Three Approaches to Psychotherapy - The Gloria Sessions

I took one class in psychology while in college, but I was not required to watch this tape for class. Instead I discovered this on Rob Ager's (film fan and theorist) youtube channel.  He focused on the Perls session (Gestalt).  But I find the tape more enlightening when taken as a whole.

As more information about Gloria came out it both revealed and obfuscated this film.  Because at times it seems so bogus, so staged and then when moments of realness come out (Perls session) it is strikingly uncomfortable for Gloria, Perls and the viewer.  Gloria admitted later that she only did the film at the behest of her therapist.  It seems that the problems Gloria discussed in the Rogers session were cooked up for the film.  This must have been why I found Gloria to be highly theatrical and overtly charming.  There is a self possession and guile about her that is totally missing in women today and seems a bit over the top.  She is an avatar for a past culture clashing against a modern mindset that was totally upending society at the time these films were created.  We live in the aftermath of that change and Gloria is a strange character indeed.

The Gestalt session with Perls is startling and disturbing.  Because this therapy is so confrontational, it totally blew apart the structured story that Gloria had created for the film.  As the session develops, we can see the theatrical facade that Gloria hid behind start to crack and reveal a vulnerable woman.  She wants to be liked and protected by Perls, to establish roles and boundaries between them. This is something that Perls adamantly and aggressively refuses to do.  What Perls was trying to force Gloria to realize was that she didn't need to be liked or coddled by ALL men.  However I do think somewhere along the line this aim became muddled as the two devolved into bickering just to bicker.  I've read some commentary that stated that Perls seemed to be dealing with some latent problems that Gloria triggered in him.  That she inadvertently reminded him of his own parents who rejected him.  Indeed, later it was revealed that he played a cruel joke on Gloria by making her hold out her hands to him which he then used as an ashtray for his cigarette ashes.

The Ellis session is also a bit odd.  Since it seems Ellis is coming on to her in some way.  Gloria is frowning during this session not because she is antagonized but because she can't figure out her position in this situation.  Here she is faced with a man who is willing to play a dominant role over her and she does not like it.  This reveals that her words to Perls about wanting to be protected were really just a cultural artifact.  This is what she thinks men want to hear but not what she wants to do.

Ultimately, Gloria preferred her session with Rogers.  Who was both nurturing and an independent sounding board for her.

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