not tell a couple that they are the most challenging case you have ever come across, especially when the therapy has not been successful.  This is very blaming, and in a more sensitive client could induce shame.  It is important to end with something positive, if only with an invitation to return when and if the client feels the need to do so.” Santa adds: “We understand dramatically why she said it — to build suspense about whether they can reconcile — but it’s just dumb.” Having this doctor behave in an obviously grossly unprofessional manner and say something plainly stupid puts in question how Ruth portrayed her originally. Maybe this therapist wasn’t such a good choice after all.)

I would be remiss if I didn’t write anything about how the therapy sessions function as a plot driver. Anytime a particular activity is used repeatedly, it’s worth determining how it contributes to the plot. In this series each episode except for the first one begins with some interaction with Dr. Timoney; therefore, the therapy sessions are given some importance. The key role each session has is to tell us what the episode will be about;  it drives the action. Another way it operates is to get this couple into the car together and spending at least one uninterrupted hour together. On the other hand, the time spent in therapy substitutes for the more valuable use of time during which they could have talked to each other. Dr. T both creates a space where they can express themselves, something they have trouble doing, and interferes with their ability to relate. If she used the time wisely, she could lead to a greater closeness between them. Finally, like any other outsider, Dr. Timoney brings another character into the village and into Martin and Louisa’s lives. She challenges their preconceptions and unites them, even if it is at her expense.

Alternatively, Dr. T is unknown to the town until she crashes her car; Ruth knows of her but they don’t seem to have interacted much based on their coincidental meeting in the pharmacy in E7; and no one other than Morwenna and Ruth knows that Louisa and Martin are seeing her until she tells Sally after her head injury. This time the outsider stays one. Even her departing scene is exceptional because they make a joke of it, although at least they agree.

All in all, we are given a pretty dim view of therapy. Santa states, “As both Abby and I have said, therapy isn’t really all about the presentation of illuminating, penetrating insights by a therapist, but that is the impression that you get.” Indeed, therapy is depicted as unsuccessful and it is the random thoughts of a variety of characters, many of them dimwitted, who appear to be of more value. The art teacher tells her daughter she loves her as she is; Mrs. T makes a few pointed comments about marriage to ME; and Janice tells Louisa she knows Martin better than anyone. Finally, Mrs. Winton conveys the power of love and commitment despite being in a rather crazed state. The message seems to be to trust in the folksy wisdom of people around you rather than in professionals, a position we wouldn’t expect from a team that has been characterizing Martin, and some other doctors, as professional, highly knowledgeable and capable of saving lives.

(Oh, one last thing…we hear Martin advise patients to seek counseling several times throughout the show and that appears contradictory to how therapy has been handled in S7. What good is it to have someone evaluated if you have very little confidence in the process? I’m not sure what to make of that exactly, but his view that Mrs. Tishell would not have been released unless the professionals were sure that she was under control is certainly disproven. By the end of S7, Sally seems to have arrived at some place of acceptance that Clive is who she should be with, but she never stops stalking Martin and making inappropriate comments to him. The evidence against therapy is stronger than that in favor of it.)

 

Originally posted 2016-08-02 09:05:10.

74 thoughts on “How’s the Therapy for You?

  1. Kathy

    Makes you wonder if the writers have experienced some extremely bad counseling and are out to get therapists. Although actually I think the therapy sessions were used strictly as a plot device and no one should look to them as authentic. Although I do agree with you that this is contrary to what MC has always said about having to accurately portray medical symptoms and treatment accurately. Do they not think therapy is subject to the same standards.
    There were many times I wanted to scream at Dr. T to please follow up on what one or the other said to her, but of course she plowed on to whatever she needed to say to further the plot. I tend to be a very forgiving viewer and try to go with the flow because they only have so many minutes to tell their story. It wouldn’t have hurt to have made series 7 a ten episode run where they could have delved a little more deeply into their problems. But if she “cured” them, then there might not be enough interpersonal tension left between them to pursue a series 8.
    I also wonder if Martin isn’t still seeing Dr. T separately. In episode 3 when Louisa visits Martin in his hovel, she asks what Dr. T is doing about his blood phobia and he responds that they are working on it. Just wondering if that could be happening behind the scenes.

  2. Santa Traugott

    One thing that occurs to me is that Martin Clunes has been consistent and adamant over time in his statements that Martin Ellingham will never be “cured.” So I guess the immediate steering away of the therapy from his individual issues — even as to how they might play out and effect his marriage — is consistent with that.

    Many therapists take the view that marital therapy should be undertaken by a different therapist than the one who does individual therapy. Therefore, if Martin is doing individual work, it is probably not with Dr. T.

    The therapist has to be very careful about being even-handed, and wants the trust and buy-in of both individuals. That would be difficult if she is seeing one of them individually. And I don’t think Dr. T was always careful enough here. Someone remarked, e.g., that she referred to Martin as “Dr. Ellingham” and to Louisa as “Louisa” which surely should have been “Mrs. Ellingham.” I don’t remember noting that myself, though.

  3. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    We are far away from a “cure” and I wouldn’t even want him to be cured. There are just too many professional shortcomings for me in this therapy. I am struck by the many people who have found this series lacking in one way or another. Kind of sad to see that.

  4. MARJE

    Louisa taking charge of an activity seems a different issue than Martin moving out of Surgery for the sake of her and James. To say he is doing even more is true, but it has to do with his love and care of Louisa and James and nothing to do with interacting on a family day?
    Bottom line for me is that Martin seemed more open to therapy as a couple than Louisa. She was open to therapy for Martin. She blames him for all their problems and does not have the kind of empathy I would hope for. Now that I know her childhood was also a hard one, I have some understanding . No matter what the couples therapy brings, Martin should continue on his own.
    Just one more thing that I am not sure of. When you love someone, you don’t expect them to change. I feel if Louisa needs him to be different outside of the marriage, she is wrong. Asking for change within a marriage to help it succeed may be ok, but to expect someone like Martin to become “nice” to everyone is stretching it.

  5. Kate

    Thank you so very much for the therapy appraisal. This is one of the best posts I’ve read on this site. I plan on following up with your analysis in a subsequent post.

    I would like to address what appears to be a disconnect from the end of E7 to the start of E8, regarding Louisa 7 Martin. At the end of E7, Martin tells Louisa he can no longer continue with living apart, particularly in the flat. Louisa shows no signs of changing her stance about keeping Martin at a distance. She merely responds by with an affirmation of Martin’s statement. This is how E7 ends. Then in E8, we see a different mood in Louisa. We see someone planning a fancy dinner, for Martin’s benefit.

