In Treatment Season 3 Week 2: Jesse

Paul is at his desk reading information online about Parkinson’s. Jesse is outside texting when Max comes up the stairs and enters through the back door. Jesse goes into the waiting room after glancing at Max.

Jesse chews on string of his hoodie. Paul asks if he had thought more about his birth mother. Jesse asks if he has heard of RISD because they have a summer program he is interested in. He says he applied online and sent some of the pictures he showed Paul. Paul asks if he completed the application and Jesse says he did and asks if Paul wants to see the brochure. He showed it to his adoptive mother and she said we can’t afford it — which Jesse first reports as “we can’t afford that shit”. He won’t ask for financial help. 

Jesse is cocky and flirtatious — talks crudely about his social worker who is supportive of him. Paul questions this. He says he thinks Paul and his social worker should go out because they are both such sad people. He tells Paul he told his social worker he had the cost under control. Then he says he will prostitute himself then that he will sell his Adderall. Then that he will call Karen,  his birth mother, because she is rich. Paul asks if he has told his parents. He says no, it’s none of their business.  Paul says he thinks he is anxious about telling his parents and about calling Karen back. Paul asks him how likely it is that she will just give him the money.  Jesse gets angry and threatens to leave. Tells Paul to ask him other questions, like how was his week. Jesse lies back on the couch. 

Paul asks how his week was and Jesse says fine. Anything out of the ordinary ?– yes, we got prank called. Jesse says at first he thought it was Karen because his cell mailbox was full. He says it wasn’t her but Nate, an athlete he was involved with sexually. Paul asks when he last saw Nate and Jesse says a couple of months ago.  He says  Nate asked a lot of questions like wanting to see where he lived. Jesse told him he was homeless. He says the lies he tells Nate turn him on. Paul asks if he believes if he tells Nate the truth he won’t be wanted by him anymore. Paul asks if he hoped it was Karen. Jesse says Paul is obsessed with that.

Jesse gets up and goes to the shelves and picks up bronzed baby shoes. Jesse asks what his son’s name is.  Paul tells him he told him he doesn’t discuss his children in therapy. Jesse says he saw Max in the hall and he looks sad. Then he asks what Paul would do if he threw the shoes through the window. Paul asks why he would do that. He asks if Jesse is angry that Paul protects his son’s privacy. Jesse  says his mother pays no attention to what he does, she would ignore it. Because he is a degenerate. Jesse makes a move as if to throw the shoe at Paul, who flinches.

Jesse says he bets Paul is regretting he took him on pro-bono. Paul says he didn’t take him on pro-bono. Who is paying? Paul says his parents pay. Jesse thought he was being seen for free. He says they can’t afford this. Jesse looks stricken for a moment. He says he should have known that she would rather pay for therapy than talk to him herself. Jesse says he is just not going to feel toward his mother the way he is supposed to feel. But he isn’t her baby and when she sees him she doesn’t feel anything. He says he feels fine because he doesn’t feel anything when he looks at her either. He starts to cry and says it is the pretending that he loves her and she loves him when his whole life has been a giant mistake. Paul asks who made the mistake — Marissa?Karen?  Jesse then says look at you, you have a hard on now — sexualizing Paul’s response. Then he apologizes. He asks if Paul thinks he has Tourette’s. Paul says no.

Jesse goes back to talking about Nate. Should I get a restraining order? No — talk to him about why his calls upset you. Paul says Nate is interested in getting to know Jesse and that scares him. Paul says he makes up the homeless story every time he gets into an intimate relationship he steps into this homeless id so the “real” Jesse can’t be hurt. And he is on the verge of finding out where he comes from.

Are you going to call Karen? Paul says Jesse knew Marissa would fail the test of paying for RISD which would let him be angry and call Karen. He thinks Marissa will be glad for him to go.

Jesse walks out — he says to Paul that his son is in for a world of hurt, that it  it takes one to know one and leaves.

Paul puts the shoes back.

Jesse, as is typical with adolescents, presents some real challenges in working with him. The task is to see between the provocations to the vulnerability he tries so hard to conceal. Paul seems to be able to pretty much avoid the trap of responding to the bait Jesse keeps throwing out and to be able to hold clearly in mind just how vulnerable this boy is. 

