‘Couples Therapy’ Season 2 digs deep into the whys and wherefores of participants’ self-sabotage amid the global pandemic

Category: Television

Couples Therapy, my latest psychoanalytic lollapalooza after The Affair bid adieu in 2019, returns to Showtime on April 18, 2021. It was ‘a wild experiment’ by documentarians Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg to see “if it’s possible to create a space that actually allows people to do therapy authentically while everyone knows that it’s being filmed.” They teamed up with their kindred spirit, Orna Guralnik, PsyD, discovered they work well together, and the rest is history.

“I think I’m a better therapist having done this,” Guralnik expressed her heartfelt appreciation for the one-of-a-kind docu-series at Showtime’s virtual panel interview in February. A former film student, Guralnik recognized the benefits of being immersed in the filming process 24/7: “I have treatments, and then I see the treatments. I talk about them, and then I see them later coming back. There’s so much opportunity to reflect and then think again and tie it to theory, and then I teach, so I tie it to my teaching. So, I think it has deepened my work a lot.”

In Season 2, Guralnik 2.0 is a lodestar that guides three new couples through the rough waters into the harbor with her keen ‘psychoanalytic sensibility.’ Although they have different and distinct relationship issues, it is glaringly obvious that their pre-existing self-sabotaging behavior are further exacerbated by the pressure cooker inside homes due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I took more risks with couples during this season trying to get closer to the reality of people’s experience,” Guralnik explained in our phone interview conducted late March. “There’s no way to protect privacy in the way you do when you’re working from the office so it just became less of a boundary and more ‘we’re all in this together.’” Hence, more footage of the participants as well as the therapist herself engaged in family activities! No wonder Season 2 disseminates ‘comrade-in-arms’ vibes; the therapist and the participants work for the same purpose while sharing the same danger and difficulties.

In Season 1, the candid discussions between Guralnik and her clinical advisor, Virginia Goldner, PhD, gave us a fly-on-the-wall view of Guralnik’s humanity. In Season 2, however, they are strategically edited into episodes as a storytelling engine with a beginning, middle, and end. Guralnik 2.0 discusses her concerns, frustrations (even outrage! if you can believe it), and observations. Goldner, in return, offers insight into how to deal with the ‘enigmatic unconscious’ since people don’t always know what’s motivating them and what’s at play. The beauty of this storytelling is that we get to witness not only how Goldner’s suggestions play out but also how Guralnik 2.0 execute them with exceptional diplomatic finesse and utmost compassion. Furthermore, a little glimpse into Guralnik 2.0’s own dysfunctional family patterns makes her more relatable and endearing. Couples Therapy Season 2 is a reminder of one of the hard-won lessons I learned from my divorce – “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.”

The nine-episode season premieres Sunday, April 18, with the first two episodes airing back-to-back at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET/PT. New episodes will continue to air back-to-back on Sunday nights for four weeks, with the finale airing on May 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The entire season will also release for on-demand streaming on Showtime and across all Showtime partner platforms on April 18.

About the Author

Meg Mimura is a TV critic who actually watches shows zealously in search of thought-provoking and paradigm shifting human drama worth our precious time. She is a member of Television Critics Association. Follow her on Twitter.