In Session with “Good Will Hunting”

In the first episode of Freudian Scripts, Dr. Fran and Dr. Sam introduce themselves and welcome you to the podcast where they’ll be putting your favorite TV shows and movies on the hypothetical couch to take a deeper dive into the way psychology is portrayed in the media.

Get to know the doctors, why they decided to pursue clinical psychology, and their favorite binge-worthy comedies and dramas, all before tackling their first subject—the 1997 classic, Good Will Hunting.

With Good Will Hunting, they discuss trauma, abuse, and, of course, the therapeutic relationship between Will Hunting and Dr. Sean Maguire, played by Matt Damon and Robin Williams, respectively. How accurate is the portrayal of trauma experience and would a real-life therapist build rapport and treat a patient like Will in some of the same ways it’s depicted in the film? Also, would a therapist really just sit in silence for an entire hour-long session with a patient?

Finally, separate fact from fiction in the first installment of Dr. Fran and Dr. Sam’s recurring segment, PhDonts. These are things that therapists do not, or at least should not, do. (Hint: don’t choke your patient.)

Whether you’re a fan of psychology, Oscar-winning dramas, or wicked Boston accents, relive some of your favorite moments from the film from the unique perspective of two PhD-level therapists. And if your other responsibilities call, tell ’em, sorry, you had to go see about a podcast.

Warning: This episode includes heavy, adult themes of child abuse, which can be hard to hear. Some of the clips are explicit, so maybe don’t listen with kids around.

Glossary of Terms

Trauma – a bad or scary event where someone could have been, or was, badly injured

Attachment – bonds or relationships that we form with others

Self-disclosure – when a therapist shares something personal about themselves in therapy

Perspective-taking – trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes

Conceptualization – an overall summary/impression of what the patient/client is going through and why

Thinking errors – when thinking doesn’t match with reality (e.g., “the abuse was my fault”)

Coping skills – strategies someone uses to handle intense distress or emotions

Trauma narrative – a strategy used in trauma therapy to address thinking errors and distressing reminders of the trauma by telling the story of the traumatic event(s)


Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!

For more information about child trauma, check out the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).

See these resources on specific types of trauma, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and complex trauma (i.e., numerous traumas occurring over a long period of time).

To learn more about Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, check out this information sheet.

Take a look at this brief essay for a deeper dive into attachment theory and recent research on attachment in adulthood.