    First question: When did Louisa and Martin talk about having a “make –or-break” dinner? Was this right after their parting shots in E7? The viewer once again is expected to fill in the blanks. I assumed this communication took place the evening before E8, but it could have occurred early in the morning of E8 right before they meet at the surgery.

    Second question: What came over Louisa in this short period of time? When she greets Martin on her way out of the Surgery, we see a conciliatory Louisa, and a person who wants to actually be with Martin. She appears a little distressed when Martin pulls out his agenda for the evening. What was it that changed in Louisa attitude?

    I’m I the only one who has trouble with continuity here?

    One final point: It has always been my impression that Louisa and the Doc viewed Dr T from different perspectives. DM viewed her as an intellectual, impressed with her academic record, PhD at 23. Louisa seemed less impressed with this and was showed concerned about Dr T’s youth and lack of real life experiences. This is brought out when she responds to Dr T’s remark about needing luck with “you’re only 32”

  6. Santa

    Kate, if there is one thing that I’ve puzzled over obsessively, it’s this very disconnect that you’re talking about. At the end of E7, it seems to me that Martin was clearly suggesting that since marital therapy had collapsed, the logical next step was divorce. Louisa appeared to agree with him. They agree that they need to talk over arrangements for this step.

    But when next we see them together, Louisa is quite conciliatory, Far from wanting to discuss arrangements for divorce, she now thinks that they’ve planned a “make or break” dinner to talk things through. (What Martin thinks the discussion is to be about is less clear. His agenda, and his statement that he slept poorly, suggests to me that he still thinks they’ll be discussing arrangements for splitting up.). When we get a glimpse of how carefully Louisa has planned the dinner to acknowledge and cater to Martin ‘s preferences, in contrast to the picnic, we can be even more sure that she’s done some hard thinking, and recognized that she really does not want a divorce. She seems to have realized that she has to play an active role in putting their marriage back together, rather than waiting passively for Martin to change enough.

    I had thought we would see something of this decision process, because Louisa making that decision was really the only way left for things to resolve. Perhaps she would have a significant conversation with someone, e.g. But it seems that her only conversation was internal, and the stimulus for it, we are left to imagine, was what amounted to an ultimatum from Martin. Given her apparent inability to resolve her own conflicts, which left her more or less frozen in place, I think that’s the only thing that could have done it. Although it certainly wouldn’t have worked earlier in the process.

  7. Abby

    The disjunction between E7 and E8 almost seemed like they forgot to air E7.5. Seriously, there was such a shift in Louisa’s attitude that I thought I must have missed something. This is something I have discussed with various people, and no one has had a good explanation. I wonder if they actually filmed the scenes that seem to be missing and then had to cut them due to time. If that’s what happened, I can think of a lot of other scenes they could easily have cut instead. Having said all that, I still love the show and overall enjoyed S7.

  8. Paul

    I agree with, Kate and Santa on this regarding the breakdown between E7 & E8. Maybe Louisa had some kind of an epic moment about Martin, or something like that. I know the Doc Martin show doesn’t lead the viewers step by step, but in this case, the viewer was left hanging.

    I also want to follow-up on Kate’s comment about Dr T and Louisa. Louisa was never as enthused about therapy as Martin was. Probably because she always felt that Martin was the one that needed help, not her. Also, I think Louisa was cynical of the fact that Timoney was so young to be giving out advice to her. Louisa several times in therapy either disagreed or questioned Dr T’s own life experience. Louisa certainly showed her disregard for Timoney’s opinion when they all met at the surgery. She brushed her off by saying you’re only 32!

  9. Laura H

    Is it possible that Louisa felt something might come from a next session with Dr T and the benefits-of-living-apart lists that would be shared in that session? Some break through? And she seems perplexed but maybe hopeful that something will come from the special evening session that
    Dr T schedules when she stops by in her car in front of the school. Maybe one brief camera shot of Louisa as she looks at Dr T directly after the goofy “marching” session as Martin has gone to call an ambulance is asking a lot of those few moments when Louisa faces the fact that counseling is over…Dr T is incapacitated and Martin’s speech about not being able to go on living in the flat or living apart either adds to the fact that Louisa is faced with decision time. We don’t get her decision at that point, but It seemed like a subtle cliff hanger at the very end of E7 that she can no longer count on therapy sessions to delay a decision and since Martin recognizes counseling is over also, he’s putting a decision-time ultimatum to her. The situation leaves her with no other position than to plan for a talk. That’s just how it seemed to me.

    Great discussion on this and the therapy procedures. Disappointing to me was that I was with Dr T and could let her off the hook as to the uncharacteristic behavior due to her medical condition. Just did not like her unprofessional comment that M and L are the most difficult case she ever has experienced. Are we to believe, since Dr T indicates she must take time off work, that she is still very incapacitated? I’d prefer to think so in making an unprofessional statement such as that.

  10. DM

    Thank you for this topic as it will be a great relief to have an outlet regarding the misleading… ahem– that is the, accuracy of the “therapy” depicted in S7. I hope I can make a contribution to the discussion in the days to come but until then, I’m reminded of an earlier series:

    At the end of S5E8, both Louisa and Aunt Ruth, the trained psychiatrist and medical professional with a lifetime of experience, are at odds on covertly coaching Martin from the sidelines as to what to say to Mrs. Tishell, the drug induced-psychotic holding their baby. Ruth vehemently dismisses Louisa’s instinctual sense by telling her, “Louisa, you know nothing about psychology!” Louisa shushes her and goes on to counsel Martin to successfully resolve the situation and for the safe return of James Henry.

    As the discussion continues as to the competence and effectiveness of this particular experience and representation of therapy with Dr. Timoney, the psychotherapist highly recommended to Martin by Aunt Ruth, it may be helpful to bear in mind Louisa’s rather sceptical attitude and inimical sense of her (I have yet to return to S7E8 and parse exactly what is said there, “…we’ve decided not to continue with therapy…” which I dearly HOPE does not dismiss the prospect of any and all therapy out-of-hand, either individually and/or jointly, as that would be so completely WRONG!)

