“In Treatment” returns to HBO on May 23 for a fourth season starring Uzo Aduba as therapist Dr. Brooke Taylor. It’s been ten years since the end of Season 3, and the reimagining of “In Treatment” is set in present day Los Angeles and brings a diverse trio of patients in session with Taylor (Brooke), played by Aduba, to help navigate a variety of modern concerns. This is the first season for “In Treatment” that uses a Black, female therapist as the lead, as well as moving from New York to Los Angeles. This was addressed during a panel of the CTAM Television Critics Association Press Tour, in which I participated a few months ago.
“We approached reimagining the show to make sure that we were updating it and making it feel like a show that is being made in 2021. We have an opportunity to say some very important things about our particular time. We have racial justice movements and the #MeToo movement. We talk about toxic masculinity and addiction. We cover a lot of topics all set in the present day, and we felt that was a way to update the show in a great way,” said executive producer Jennifer Schuur.
Issues such as the global pandemic and recent major social and cultural shifts are also a backdrop to the work Brooke will undertake, all while she deals with complications in her own personal life.
During the panel, Aduba was able to answer a few questions about the series, a few episodes of which I was able to screen beforehand. Brooke is a stern but compassionate therapist. She dresses so sharp in order to create that aura of professionalism, and she is conducting business in her elegantly appointed home, because the pandemic has forced her to close her office. I say that her character comes to life through her wardrobe and composure.
And her presence is one of the first questions posed during the virtual press conference attended by a few fellow journalists. “I think it’s a fixture of who Brooke is in terms of how she views moving through the world even if her professional world moves into her home,” said Aduba.
“There’s a face that therapists wear when they’re treating patients and a sort of a mask that protects them from judgment and any sort of feeling that the patient might interpret from them so that they feel like they’re getting a compassionate, open ear. And I think this is just one of the ways in which she wears and presents her mask.”
And while mental health has its challenges for those persons going through problems, in the Black community, there is often a reluctance to seek out professional care—with many just trying to drudge through it or going to their religious leader for advice.
According to the Black Mental Health Alliance: In research studies, Black people have indicated that mild depression or anxiety would be viewed as “crazy” in their social circles. Many of those interviewed also believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.
“There’s such a stigma attached to it, especially in communities of color, so it felt important to me, personally, to put that on television to show that we all need this. For example, it’s part of the reason why Brooke has a pro bono patient, even though it doesn’t turn out the way she intends. I wanted to expand the idea of who gets access to therapy and under what circumstances to destigmatize it,” said executive producer Josh Allen.
Brooke is different from the therapist Dr. Paul Weston, who was in the previous seasons. She offers her own life experiences and her feelings in a session, and this creates more honesty with her patients and an ability for them to become more vulnerable and open with her.
Aduba agreed: “Even in this pandemic, as you hear her say in the show, she shows up for her patients. She shows up for them no matter what. And, in this instance, even during quarantine, during lockdown, she shows up dressed, ready to be of service to them. I think that also extends as far as her opening them up to her own experiences to help invite them to come closer to the things that they’re looking to confront,” she said. “That being said, I think what’s also been interesting in doing this show is that you also get to watch how that type of therapy and treatment is exercised from patient-to-patient and session-to-session.”
Aduba spoke to the work she had to put in to make it successful. “This is easily one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had in my life; the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on in terms of the preparation,” while saying that the entire cast works hard. “This project came into my life at a time that was needed and has brought an excitement and an energy—there’s a thrill.”
“In Treatment” Season 4 also stars Anthony Ramos as Eladio, who works as a home health aide for a wealthy family’s adult son; John Benjamin Hickey as Colin, a charming millionaire beach bum turned white-collar criminal reckoning with all the ways his life has changed following his recent release from prison; Quintessa Swindell as Laila, Brooke’s distrustful, teenage client, struggling to carve out her own identity separate from her family’s overbearing expectations; and Joel Kinnaman as Adam, Brooke’s long-time on-again, off-again boy- friend who has resurfaced to create further complexity for her.
Note: If you or someone you know may need the help of a mental health professional, please reach out to the Black Mental Health Alliance at (410) 338-2642 or email [[email protected]]. The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ theme for this month is “You Are Not Alone.” Their helpline is 800.950.NAMI.
Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is the Entertainment Editor for the Chicago Crusader. She is a National Newspaper Publishers Association ‘Entertainment Writing’ award winner, contributor to “Rust Belt Chicago” and the author of “Old School Adventures from Englewood: South Side of Chicago.” For info, Old School Adventures from Englewood—South Side of Chicago (lulu.com) or email: [email protected].