Monday, 2 February 2015

Corrie on the couch

First of all, I think Simon Gregson is doing a great job with his current depression storyline in Coronation Street. I've always loved Steve and this story has taken the character to a completely different level.

I should confess right away that I have a particularly personal interest in this storyline. Not only am I studying for a counselling qualification at the moment, as part of that process I am also seeing a therapist myself. 

It was therefore with some trepidation that I viewed Corrie the other evening when Steve finally goes to see a professional therapist. I think it is excellent that Coronation Street is covering this issue in the first place and focussing it on a character like Steve. And while it is great that a mainstream popular drama like Corrie is highlighting the issue of depression, I did have a nagging doubt as to how thorough it could be.

Obviously this storyline is character led and of course has its emphasis on dramatic effect, hence the bus crash last month. I suppose something needed to bring Steve's condition to a head so that he could receive the help and support he so desperately required. For me though, and this is strictly my own personal feelings, I wish it hadn't been on such a ratings grabbing scale, particularly given the subject matter at the core of the plot line. Undoubtedly the mini bus drama was impressively staged, (mostly) well acted and drew in the viewers. 

I do wish we had seen Steve's subsequent visit to his GP. While we saw the initial visits some months ago, it would have been helpful to see the follow up when Steve was prescribed tablets to take. If time had been taken to show this it would have fleshed out what happens next in a more thorough way. I think the wide range of reactions to Steve's condition have been true and important and it must make some viewers challenge their own beliefs and prejudices regarding mental health issues.

Now we come to Steve's first visit to a professional therapist. There have been many comments on Twitter about the speed with which Steve managed to secure an appointment with a therapist. Although I don't think it was made clear in the episodes, I think it is obvious Steve is not seeing a therapist through the NHS. While talking therapies are available on the Health Service, I think it would take a great deal longer to be given an appointment than Steve has experienced. While not wanting to be too political, I think it's a shame this issue has not been highlighted on screen. The importance of counselling services through the NHS cannot and should not be underestimated.

Anyway, I am immediately disappointed by the arrival of Steve's therapist on screen. Not just for the ludicrous jumper around the shoulders business, which is patronising, but also because I understand the role of the therapist will only appear in two episodes. Either this means Steve decides not to continue with therapy or the rest of it will be played out off screen. Whatever the outcome it will be disappointing. I think it would be refreshing for the viewers to see Steve's therapy sessions every so often as he makes progress. While it might not make for high drama, it could, if handled sensitively and properly, go a long way to combat the myths that exist about going for counselling. 

I am sure the powers that be at Coronation Street are well aware of the responsibility they have to educate as well as entertain the loyal Corrie audience. Taking on the issue of depression is a brave decision for all concerned. My main hope is that, unlike Tim's reading difficulties, it will not be used as a cheap plot device or suddenly disappear in a very unsatisfactory conclusion. 

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Dolly Tubb said...

I have to say, Graeme, that I agree with all your points in this excellent blogpost. I thought when we first saw Steve and Michelle at the counsellor's that they were actually at some posh hotel somewhere, and I missed something in the storyline. I also felt that the way the counselling story was treated, with the ridiculous way the therapist was dressed, and the really rather odd questions, all also added to the 'psychobabble' reputation that counselling has and did nothing to show it in a positive light. Corrie makes me very cross the way it uses incredibly serious issues as just an excuse for a sensational storyline, and debases the very real and often tragic circumstances that go with these things in real life. TPTB did the same with the Maria Rape storyline too.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Very interesting reading, Graeme. The therapist is in a long line of Corrie professionals who are nowhere near their real-life equivalents. The therapist led the session far too much but then it wouldn't have been very dramatic watching two people sitting in silence. I guess the writers had a problem with the private/NHS issue. For example, if we learned that Liz had dug into her savings for private therapy, there would have been an outcry that most people couldn't afford it and, anyway, Liz hasn't got the money.

Anonymous said...

How on earth is a jumper round the shoulders patronising? This daft comment trivialises your other arguments.

Graeme N said...

As I said, these are my opinions and how the storyline has made me feel. I tend to think the image presented is cliched although you obviously disagree, Anonymous

Cobblestone said...

I think showing the therapy sessions could be great television if written by a competant writer with a true understanding of Coronation Street. Therapy would involve uncovering many layers, digging deep into Steve's past, and it could have been fascinating watching Steve revisit incidents and characters from his past - Andy, Vicky, Karen, Becky, Vikram, Jezz Quigley &c, as he reassesses the impact each have had on him. It has the potential to be a moving portrait of a much-loved character placing himself under the microscope.

Flaming Nora said...

I agree with Graeme's comment about the jumper around the shoulders as it is asignifier in the same way as the chintz sofas, high-ceiling consulting room, expensive looking curtains etc., It's clearly a private counsellor and it would have been much more realistic if the counsellor had been shown through the NHS procedure (how can Steve afford to go private in the first place?). There is more to recovering from depression or any mental health problem than just counselling alone. Corrie should know this, Steve's GP would have referred him appropriately and it would have been much more believable if this had been shown, and truer to the character. Well said, Graeme.

Anonymous said...

First thought I had reading this: Tony Soprano. The last guy you would expect to land in a therapist's office. Big he-man, baring his weaknesses to a ... woman who isn't susceptible to his idea of power. It's clearly a formula that can work on TV. I agree with Graeme and Cobblestone - the therapy sessions need to become part of the rhythm of Steve's story. They need to go on for more than 2 episodes, we need to revisit Steve's life, and maybe the therapist could have been better cast, as a perfect foil, reversing Steve's expectations of the person best positioned to understand him. A bruiser like his dad, assigned to him through NHS - you mean this guy is a therapist, really???

Thanks Graeme for a thought-provoking post.


Duncan Lindsay said...

I mostly agree, although would comment that it would depend on the area, surgery and length of waiting list as to when a counsellor became available. I saw my GP on a Monday and had a therapy appointment on the Wednesday and weekly since.

Graeme N said...

I agree Duncan, it is very much a lottery. I still have issues with how it has been portrayed in Corrie though.

Graeme N said...

Thank you Flaming Nora, and thanks for all the other comments - I'm glad it's creating debate and making us all think about these issues

Anonymous said...

Steve's depression seems to have been around for a while (as is often the case) Was watching the 2004 New Year's Eve episode recently where Tracey is trying to get him out and about after Karen's left. All the signs are there - he isolates himself, avoids socialising, even says he might have a cry too.

Beth said...

I have seen counselor's / therapists for years either in a hospital or private and Steve's therapist was nothing like anyone I have seen. I was very disappointed by the lack of realism.

I have loved how Simon Gregson has played this however I'm not 100% convinced Corrie has got it right. It seems to be missing something, like the story isn't quite fleshed out. I do understand though that all cases are different but for me as a sufferer it hasn't quite hit the mark.

Cheryl said...


can anyone point me to the episode where he goes to see the therapist? Also are there any questions about breathing techniques and EFT tapping? I am a practitioner and teacher of EFT so I'm really excited that it is making it to mainstream TV, and being shown as useful for men. Also I would really love to see how it was represented, especially if Beth thought it was unrealistic!

Thanks in advance

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