Addicted to Therapy


Elanor Moran

Dr Melfi was Tony Soprano's therapist for almost eight years on <i>The Sopranos</i>.

Dr Melfi was Tony Soprano's therapist for almost eight years on The Sopranos.

We sat in her small, scruffy treatment room, her black Labrador pushing his bulk against the door, desperate to find out what was going on inside.

''You did something at work today that made him laugh,'' she said. ''Does that make sense?'' It did: I thought of my colleague and I making up a nickname for the follicly challenged man who had dumped me a few weeks earlier - Uncle Fester - and knew how much it would have tickled my dad's wicked sense of humour.

Rose was a psychic who charged a pittance for her unique form of comfort, the first person to help me find any peace with my father's untimely death at age 48. We hadn't spoken for years prior to his diagnosis, and I felt the most terrible guilt about the time that could never be regained.

Before his illness, on the surface at least, I wasn't much different from your average twentysomething - typically self-absorbed, worrying obsessively about my love life and my fledgling career in television. But realising that the sky could go from blue to black, that all those things could be rendered meaningless by forces outside our control, made me question everything. I had counselling, but it wasn't enough. Instead, losing him sent me pinballing off on a journey into more hardcore forms of healing in an attempt to make sense of the world.


I don't know if Rose truly could communicate across the divide, but I certainly felt the energy in the room shift as she worked. Thanks to her, I was finally able to stop torturing myself with endless ''what ifs'' and start living my life again.

Next, I ticked off a couple of workshops. The Hoffman Process is an eight-day emotional boot camp where you get to grips with the ways in which your early experiences might still be controlling your adult life. You're given a name that encapsulates your issue: mine, unsurprisingly, was Daddy's Girl. Afterwards I was finally able to break my habit of pining for the kind of emotionally unavailable older men who should have come with a health warning.

Then there was Family Constellations, which aims to unearth and loosen old family patterns. You might find yourself asking the middle-aged man next to you, whom you've known all of an hour, to stand in for the great-grandfather you never met and to tell you what he feels in their shoes. The supervisor makes a living map of your history, showing up its hidden dynamics. I found the experience less tangible than Hoffman, but powerful nevertheless.

As I've reached my late 30s, I've become more sure of my place in the world and, consequently, the therapies I've chosen have become gentler. Shelley is my mindfulness teacher, an astonishingly calm woman who comes round on Friday mornings to meditate with me. Mindfulness requires that you stay anchored in the present, switching off the autopilot setting to which modern life - with its constant stream of tweets and emails and nerve-jangling lattes - can often reduce us.

I've certainly had moments when I've expected too much of therapy. There was the time I got cold feet about the man I was due to marry and asked a hypnotherapist to try to get my subconscious to play ball, convinced my parents' fractured relationship was the root cause.

She rightly laughed at me, hypnotising me instead to believe that, if I did choose to walk away, there would be other relationships out there. Walking away was exactly what I did, a decision I've never had cause to regret. I probably would have done it anyway, but I don't doubt she helped me find the courage to make that agonising choice.

Occasionally I look at my battered bank balance at the end of the month and ask myself if it's time I stood on my own two feet. I've had boyfriends who've questioned why I'm prioritising acupuncture or hypnotherapy over a summer holiday. But the truth is, the sense of ease I get from the therapies is in itself addictive.

So, while part of me wants to cut back, another knows that I'll always crave the calm of lying on a couch and letting someone drain away my stress.

The Sunday Telegraph, London