  11. Carol

    The therapy in S7 was the thing I had looked forward to most. I knew that we would not see entire episodes of therapy and was disappointed in the amount of time, but I think I am learning to trust MC and PB and their knack for knowing what will work. Having been in counseling myself at times over the years, I can say that the character portrayed here was definitely not typical, and obviously not a great example of a therapist, although I liked Emily Bevan’s portrayal of the character she was given very much. And I have come to the conclusion, after more viewing, that when they consulted with a real therapist, BP must have gotten some general ideas, not specifics, and, as you say, used the ones they deemed would work as plot devices. And they leave us wanting more, more, more. I can really see now that BP is “up against it” in planning for this show. How to keep it fresh. How to give us just enough, without too much. How to lead us in imagining so much more. It’s maddening sometimes but it works. I started watching this show after S5. I almost died until S6 came out, and was sure it would be the end. But when they announced 7 I was thrilled. Was sure it would be the end too, but now I am ready for more if we get it. I’m not sure they were really trying to show good therapy, or even realistic therapy (not sure if the same rules that apply to medical situations would apply to therapy situations) in this series, and for this reason, I give them a passing grade on the therapy. It did just enough to keep me fully engaged. And ready for some fanfiction. Come on Abby! You and Santa write out a session together and just wait for the response you would get! It would set the internet on fire!!!

  12. Santa Traugott

    The interesting thing about that “WE’VE decided not to continue with therapy” is that it suggests that they did have some conversation between the end of E7 and the scene with the therapist and the agenda, etc. Because I don’t think Louisa just sprung that on Martin. Maybe they started to have the conversation about arrangements and then decided that maybe they ought to try the radically different idea of actually talking to each other about fixing their marriage?

    It could have been that as they crossed paths the morning after the exchange that ended E7, Louisa, with the benefit of a night’s thinking about the implications of that, suggested to Martin that as therapy was clearly not working, they might want to have dinner and try to decide where to go from there — that maybe they would be better off to do this without Dr. T?

    I can’t decide whether it was dramatically necessary for us to see that scene, since it is clear that Louisa has had some sort of change of heart, and seems to have basically already made her decision. We know what MUST have happened, and the rest of E8 is waiting for it to bear fruit.

    The only really important conversation here is the one that Louisa has with herself, primed, we are led to believe by her experiences in sessions with Dr. T. And there’s no good way to show that dramatically, is there?

  13. Jan

    Well, I think the whole of Series 7 is brilliant! DM has a different demeanor and facial expression than he had in Series 6 – softer, his tie askew for the last half of #8, less mean. Louisa was more controlled, almost formal – her clothing is very different; more tailored, “grown” up. Almost a switch of styles in each of them. DM showed more emotion/reaction to encounters with other people – jumpy, fearful – not stoney, withdrawing (I won’t give examples – there were many all thru the episodes, especially #8). DM really tried to reach out to Louisa. Yes, the therapy sessions were odd and short cut. However, when have any of the medical situations been accurately portrayed? Yes, the diagnoses have been spot on BUT the way the Doc treats them is usually bizarre (repair a hernia in his office; sew up a severed artery with fishing line, etc). ME and LE tried to do tasks assigned and found them unhelpful and all the usual interruptions separated them as it had since the beginning. I saw many glimpses of real caring from LE toward DM throughout. I was not surprised in #8 that they each and both had decided they needed to sit down and figure out how to proceed on their own. It seems all the major players have resolved their lives and are on the road to “success”. I still hope for another Series. To see if they can learn to negotiate their “unusual” selves. These are a few of my observations. I hope some of you might find a few more positive ones to share.

  14. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks for your comments Jan.

    On your point about the difference in ME’s demeanor…it’s not so much that he is a new person; it’s more that he’s back to how he used to be and we’re supposed to believe he got there in such a short time. We end S6 with ME still grappling with the emotional worries that took up most of that series. He was in a major depression, not eating, not sleeping, not capable of expressing his feelings or confiding in his wife, and, perhaps until he completed surgery on his wife, completely devastated by the return of his phobia. Approximately 3 weeks later, when S7 begins, his phobia is back to being manageable, his depression is gone and he’s eating normally again, he’s back to being clumsy, and he has returned to calling patients idiots. I prefer him that way, but it’s such a stark change from S6. Of course, I was very unhappy with how he was portrayed in S6. Now he doesn’t even need his clocks anymore!

    I agree that there are many occasions when Louisa shows genuine tenderness toward Martin in this series, especially in E4 when they are given the hugging exercise and in this last episode. The series keeps switching how Louisa responds to Martin until we really don’t know where she stands. It’s not surprising that he thinks all of his efforts have only made things worse because she has not given him much encouragement. I think they haven’t made things much better, but they aren’t any worse either.

    Because each storyline could be said to have been “wrapped up,” this is a good place to leave the show. It’s not a bad idea to bring a show to a close when it is still popular. I can see directions that they can take the show now, and they may do that, but I want to preserve the quality of the show.

    I wouldn’t have spent two years and many hours watching and writing about the show if I didn’t think highly of it. Even though I’m a fan, I still think it’s important to look at it critically and not be content to give them a pass when there are lapses in what we’ve come to expect from the writers, et. al.

    I still have more to write and will hopefully give you something more to feel positive about. This post was meant to purely be about the way therapy was depicted, and I found it lacking. If you decide to bring in therapy sessions, then at least make them worthy as exemplars and the therapist a good representative of her profession. Or, make the whole thing clearly meant to be amusing and not to be taken seriously. They chose the muddled path of serious but inaccurate, and I was disappointed in that. I would love to know what the consultants thought of the therapy shown in S7.

  15. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I like the idea that they must have talked about ending therapy and made a plan to meet for dinner to talk about arrangements. I just realized that Dr. T’s bruise has healed by the time she arrives at their doorstep and that means it has been a few days since Martin brought Louisa home and told her he can’t go on living like this anymore. There was definitely time for them to have talked, and they at least made plans to discuss things further over dinner. That would also account for Louisa’s change in demeanor; she’s had time to think and realized the mistakes she’s made.

    I do think that Louisa was forced to reach a decision once Martin told her he couldn’t go on living like this. Her cheerfulness when Martin appears at the front door seems unforced and her preparations for dinner are evidence that she plans to tell him she’s ready to invite him back into his home. Early in E8 Louisa tells Mrs. Winton that she’s worried because Martin didn’t come home last night, and then we get the last scene where she asks him if they can go home now. He belongs in the surgery with her and JH, as she tells him in an earlier episode. She just had to get the right impetus to tell him.

