The Sopranos Order a Hit on Psychotherapy

NYS Psychologists Respond

ALBANY, NY (06/13/2007)(readMedia)-- A recent episode of The Sopranos has caused concern among many in the mental health community. Dr. Melfi’s dismissal of Tony Soprano as a reaction to unchecked counter- transference was just one aspect of poor and unethical treatment. Her angry abandonment of Tony was preceded by another scene that has Melfi and her supervisor at a party with other doctors. The supervisor violates confidentiality by revealing Tony’s identity.

The media has long taken artistic license in portraying therapists as unethical hacks or more disturbed than their patients. “I believe what has many psychologists disappointed is that, to this point, Dr.Melfi’s treatment of Tony had been one of the better portrayals of psychotherapy by the media,” said Dr. Peter Kanaris, the Coordinator for Public Education for the New York State Psychological Association. Even more distressing are the recent reports that patients have expressed concerns to their therapists that they too would be treated in such poor fashion. Dr. Kanaris added, “This could also discourage some people in need from starting counseling thinking that this would happen to them.”

While most people realize that movies and television do not reflect what actually takes place in psychotherapy, this fact is important to stress. “The public needs to be reassured that psychologists are doctorally trained mental health practitioners expert not only in research based methods, but in the highest standards of ethical patient care.” Safe- guarding people from the blatant ethical violations seen in the Sopranos’ episode is at the core of the education and training that a psychologist undergoes.

In order to maximize safety when seeking treatment, it is important to look for a licensed mental health professional whose training stresses these ethical considerations. Psychologists are doctors trained as people experts who hold patient safety as the top priority while they work to help the individual achieve their goals of change.

The New York Psychological Association’s referral service is available to help people in need find a psychologist who can help. The service can be accessed by phone at

(800) 445-0899 or online at


The New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA) is a private, non-profit professional association chartered more than 50 years ago. Its mission is to advance the science and practice of psychology while supporting excellence in education, training, research, advocacy and service. With more than 3,000 members, NYSPA is recognized as one of the strongest state psychological associations in the country because of its vigorous and sustained efforts in many areas of concern to psychologists and the public interest. NYSPA is affiliated with the American Psychological Association, representing over 160,000 psychologists, the American Federation of Teachers, representing over 1.3 million educators and health care professionals, and the New York State United Teachers, representing over 550,000 educators and health care professionals in New York.