Season five of Suits premieres next week. A spoiler reported by E! Online reveals that Harvey Specter (portrayed by Gabriel Macht) will seek therapy. As a fan who is also a psychologist, I’ve been thinking about the kinds of issues Harvey might work on if he wants to improve his personal and professional relationships.
As name partner at the law firm Pearson Specter Litt, Harvey capitalizes on his intelligence, good looks, and wit to close deals. He’s not afraid to take risks or get in his opponent’s face to make sure he comes out on top. Calling the shots so often, Harvey would probably have a hard time accepting help. The catalyst that prompts Harvey to see a therapist would need to motivate him to change his interpersonal style. That event occurred at the end of season four. Harvey told his secretary, Donna (portrayed by Sarah Rafferty), that he loved her. When Donna mustered up the courage and asked Harvey to explain what he meant, he shut her out by refusing to answer.
Spoilers hint that Harvey goes to therapy after Donna leaves him to work for his rival, and fellow name partner, Louis (portrayed by Rick Hoffman). If Harvey doesn’t make the decision to go to therapy himself, the suggestion to get help would have to come from someone Harvey respects and cares about. That suggestion may come from Donna or Harvey’s brother who probably went to therapy to overcome his gambling addiction. Harvey may initially perceive therapy as a sign of weakness and would keep it a secret so as not to ruin his reputation as a power player. Harvey may first consider a life coach instead of a therapist since to him, seeing a coach may carry less stigma. However, the deep-rooted issues that plague Harvey can’t be appropriately treated by coaching.
Since Harvey has trust issues and a lot of trouble expressing his feelings to those close to him, I would expect him to be initially resistant to therapy. The problems that play out in Harvey’s life outside of the therapy sessions are likely to occur during his sessions as well, leading him to potentially sabotage his treatment. He might not have much to talk about and may even leave sessions early. He may also use his wit as a defense mechanism. If Harvey’s therapist is a woman, he may become attracted to her. On the other hand, if Harvey’s therapist reminds him of managing partner Jessica Pearson (portrayed by Gina Torres), he may be able to form good rapport that would foster successful treatment. After all, Jessica was Harvey’s mentor and he confides in her quite often. Harvey is likely to research whichever therapist he selects as he wants to know exactly who he’s dealing with. He may need to meet with several therapists before he finds a good fit.
How would I help Harvey Specter if he walked into my office? I would start with what led him to seek help at this particular time. Then I would find out about his background and the specific issues he would like to work on in therapy. I would ask clarifying questions and offer interpretations about his work, romantic, and familial relationships to help him uncover the unconscious reasons his interpersonal relationships fall apart.
My clinical formulation is that Harvey’s trust issues probably stem from witnessing his mother cheat on his father. He kept this secret for years only to be abandoned by his mother. He was also emotionally hurt when billionaire Charles Forstman (portrayed by Eric Roberts) betrayed him and created false evidence to blackmail him. When Donna leaves Harvey, those emotional wounds are reopened. In order to help Harvey heal those wounds, I would focus on building rapport with him during the initial sessions. Once Harvey lets down his defenses and gains insight into how his early childhood experiences have impacted his present state, I would teach him practical skills to help him maintain healthy relationships.
Harvey’s ability to remain unemotional has mostly served him well in business until now. He’s losing control at work and in his personal life. If Harvey is willing to work hard in therapy, he can turn things around. It’s going to be interesting to see how his character develops.
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