  16. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I look forward to reading your comments. What you seem to be saying about the scene at the end of S5 is that we are already given the impression that psychology/therapists are not nearly as capable of solving crises as people who act with their intuitions. So this theme of questioning the value of therapy/therapists is not new to the show.

  17. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I like your take on the therapy sessions allowing Louisa to put off making a decision. Yes, that’s how they both get them together and interfere with them having a real talk with each other.

    I guess we could come to the conclusion that Dr. T has some continuing ill effects from the accident, although she seems in much better shape than before and her bruise has healed quite a bit. I still can’t believe she wouldn’t be aware that she was being extraordinarily unprofessional by making those remarks to them.

  18. Linda F

    I really enjoyed reading your post and all the comments on therapy. I too feel there must be a critical scene on the cutting room floor. They either had a discussion in person or on the phone to set up the “make or break” dinner. I too think that some time had to have passed for Dr. T’s bruise to have healed although she was acting strangely. Louisa seemed to be speaking on behalf of herself and Martin and he didn’t disagree. He also got the sarcasm when she said she’d miss her.

  19. Linda F

    The scene in front of the surgery in E8 reminded me so much of a scene from S4 when Edith, Louisa and Martin were all in the kitchen of the surgery. Louisa and Edith seemed to be the main characters and Martin was in the background. That was before Edith got Martin to the hotel and he had a lightbulb moment about her plans for the night. Someone on DS analyzed that scene and it was very interesting.

  20. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Louisa is much better at expressing herself unless there’s a medical problem, then Martin takes over. She has been the one to state her views first in this series. It’s funny to have Louisa once again make a joke.

  21. Santa Traugott

    The bruise having healed as much as it has — and Dr. T being out of the hospital in the first place, as I think “swelling of the front orbital cortex” or whatever it was sounded like hospitalization for a day or two at least for observation — does change how I think about that scene. Or at least how I think about where Martin was in his thinking and his agenda.

    Louisa must have been shocked, at some level, that Martin was willing to call it quits. I don’t think she had ever gone quite so far in her thinking. She must have imagined, that in some semi-magical way, he would go through therapy, his quirks and phobia would disappear, and she would find him tolerable enough to live with. But since she’s the one who wanted him to change, and since all he wanted was to get her back, that dream was dead in the water, even before Dr. T’s accident. So she either had to accept him as he was, or let him go. In fact, quite the opposite of Edith’s advice to Martin — change, or let her go.

    That decision would not have been hard for her, really. He was already back to being the same quirky, unusual, difficult man that she married, demonstrating throughout S7 that he was not in the same funk he had been in when she left, and that he wanted to make amends and was willing to be more open with her. And now she had the additional input that perhaps she herself had a few quirks. So she had to figure a way to climb down off her high horse and offer a way back home.

    So I imagine that at some point, she asked him whether he really wanted a divorce, and his answer would have been, of course not, but we’re not getting anywhere and it can’t stay like this — and I don’t know what else to do. She would have suggested that they didn’t need Dr. T to sit down and talk over what they each wanted, so that things were different than they were before. And maybe they should do that, before they gave up entirely. Hence, Martin’s agenda — he’s listing what he thinks were the flashpoints of their relationship. Who does the housework, the childcare, whether their living arrangements need to be changed. It’s quite a literal list, while I imagine Louisa’s would focus more on her emotional needs being met.

    By the time Martin says to Ruth, “Yes, I don’t know, ok, I don’t know, OK,” I think he’s gotten the drift of Louisa being more open to a reconciliation. When he goes up that hill, heaves a sigh and sits beside her, there’s no space between them at all.

  22. Mary F.

    From all the commentary I gather we have each brought different expectations to the show, and no show can possibly satisfy all of them. I too was mixed about some of the therapy sessions…but brushed it off as dramatic license and decided to enjoy it for what it is, which is pretty darn good entertainment. As usual much is left to our imagination. I was very happy with the ending and think this was a fine way to end to the series….if it is really over.

  23. Doris

    Regarding the Louisa’s change of heart, in E8. It would have been more believable had Louisa talked with Ruth about the state of the marriage, with Ruth giving her some new insights. Louisa certainly had more regard for Ruth’s opinion that that of Timoney. The writers could have included short scene with Louisa and Ruth in the surgery after Martin’s pronouncement at the end of E7. Just my opinion.

  24. MARJE

    Before getting some understanding that Louisa also had problems from her childhood, I was so annoyed with her. I wanted her to understand Martin and since she said she loved him, to love him the way he is. I wanted her to be such a soft gentle and loving woman that she could get him to the point where he could be so much more open and loving toward her. We know she and James are most important to him, but she seems to put aside all that he does to show it . I felt his loyalty and how he was always there for them should have mattered to her more. I know women want romance, but why get involved with someone who is so unromantic. Of course there is the feeling you can change them. At this point , I wish she could just take him as he is and keep working to show him how to be the kind of man she wants him to be. I would want her to allow him to be himself with others and show support by sticking up for him in every way. The therapy was so lacking that I just felt it was a waste. Louisa went into it with the thought that Martin was totally the problem, she had no part in the marriage not working. Couples therapy just does not work that way.

  25. Paul

    I after reading your comments, I didn’t realize that perhaps more than a day has passed since the ending of E7. Regarding Louisa’s comment about going home (ending of E8), I thought she was speaking figuratively. Also, when Louisa is speaking to Mrs. Winton about Martin not returning home, is also figurative. My assumption was that Martin was still living in the flat. Where have I missed the connection that Louisa and Martin are back in the Surgery?

  26. Paul

    I after reading your comments, I didn’t realize that perhaps more than a day has passed since the ending of E7. Regarding Louisa’s comment about going home (ending of E8), I thought she was speaking figuratively. Also, when Louisa is speaking to Mrs. Winton about Martin not returning home, is also figurative. My assumption was that Martin was still living in the flat. Where have I missed the connection that Louisa and Martin are back in the Surgery?

  27. Santa Traugott

    I think he was still living at the flat, Louisa at the surgery. When she reached over and took his hand, and asked if they could go home now, that was her way of telling him that the separation was over and he could return to the surgery.

    I didn’t pick up that she told Mrs. Winton that he hadn’t come “home.” I think that was another way of Louisa saying that the surgery, living with her, was his home. She may not have fully been conscious of that yet, but that’s what she felt.

  28. Linda F

    They aren’t back together yet. Martin still slept in the rental place and Louisa went there to check if he had been there after leaving the Winton’s the day before.