This week we see again how he uses sexual language with Paul to try to provoke him and then quickly backs down and tries to make light of it. Paul could have responded more to that but chose instead to interpret Jesse’s fabricated homeless identity as something he uses to hold himself out of intimate relationships. Jesse has to come to terms with the part of him that is homeless — without the secure home of knowing and being with his biological family. He creates walls between himself and anyone who might actually want to get closer to him, as he does with Nate. Thought Paul did not pursue it, I suspect that on some level Jesse’s joking attempt to fix up Paul and his social worker is an unconscious effort to bring together the two people who actively care about him. They both take a piece of a parental role with him and despite all the noise he makes, he trusts them.

We can also surmise that Jesse was upset to see Paul’s son. Max belongs to Paul, with Paul in a way that Jesse does not belong to his adoptive father, to any man. Remember all of the aggression when Jesse picked up the bronzed shoes. But he can’t yet talk about what it is that he feels because I doubt he can allow himself to feel it. So he strikes out at Paul. Paul does well holding his ground through this. Jesse does aim an arrow at Paul at the end by telling Paul that his son is in for a world of hurt. Paul could have probed a bit to see how Jesse felt about seeing Max, though I doubt he would have gotten much about it. But we can see pretty clearly that Jesse has very strong feelings because of the aggression he shoes with the shoes.

In Treatment Season 3 Week 1 Jesse

Paul is reading the NY review of books. He sees an ad for Gina’s book. Then a knock on the door. He opens the door to a flash going off as his patient enters.

Jesse, a teenager, sits slumped a bit on the couch, his knees jiggling. Tension is his body is evident. He tells Paul he took a lot of good photos that week and put some on Facebook. He tried to friend Paul but discovered he isn’t on FB for which he admonishes him. 

Jesse says he likes the word bifurcated and then they spar a little about the way Merriam (of Merriam-Webster) is pronounced and Paul reveals a bit of dictionary trivia he knows. 

Jesse is gay. He talks in a dramatic and slightly pressured way.Swinging quickly from anger to a quieter state. He says he loves his camera and when Paul asks who gave it to him, he says he doesn’t remember, which is odd. Then he shows Paul pictures in the camera. Among them are photos in a bar. Paul asks when that was,  to which Jesse vaguely says Friday though Paul says the date stamp says Tuesday. Paul asks if it was at Josh and Rafe’s bar and was it last night? Jesse reluctantly confesses. Paul asks if he went to school that day. He says no. Paul reminds Jesse that he had said he wouldn’t go back to see them because he felt used by them, because they think he is a student at NYU. Paul says he is a minor and it is illegal for them to be with him. And Jesse says he will soon be 17, that they are safe and they always use condoms. His movements become more agitated. Paul asks if Jesse is taking his Adderall. Jesse says he means is he selling it. Jesse then says he found an app that allows him to see who is looking for a hookup. Paul told him to put the phone away.

His mother, whom he refers to as Marissa, sent him a text early in the morning because he didn’t go home. Paul asks if he thinks his mother finds him a burden and then he says he hates talking about his parents as he lies down. His father is grooming another young man to take over the business, D’amato and Sons. Paul asks if that feels like a rejection. Jesse says it is a metaphor which means D’amato and people he wish were his sons. 

After another angry retort, Jesse says this sucks and that he feels like a fuck up today. Paul observes that whenever he talks about his birth parents, he assigns different professions to his father but his mother he always refers to as a crack whore. Jesse tries to slough that off. He takes out his iPhone again and when Paul asks him to put it away he refuses, and angrily says he like holding it. Then he takes it out again and plays a message on the phone — and we hear a woman saying she thinks she is his birth mother.

