“The Sopranos” is largely recognized as the first television show to delve into the world of therapy. And while Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, wasn’t always above board in her approach to treating notorious mobster Tony Soprano, experts have long agreed the portrayal is pretty accurate.
“It’s the best representation of the work we do that has ever been in film or on television,” Dr. Philip Ringstrom, an analyst at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles, told The New York Times in 2001.
Relationship therapist Kelly Scott is also a Dr. Melfi fan. “She has moments where she sets boundaries really well with a Tony, who isn’t accustomed to having boundaries,” she said.
In one scene, for example, a fuming Tony smashed objects in Dr. Melfi’s office. Rather than freak out, she calmly told Tony his actions weren’t acceptable and that he crossed a boundary. Following her comments, Tony apologized — a rarity for the fictional mobster.
Dr. Melfi is also well-regarded by mental health professionals because she wasn’t overly set in her approach and was willing to be flexible in order to help Tony work through his problems. “If she were rigid, he wouldn’t have stayed with her,” Scott said.
What’s more, “The Sopranos” humanized Dr. Melfi. When, for instance, she saw Tony at the same restaurant as her, she said hello instead of ignoring him and going about her day.