  29. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I see nothing that is figurative about either time Louisa says something about home. I know Martin was still living in the cottage when he went missing and didn’t show up for the dinner date, but when Louisa calls Mrs. Winton she tells her Martin didn’t come home the previous night. He was literally supposed to go to the surgery for dinner and she is saying she expected him home, which means that she views the surgery as his home. IMO she has made up her mind that at dinner she will tell him she wants him to come back, and we know this because of her dinner preparations. His disappearance causes her to have to put that off until later. In earlier episodes of this series she has asserted that he should be there because it’s his home, and I have taken those remarks to be strong hints that he will end up there eventually.

    On the hill at the end of E8 Louisa is literally telling him it’s time for him to come home, i.e. move back in with her and James. “Can we go home now?” is a pretty direct way of saying you belong in our home with me.

  30. Cindy

    A few random comments…
    First of all, I agree with Karen’s thoughts on the use of therapy in this series. It had to be a part of the series, to deal with the developments in Series 6, but the way it was handled was very disappointing to me. The only exercise that made sense to me was the hugging one because it “forced” positive interaction, – physical, conversational, and emotional.
    I was happy to see Martin and Louisa in the scene on the hillside at the end of S7E8. I’d like to know how Louisa arrived at her conclusions that none of us is “normal” and that she thinks she’s been obsessed by the idea that everyone had to be “normal.” I also wonder about the things Martin said about “trying to not love Louisa, but it just made things worse.”
    I never thought the writers would end the series with Martin and Louisa NOT being together, so S7 felt somewhat emotionally manipulative to me. I
    I miss the humor. Everything was so very serious in the latter part of S6 and in S7. I am having trouble remembering any time I chuckled, except when jewelry got “caught” during the aforementioned hugging exercise.
    I hope the series does end here, unless they want to come out with a special Christmas movie or something along those lines.

  31. DM

    If I might interpose a brief comment. A key point to remember from what we can see, is that THIS therapy is not working. The preamble with new clients is/should be that the therapist may or may not be a fit, and that’s nobody’s fault, and it’s a process– intelligent people know this (of course, no such thing is told or intimated to Martin and Louisa).

    The commonly imagined view of psychotherapy is that it’s akin to an archeological expedition, that the client and therapist each don a helmet and a torch and together “spelunk” the dimly lit passages and recesses of the clients’ lives until some epiphanous missing link is discovered which suddenly enables everything to now make sense.

    That rarely happens (it can, and no one should ever discount the possibility). But real therapy for real people, is really about learning how to use the shovel and how to use the trowel; how to use the tools and then develop the skills to make discoveries. This realisation is particularly true of couple’s therapy; talking to each other is a skill, and for most people it is a skill that must be learned. After all, most of the “therapy” that happens, happens outside of the therapist’s office.

    Therefore if Louisa’s comment “not to continue” (which, to me, is still unclear in scope or whether it was truly a joint decision arrived at by an actual joint discussion) suggests that they instead will just “talk” to each other as a substitute, or that a newfound willingness to talk (as if just “talking” is somehow mutually exclusive of therapy!) will make all the difference– I’d like to see a show of hands by everyone who thinks that’ll work or would be enjoyable to watch…
    Hmmm…. yeah– me neither 😉

    (Had the skill aspect been presented in this depiction of therapy (and befitting the time and story constraints), much of the other nonsense presented to us could be forgiven)

  32. Laura H

    Karen, while you’re translating, can you clarify the very last conversation between Martin and Louisa sitting together on the hill…just so I can compare notes? I believe there is one part that is a bit ambiguous…just wonder your take. It’s Martin’s…two of his statements, one after the other that don’t seem connected. Martin says that he is never going to be able to change how he feels about Louisa, to which Louisa responds that she wouldn’t want him to. He continues and says, “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. But it just makes things worse.” Even though it could easily be misconstrued that he’s tried to stop caring for Louisa, makes more sense that he means that he tried, really tried to change.
    Please give your take.

  33. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    That was a great laugh! You just put an exclamation point on Santa’s comment that they needed to be taught the skill of talking to each other. Since they weren’t taught that skill and are abysmal at it in general, deciding to talk things over to determine what the next step is would have a slim to none chance of succeeding. Lucky for them Martin was held against his will before they had a chance to talk! This episode should have been called “Facta Non Verba” for many reasons.

  34. Kate

    This might seem absurd, but the best advice that was given to Louisa regarding Martin was when Janice tells her that she knows Martin better than anyone else. And that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

  35. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Laura, if you don’t mind I plan to do that in my next post when I write about this episode. There’s no question that that comment is deliberately written to be ambiguous, and boy is it!

  36. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    That doesn’t seem absurd at all; that is exactly what I was referring to when I mentioned that they portray the best advice coming from dimwitted people rather than from the professional therapist.

  37. Doris

    It may be just me, but I took Martin’s comment about “really trying”, to mean he was really trying to change his conduct or behavior, but it failed. In other words, he was trying to be someone he wasn’t. The reason I interpreted this way was based on his actions throughout S7.

  38. Santa Traugott

    I agree. One theme of S7 was Martin trying to follow Aunt Ruth’s prescription to change. But we never saw, nor could we see, dramatically, any evidence that he was trying to care less for her.

    He might conceivably have meant that he tried in therapy, but it just made things worse, because arguably, it did.

  39. Brendan

    Regarding the therapy session, it’s my opinion; the therapist is often times grasping at straws. Case in point; in episode 5, Dr Timoney addresses Martin’s blood phobia as a control problem. Somehow this is related to DM having to be in control. Actually, according to Martin, from S1, it was the stress of the surgery itself that brought on the phobia in the first place. Louisa understood this when Martin explained it to her, in the ambulance. Also, Martin himself contradicted Dr T’s assertion that the phobia occurred when he started seeing his patients as people. Surgery requires certain dissociation, that is, the surgeon needs to emotionally dissociate himself during the time of the surgery. I’m surprised the therapist didn’t pick this up.

    There are other instances where I think Dr T misses things, but it’s in E5 where this is most obvious.

  40. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You’ve chosen another good example of the therapist simply dropping the many “pregnant comments” that are made in her presence. It’s more like she’s neglecting to pick up the threads than that she’s grasping at straws.

  41. Doris

    Could someone enlighten me about the therapy scene, when Dr. T becomes irrational and flips out? What was the purpose of this? I have watched it several times and I still don’t understand why it’s even in the episode, at all? Was it suppose to be comical?