Paul asks when he got the message. He says yesterday after school. He gets angry and defensive again and mocks Paul. Then he says he felt nothing when she called and how did she get his number anyway. Paul tries to support him and asks what he wants to do. How he feels. Jesse says there is nothing going on inside, all he hears is static and really faint voices he can’t make out. Jesse says he’s sorry and he pulls his legs up. Paul asks what he did after he got the message. He says he went for a walk, to the bridge. Paul asks if he was heading anyplace in particular. Jesse says Josh and Rafe’s. Paul asks if he has noticed when he is emotionally upset he seeks out sex. They didn’t have sex, Jesse angrily says, that Rafe went with him back to their apartment. He attacks Paul for asking about his sex life. Paul firmly tells him not to talk to him that way — Jesse apologizes. Paul also apologizes for not realizing how emotionally important Josh and Rafe are to him. Jesse says they are really good guys.

Jesse says the call came from Westchester. And the exchange tells him she is wealthy. The hour is over. Paul asks where he is going. Jesse doesn’t want to go home because what can he say — that he got a message from his birth mother? Paul asks again where he is going and he says maybe for another walk. Jesse leaves.

Paul is at his best dealing with adolescents, giving them room for their conflicting emotions and mood changes while setting limits as needed. We this again with Jesse who is angry, confused, struggling with issues of abandonment and acting out sexually. Paul handles him deftly, confronting Jesse then making space for him to take it in and respond. Notice that each time, Jesse first responds defensively and then comes round and responds. It’s a dance and one that Paul has to be able to see and understand in order to do it. And Jesse responds to Paul’s care, even though he pokes fun at him, by being willing to play for him the message that he got from his mother. And when he does, the cause of Jesse’s agitation becomes clear to us and to Paul, even as Jesse tries to push it away. At the end, he unwittingly reveals the big wound when he says he knows from where she called that she has money — though not said, we can hear in that the question “Why didn’t she keep me?” So long as he imagined her to be a crack whore, he could keep that at a distance, as he also keeps his adoptive parents at a distance with contempt — a typical ploy by adolescents. But now there is a voice and a telephone number and fantasy threatens to move into reality. 

Recall that with Sophie in season 1, Paul was also dealing with a teenager in a sexual relationship with an adult. It takes a deft hand to both communicate support for the teen while also voicing concern for issues of being a minor and possibly being exploited. If Paul were to press too hard on this, Jesse would likely bolt. Paul’s recognition that Jesse gains emotional support from Josh and Rafe even as he has said he feels “fucked by them when they fuck” him is important. It is important that Paul not become the protective parent here but that he carefully thread his way through Jesse’s need for support from adult males and the real threat of sexual exploitation.

We see also in this session the difference between a first session, which we saw with Sunil and Frances, and therapy which is more established. Paul has a better sense of when he can push Jesse and when to back off. In other words, he knows the dance that works with Jesse whereas with Sunil and Frances it is still to be discovered.

In Treatment: Sophie

Tonight we meet Sophie, a 16 yr old who has come to see Paul for a professional evaluation for her lawsuit. We see that both of her arms are in casts and she tells us a bit about her accident, while claiming amnesia for any details. 

The episode opens with Paul’s son angling to stay home from school and getting caught out in the process. He storms out of the room telling Paul, “You never believe me!” — which we should know will figure in Paul’s work with Sophie.

Sophie declares she is not interested in therapy. She essentially tells Paul she wants as little interaction with him as possible in order to get the evaluation. So she begins as many adolescents do, with great reluctance and mistrust about the process. Paul, and we, can feel that there is more here to Sophie than meets the eye and he skillfully woos her into talking more than she’d planned and into coming back for 3 more sessions. He expertly gains some trust from her and subtly engages her in the process without pushing hard or making her take flight, though at one point near the beginning she does start to bolt. His work with her was a pleasure to watch.

As Sophie talks about how close she is to her father, who moves so often she has to call 411 to get his phone number, and says that he and her coach are the only two people who love, there is the hint that something is very wrong in Sophie’s world. This accident is not her first one where she flies off a moving vehicle and injures herself in what looks enough like suicide attempts to have been named just that. Two accidents like that in a couple of years for one kid set off alarm bells. And then the drawing on her cast of the mermaid made by her male coach. My hunch is that some sexual boundaries have been crossed. 

Paul is wise to take this very slowly. He has to win her over, to let her develop trust in him, to be the good father, reliable an present that she needs in her life — we see that in her questions about Paul’s daughter.

Nice work, Paul!

Tomorrow night — Jake & Amy