Lorraine Bracco is known for playing two great characters in two of the greatest crowd stories ever told. After playing mafia wife Karen Hill in Martin Scorsese Goodfellas, she then played Tony Soprano’s therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, in the HBO series The Sopranos. Both roles have earned him numerous nominations.
Tony’s relationship with Dr. Melfi was special because he confided in him things that no one else had ever known. Dr. Melfi was also the only person to stand up to Tony and call him out for his behavior without him feeling disrespected. During their many sessions together, she gave him lots of solid advice.
ten Don’t get romantically involved with Adriana
There was an incident on the show where Tony and Adriana almost slept together. There was no doubt the two would have crossed that line if Phil and Joey hadn’t shown up in the room before they had a chance to act.
After the incident, Tony realized he needed help handling the situation. He went to Dr. Melfi and told her how he viewed Adriana as a suitable replacement for Carmela. But he was also aware that this would create problems with Christopher and Carmela. Dr Melfi simply advised him not to and he didn’t.
9 Forget Pie-O-My
Tony got attached to Ralph Pie-O-My’s racehorse in an unusual way, often talking about him in ways others found strange. When Pie-O-My died in a barn fire, Tony was devastated. The fire department concluded that the fire was accidental, but Tony believed Ralph had intentionally set the fire so that he would collect the $ 200,000 insurance policy.
No one else seemed to share Tony’s grief. When he told Dr Melfi about it, she told him not to let it bother him so much, otherwise it would lead to bad decisions. However, he did not. Instead, his anger built up, causing him to strangle Ralph to death. It was an ill-informed decision because Ralph was his highest earner. In the future, Tony would see a drop in his income.
8 There is no shame in taking drugs
After Tony had a panic attack in the pilot episode and passed out, he was advised to see a psychiatrist because his problem was probably stress related rather than something physical. This marked the start of his long doctor-patient relationship with Dr Melfi.
Dr Melfi listened intently to her problems and told her that with advances in medicine, there were solutions available that might help. She described Prozac to him for a start, something he wasn’t that keen on taking, but later found that it helped him significantly.
7 Avoid expressing frustrations about your mother in front of your children
AJ never gave his parents an easy time throughout the series. Things got worse when he drove Carmela’s car without a license and ran over it. Carmela and Tony explained to him how he could have killed people, but he laughed at it, stating that it would have been interesting since death portrays the absurdity of life.
Dr Melfi knew what the problem was when Tony told him about the whole incident. He often expressed his frustrations with his own mother in front of the children and as a result they became thugs. Tony constantly declares that his mother Livia was dead for him too leading AJ to disrespect him.
6 Take responsibility for your actions
Out of frustration, Tony refused to take responsibility for his actions and those of his children. In AJ’s case in particular, he blamed it on the Soprano gene which caused erratic behavior. Apparently, the gene could be traced back to his great-grandfather who committed suicide while riding a mule up a mountain.
As expected, Dr. Melfi disagreed with his assessment. “When you blame your genes, you really blame yourself and that’s what we should be talking about,” she said. The always calm therapist has advised Tony to take responsibility as a parent and as an adult and he will soon see the “gene” go away.
5 There is no total control
During one of the first episodes of Season 2, Dr. Melfi was frank with Tony, asking him what he wanted to achieve with therapy. After all, he had been rather inconsistent with attendance.
Tony told him he wanted to gain full control over everything in his life, including his health and his affairs. Dr Melfi quickly let him know that there was no such thing as total control. Only one thing could be controlled at a time. For example, he couldn’t become a better mob boss through therapy. For that, he would have to read The art of War by Sun Tzu.
4 Open more
It was understandable that Tony was sometimes a little secretive with Dr. Melfi. He was a mafia boss with lots of skeletons in his closet. He once mentioned that he was having issues with his cousin Tony Blundetto but didn’t want to say more. This upset Dr Melfi, who told him that she could only help him if he opened up more.
Their sessions were covered by doctor-patient confidentiality; she couldn’t say anything even if the federal government asked her. Tony ultimately took his advice, which led him to have better ideas about Blundetto, such as not handing him over to the Lupertazzi crime family.
3 Bring Carmela to therapy sessions
After complaining a lot about his family, Tony was advised by Dr Melfi to take his wife Carmela with her for one of the sessions. He was skeptical about it but he agreed to do it anyway. The first session didn’t go very well, as Carmela felt the therapist was trying to portray her as the problem.
However, when Carmela went on her own for the next one, she realized that she was being too critical of her husband and needed to understand him more due to the nature of their work. It helped improve their marriage. Carmela later had her own therapist.
2 Enjoy the little progress
There were times when Tony felt like the therapy sessions weren’t helping him. However, he was wrong. When he complained about wanting to quit in the fourth year of therapy, Dr Melfi reminded him that progress had indeed been made. He was no longer depressed or had panic attacks like he did during their very first sessions.
Realizing how true this was, Tony resumed his words and chose to continue with therapy. He would continue to do so until the penultimate episode of the series.
1 To control his anger
Tony had anger issues, which Dr Melfi noticed early on. She advised him to tone it down, otherwise it would cause problems, especially for a man who was part of organized crime.
It seemed to work as Tony has shown restraint on numerous occasions on the show. He forgave many of his subordinates for mistakes that would have easily hit them. When arguing with his AJ or Carmela, Tony was normally able to calm down after only voicing his grievances for a few seconds.
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