  42. J.C. Lockwood

    I agree that the therapy sessions were lacking. As a viewer, I did not mind because I thought seeing the intricacies of couples therapy would have been heavy and perhaps a bit boring. I do not see that there was time practically to be more thorough with the writing of therapy scenes either. Many of the session scenes start with Dr. T saying… and before we end for today. This let the viewers know that stuff was discussed in the sessions and we are not going to to hear about it. The therapy sessions did seem like an easy way to set up the show for the week. This week is the hugging homework, next week Louisa takes control, next week DM and Louisa have date night. All tasks that can easily be interrupted or can easily go wrong. I also think that Dr. T was some sort of rival for Louisa. Perhaps Louisa was intimidated by her accomplishments at 32 or correctly doubted Dr. T abilities all along. Louisa did seem defensive maybe jealous with Dr. T. Her sarcastic comment about being sad to see Dr. T go is very similar to Martin’s words in S2E8 when he hears that Danny has gone back to London.” I am missing him already” . Whatever is going on there, it is clear by the beginning of E8. Therapy and Dr. Timoney are no longer wanted.

  43. J.C. Lockwood

    Doris. IMO Dr. T has a head injury in that particular scene so she does not know what she is doing. I think that symbolizes that perhaps she does not know what to do to help the couple. Up until that point Dr. T gave assignments to DM and Louisa without doing any deep investigation of their problems ( at least we can not see if she has). None of her advice /assignments work. She is highly recommended as a therapist but her counseling does not help the couple. JC

  44. Oliver

    Regarding the ending of therapy, I saw two things that Martin isn’t happy about. The first is Dr. T’s opinion that the blood phobia comes from his need to control. He tells her that he does not agree with that. He seems to think she is off the mark on that. I’m not a therapist, but I also think she is off the mark on that. I think he trusts his instincts about how it happened, as well as Ruth’s opinion that it stems from a childhood trauma.

    When Dr. T starts talking about coming to terms with breaking up, Martin argues that they are there because they want to stay together. Again, I think he thinks she is off the mark to go in that direction. When he and Louisa are leaving he noted that Dr. T didn’t say they should divorce, rather that they should make a list. At some point he also says they started the process and they should see it through. From my perspective I think he is trying to convince himself to stay with it. He has faith in the process earlier in the season – one of Louisa’s compliments is that he was taking the therapy seriously. But I’m not sure he has much faith in it at that point, however.

    By e8 they both seem to be on the same page regarding the “make or break” dinner. And I think both are heavy on the “make” part of the equation.

    It is unfortunate that they decided to have Dr. T become as loopy as she did. I feared the writers would make the therapy jokey, so I was happy that they wrote those scenes with a sincere tone. All in all, my feeling is that it could have been a lot worse.

  45. Kate

    Hi JC-

    I would agree with you that Louisa may have had some jealousy towards Dr. T. However my impression was that Louisa never totally bought into T’s assessment and approach to solving their marriage issues, and regarded Dr. T as someone who was too theoretical (i.e. book-smart), but lacked everyday wisdom. Louisa was very quick to answer Dr T’s assertion about needing luck, by saying “your only 32!” I also believe that Louisa was turned off by Timoney’s arrogance, and cockiness, viewing her as a female DM.

    I did pick up on the sarcasm about being sad regarding the termination of the counseling. However, I’m not convinced this was the same as DM saying “I’m missing him already”, regarding Danny and Louisa’s breakup. Martin was clearly jealous of Danny in S2 and again in E6, and with good reason. Louisa, on the other hand never saw Timoney as a rival, but instead as someone with no practical experience, trying to tell her and Martin what to do, in an overly self-assertive way.
    Just my perspective.

  46. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It’s nice to read a comment from you!

    You make a great point that Martin isn’t entirely happy with the therapy at times. I can imagine all sorts of reasons why he would have trouble with it. He is not accustomed to being dictated to or to having his view contradicted. And I thought they used his literal interpretations of things well when he considers the list assignment merely that. Of course he is right that Dr. T should not be recommending they think about separating when they came to her so that they could stay together.

    I suppose making the therapist a totally incompetent mess might have been worse, but the build up to therapy was very misleading to me. Martin’s desperate to find a therapist, gets a recommendation of an excellent one from Ruth, and then we see her function much below any thing close to excellence. It wouldn’t have taken any more time out of each episode for her to have asked one or two follow up questions. They are taking the therapy seriously until she has the car accident even though they both have reservations about being there.

  47. ED

    The one inference I come away with after watching Martin & Louisa throughout the entire show (S1 – S7), is they have a failure to communicate! Because of this, their relationship is plagued with misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the other person’s intentions. For example, Martin had to be intoxicated before he can tell Louisa what he really thinks of her.

    Louisa also has problems communicating and expressing her desires as well. The classic example is when Louisa leaves Portwenn, after getting cold feet about marrying Martin, but then showing up unexpected six months pregnant. Louisa, I believe, wanted to inform Martin about her pregnancy, while in London, but didn’t. Had she done this when she first discovered her pregnancy, I have no doubt< Martin would have come to her. Instead, there is entire series filled with miscommunication, misinterpretations and lost opportunities.

    In series 7, we see yet another example of a failure to communicate. This actually started in S6. Had Martin been willing to tell Louisa what he really thought about his actions and that he wanted to change for her, Louisa wouldn’t have left. Louisa on the other hand displayed, never told Martin what she wanted, and left him hanging until the end of E8. It is not until he joins her on top of the hill before he learns what Louisa actually feels. We see this, with his conversation with Ruth, with his nebulous repose to Ruth’s question about him and Louisa.

    In the final analysis, had there been frank and heartfelt communication, on both sides, therapy would not have been needed, in the first place.

  48. Doris

    Ed, I agree with much of your comments. The miscommunication issues has been the linchpin for the DM show and what made the show interesting.

    The topic of Communication topic is covered, in last month’s blog

  49. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    As Doris says, the inability of this couple to communicate has always been a key issue in the show. It is for this reason that there has never been a time when they have had the frank and heartfelt conversation that could have solved some of their relationship conflicts, and it was planned that way. Even now, at the end of S7E8, the fact that Martin and Louisa have declared their love for each other and are going home together does not mean they won’t have another flareup that upends their current status. On the other hand, I would like to think we are done with the question of whether they will stay married. The answer to that should be “Yes.”

  50. Santa Traugott

    I just watched S4E5, where Martin meets Dr. Milligan. I actually liked Dr. Milligan (and his beautiful office). Anyway, he too suggested to Martin that his blood phobia was a control issue. I still don’t find that persuasive, but that seems to be the party line.

