ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: Talking To Soso About Her Depression. Healy Gets It 100% Wrong

Never stop a depressed person from talking. Never say, “It’s all in your head.” It’s not. There are reasons for every depression. Including Soso’s, in Season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, if Healy cared to listen. Certainly, never say: “No wonder you don’t have friends. No one wants to be with a sad person who mopes around.” That’s cruel – and only makes the self-loathing voice (in every depressed person’s mind) louder.

Therapy should be a safe place to talk about anything – to be listened to without judgment. As Berdie Rogers (Marsha Stephanie Blake) says: “When someone’s feeling vulnerable, they need their pain acknowledged, not to be made to feel worse by having it.” That’s not Healy (Michael Harney). Healy’s everything a therapist or counselor should never be. Especially since he immediately sends Soso away for medication when she tries to talk.

Talk therapy is what really helps depression. Medication can be a useful adjunct if it’s necessary. But Soso (Kimiko Glenn) doesn’t want medication. She wants to talk. She’s hungry for talking, there’s so much bottled up inside her. But, she doesn’t know how to connect. She talks and talks and talks to other inmates at Litchfield who don’t have any idea what to do with her or her feelings. They aren’t equipped to listen.  Healy should be.  He’s not.

Soso needs a therapist who knows how to listen. Her various protests clearly originate in not wanting to comply with her mother’s demands. Yet she is also fighting a voice inside her that tells her she’ll never be liked unless she gives people what they want. Healy only reinforces that feeling. A good therapist would help Soso figure out ways to express her feelings and needs without alienating people or getting in trouble. Healy’s too intent on doing things his way to understand.

Soso needs a therapist who puts her first. Healy’s preoccupied with his own feelings. So preoccupied in fact that it gets in the way of his job. Sure, Healy has his hurt. His mother was troubled.  He has difficulties with his wife. Healy’s entitled to his feelings – but they don’t belong at work. Especially when he’s someone’s therapist.

A good therapist is self-aware. Healy’s not. Soso’s feelings must remind Healy of his own unhappiness. That’s why he shuts her up. He’d like to think his feelings are all in his head, and easy to control. He loathes the part of himself that also needs to talk. That’s why he demeans Soso.  If he worked these things out in his therapy, he’d be empathic and much more able to help those entrusted to his care.

Berdie is the kind of therapist who gets it right. She listens. She wants to help. She has empathy. She knows Soso and the other inmates need to talk, and she makes that possible in various ways. Soso wants to change counselors. Who wouldn’t want to talk to someone who takes her feelings seriously? Yet, Healy ruins that too. He can’t stand for anyone to have something he doesn’t.  Especially when it comes to being a better therapist.

When the self-hating voice gets louder without help, it can lead to despair. Suicide attempts can happen if the anguish of depression goes on too long. Especially when there’s no one to turn to and the self-hate is reinforced by cruel, demeaning comments from others. Soso didn’t see any way out. That’s because Healy didn’t listen. And, at a crucial time for Soso, he managed to get rid of Berdie, the one person who did.

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