  51. Abby

    Santa, I didn’t have the sense that Dr. Milligan was saying the hemophobia was caused by Martin’s control issues, but rather that the hemophobia created a loss of control. So, the desensitization was to help Martin regain control, but it did not address the etiology of the hemophobia.

  52. Santa Traugott

    “I wonder if it’s not the fear of losing control that’s bringing about this crisis.” I took it that Dr. Milligan meant that the hemophobia was a result of the fear of losing control. Which makes sense in the context of it arising — or so he told Roger Fenn — after watching a family’s emotions about a loved one going into surgery. And he doesn’t want to lose control of his emotions, etc., etc. I think that’s the interpretation that fits with how the character has been depicted — of someone who is deeply repressed and afraid of his softer feelings. However, as we’ve discussed before, I don’t find that whole line of argument persuasive.

    But, panic disorders/phobia do have a large component of being afraid of going out of control (and not getting back in?).

  53. Abby

    Santa, I just rewatched that scene and have some further thoughts. BP left it ambiguous as to what “this crisis” was. The phraseology, “bringing about this crisis”, to me implies something that is currently in operation. So, when I watch that scene, I’m thinking that Dr. Milligan is not talking about the original cause of the hemophobia, but instead the crisis of wanting to go back to surgery and being unable to control his phobia.

    With many phobias, there is an incident that causes an initial fear that is followed by a panic attack, which causes them to lose control. After that initial incident the person fears a repeat of the symptoms of the panic attack, and so a cycle of fear-panic-fear-panic ensues. So the fear of loss of control comes after the precipitating event.

    Since Dr. Milligan appears to be a behaviorist, he wouldn’t be terribly interested in the etiology of the hemophobia, but would focus instead on the fear the phobia produces. And, in fact, he doesn’t take any history in order to understand the origin. So, that’s what the desensitization is about: managing and possibly eliminating the physical symptoms produced by the fear.

    I realize BP has twice now introduced the idea that Martin’s phobia was caused by the fear of losing control, but they are just focusing on the aftermath of the initial incident that caused the phobia in the first place.

    Yes, Martin certainly has control issues, and we could both probably write at length on that. And for a person for whom maintaining control is what helps them feel safe, I’m sure it would be doubly terrifying to have a phobia such as Martin’s.

  54. Santa Traugott

    Two interpretations, as in so many other bits of the series, are certainly possible: 1) being phobic made him feel out of control and 2) a threat to his ability to maintain control over his emotions resulted in a phobia development, as kind of a substitute. (Doesn’t have to admit fear of emotions, just can admit to fear of blood.)

    I don’t think phobias develop that way — psychodynamically — but since I could be wrong and it doesn’t matter anyway for plot purposes, I let it go.

    However, what I just thought about, wrt loss of control, is his feelings for Louisa and his situation in regard to her. Arguably, she’s always had the upper hand, since he really has no control over his feelings for her (whether or not he actually DID attempt to stop loving her). I think he struggled for a long time about recognizing and dealing with his feelings for her, and in a word, to repress them. But his feelings for her were always, in the end, more powerful.

    That’s why the whole picnic exercise was so silly — Louisa very clearly demonstrated, in the Buddy incident, that he will do what she wants, when she states it clearly enough so that even he can figure it out. It’s a wonder SHE hasn’t figured that out.

  55. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I finally feel like I can jump into the conversation…I very much agree that the control issue with Martin, as it has been portrayed in the show, is reflected in how his attraction to Louisa evolves. This circumstance is another reason why the regular expression of surprise that the relationship between Martin and Louisa became so important makes no sense to me. From the moment Martin sits across from Louisa in the plane headed to Portwenn we know that she is going to play a major role in his life. Almost immediately Martin spends a lot of time finding ways to catch a glimpse of her. I once said he was stalking her when he accused her of stalking him. He finally admits to her that he tries to catch a glimpse of her every day when they have that talk over wine. (Louisa seems almost as anxious to want him to notice her from the start too.)

    I also think the whole notion that Martin needed to let Louisa be in control of an activity was ludicrous. She was in control most of the time throughout their relationship, with the exception of certain decisions he made without consulting her.

    But is his sense of control being challenged? Yes! In so many ways. With his blood phobia, with his move to Portwenn where as a GP he is always on call, with the dog, with Mrs. T, with Louisa, with his family. If his anxiety stems from lack of control, they have put him in a very vulnerable place where what he does with his clothes and his behavior towards others are his primary source of control and he implements them.

  56. Santa Traugott

    Completely agree with this, Karen. I think of his suits (and his pajamas) as completely expressive of his character armor, a whole system of defenses to keep untoward emotions in check.

    These emotions are clearly not anger — he does anger well — but most other softer emotions appear to be quite threatening. These very dramatic endings of S4 and S5 represent a breach which is pretty quickly repaired. But that’s why the ending of S7 seems more convincing to me, as it was low key and thoughtful.

    BTW, just watched S4E6 (the midwife) and control is a huge issue there. I wonder if that’s also a key word (like forgiveness).

  57. Abby

    I’m certainly with you on your last two paragraphs. I actually worked with a couple where the husband had a very dominant personality and the wife felt powerless in the relationship. It was important to help her understand just how much power she had over her husband, because he truly wanted to make her happy. She needed to really get that in order for her to be able to express her wants and needs. She had that ability all along but just didn’t know it. The difference between this couple and our beloved couple is that, while Louisa expresses her displeasure with Martin overtly, the wife in my couple closed down. But, I do hope Louisa finally gets how much power she really has over Martin, and that she is restrained in wielding that power.

  58. jregan

    Hi, I am new to this blog, and I am happy I found it.

    I recently completed watching all of the Doc Martin series 1-7, but I feel a need to view the series again before making any substantive comments. However, I must say that I was puzzled by therapy vignettes. I would have preferred to see Martin come in for several more one-on-one sessions before bringing Louisa into the sessions. I also wonder if the writers ever considered using any other types of therapeutic modalities? Jungian analysis might have been an interesting alternative.

    Finally, after Louisa and Martin decide they no longer want to continue the therapy, I was left dumbfounded by the therapists parting comment, “Good Luck.” It seemed like an incredibly insensitive thing to say to a couple that had just gone through therapy.

  59. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Welcome! Thanks for reading and commenting. It appears you too found the therapy less than wonderful. If you have had some time to read other comments, you have discovered all the ways the readers of this blog concluded it was deficient and unprofessional. Somehow MC and PB, et. al. consider it excellent and a successful addition to the series. Many of us are dumbfounded by that.

  60. jregan

    Thanks for welcoming me to the blog. An interesting side note about psychotherapy in the UK that might have unknowingly influenced the writer’s decision. The UK is one of the few countries left in Europe where psychotherapy is voluntarily regulated.

  61. Amy Cohen

    Just adding my own observation that the marriage therapy sessions were not realistic and were very frustrating. I just wish I knew what the writers were trying to accomplish. There was so little movement forward in the whole series. If the therapy sessions had been used to show even baby steps towards improved communication and reconciliation, they would have served the arc of the series. Instead, they seemed to be just a plot device to set up more conflicts between M and L. By the time we get to E8, there is little reason to think things are better than they were in E1. We knew then that L and M love each other, but can’t figure out how to communicate. We are in no better place at the end of E8. The whole series went nowhere, IMHO, except to have Martin move back “home.”

    As I’ve commented before, I do think the therapy sessions could have been more realistic, more dramatic, and even more humorous. It could, for example, have been funny to hear L tell Dr T how M told her she smelled like urine and then to see how M defended his awkward attempt at conversation.

    Ah, too late. An opportunity lost. And I think the writers have lost their way. If s8 once again plays the will they stay together game, I will be very disappointed.

  62. James Regan

    It’s been my experience that when a person seeks therapy, they come to the therapist with a problem they want to fix. Often, the problem expressed by the individual is not the real issue that needs to be addressed. In the very first session, the therapist asks Martin “Why are you here?” If I recall, Martin replies, “I am afraid of losing Louisa.” I thought the therapist seemed less interested in wanting to help Martin answer this crucial question. Focusing on trying to fix the relationship appeared to complicate matters. Perhaps, the relationship between Martin and Louisa was secondary to getting Martin the help he needed?

  63. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    First, your observation that there was very little progress in their relationship between E1 and E8 is very true and another piece of evidence that all the assignments did nothing to solve their marital or personal problems. We were stuck in a series that was designed to stagnate and that was frustrating and disappointing.

    Secondly, I agree with you that therapy, when handled well, could have offered opportunities for awkward yet revealing moments that had the potential to be both humorous and insightful. It was a shame they didn’t decide to use it that way.

    I think we will all be let down if there is any more of the will they/won’t they game.

  64. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I imagine you’re right about the client often not pinpointing the most important reason for seeking therapy. In this case, since we are talking about a show, they needed to involve both Martin and Louisa and, therefore, do couples therapy. However, there could have been an effort to address Martin’s personal issues while concentrating on them as a couple. It might have been done in an oblique way, such as how his haemophobia impacted them both. We would not expect to get into anything too deeply, but it seems like they could have done a better job with that.

    I agree that under real life circumstances Martin would have been best helped by some individual therapy.

  65. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    You beat me to it! I read this article and thought it worth including it in a post. Of course we first think of Martin, but I would suggest we should also include Louisa. I want to read up on these theories and categories before making a judgement, but it was a provocative article. For me it was especially pertinent because Martin diagnoses himself with attachment disorder due to his troubled childhood. We had been skeptical of this diagnosis because it is generally only used for children. But this article associates childhood attachment disorders with continuing difficulties in adulthood, which shouldn’t surprise us, as well as noting that adults can deal with their childhood attachment issues and change their outcomes.

    Thanks for the reference, although I may still want to add more at some point. Also, I am always a little concerned about doing too much psychological analysis of a fictional character. What I would say is that our analytical investigations are more for our own edification as well as a means of continuing some conversation on the blog. That is not to say that some consultant might have mentioned attachment disorder as something to include. I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all!

  66. Amy

    Very interesting article. I took the test and was not surprised I fell into the secure category (but, of course, it’s all dependent on how you answer questions about yourself), but I was surprised that there were no questions about relationships with parents, just partners. Maybe it’s only about your current status, not how you might have been as a child. Certainly I know that being in a secure relationship for over 40 years has made me more secure than I was in high school or college or before. I should retake it as my 15 year old self and see what it would say!

    Martin is certainly only a fictional character, but from the first episode on, there have always been references to his terrible parents. Clearly the writers have always tied his upbringing to his strange behavior. They are inviting viewers to engage in just this kind of psychological speculation, so I say—go for it!

  67. James Regan

    I have not read the article. However, the verbal abuse that Martin received from his mother in the kitchen during his parents’ first visit to Portwenn went to a hateful extreme. I found it to be one of the memorable moments in the entire series. Martin and his ability to maintain restraint during the exchange was on full display. If a therapist could get Martin to replay that incident during a session, I believe I would learn a lot about what makes the Martin character tick. It seems to me that Martin’s restraint is one the few filters he can rely on. It also appears to be on display when his father yelled at him when he was a young boy. As for the parents and their narcissistic behaviors, I am glad the writers wrote them off the show:-). Long live the doc!

  68. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    They’ve certainly gone to some trouble to give us background knowledge of Martin and Louisa’s parents and childhoods. That is why it came as such a disappointment that there was no delving into their childhoods during the therapy that we were allowed to see.

    Martin may be exhibiting restraint or may be unable to recognize the sort of trauma his parents have been visiting on him. It seems he finally woke up to it in S6 when he told his mother he had no intentions of giving her any money, and to get out of his house and never come back.

  69. James Regan

    One of the odd moments for me in trying to understand Martin’s background was the flashback that I believe opens up one of the episodes. Young Martin wants to show his father what he captured in a bottle. When he enters the room where his purported father is sitting, his father turnarounds around and yells at him. However, if you notice the man who turns around as Martin’s dad is Doc Martin. Maybe it was more of a practical matter (they could not get the actor who originally played the father), or maybe I am reading too much into the scene, but I found it odd that Doc Martin was mostly yelling at himself. Did I miss something?

  70. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    That’s a very interesting observation that we’ve never considered on this blog. I thought their decision to use MC with mustache as the father was an indication that he grew up to look like his father when his father was younger. Just like he became a surgeon, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, he also turned into his father in other ways. He has not become the same sort of father to his son so far though. But your interpretation could mean that in his dream he is both remembering an occasion when he was unjustly chastised by his father and, since the memory is triggered by the mobile above his son’s crib, he is imagining himself in his father’s role and concerned that he might do the same to his son at some point. Good idea!

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