If you’ve ever said, “These people need therapy” while watching “The Real Housewives of New York,” you’re in luck.
Dr. Tracy Thomas, a California psychologist and devout “RHONY” fan spoke to Page Six about what’s behind the battles the ‘wives have been facing, both in the current season and throughout their lives.
“These people need help. We are verifiably looking at some people with serious mental health and addiction issues who really deserve to feel better and be healthier,” Thomas told us, based on her review of the show.
But part of the challenge in getting help is the stigma surrounding the treatment of substance abuse in the United States.
“[The ‘Housewives’] mostly know rehab as the last and final option and that is so unattractive to people that we watch them continually refuse to just say, ‘Yeah, I’m struggling, and I’m gonna get help.’ Treatment needs to be thought of as empowering and a form of self-care.”
Thomas, who has never treated any of the “Housewives” believes that Sonja Morgan, whose drunken antics have come under fire by her castmates, is suffering “on one level from PTSD.” “Part of the chronic stress she experiences is from the downfall of her marriage, which she’s seemingly endlessly grieving. And I can see that she hasn’t forgiven herself that she’s punishing herself for it.”
Sonja was married to John Adams Morgan, the founder and chairman of Morgan Joseph, from 1998 to 2006. The couple shares one daughter, Quincy.
“I think a big part of her grief and trauma comes from being afraid she’ll never ascend back to her same level of wealth and privilege, and she can only cope with that while she’s numbing herself with substances. She may feel time is running out and that nothing has landed, and that is very painful and scary.”
Thomas thinks Luann de Lesseps is also grieving a failed marriage. “We were all watching as Luann went through the relationship with Tom [D’Agostino]; the way she went through that relationship and wedding despite her awareness of the problems that were there. And so she’s been grieving not just the divorce but also the loss of the idea of a love affair. By the time she’s getting arrested and coming at the police, the trauma and grief of that are on one level, but being a woman who went from literal royalty into rehab with ‘normal people’ is on another.”
And while de Lessep’s co-star Dorinda Medley may have given her a hard time for going to rehab on a recent episode, Thomas believes the cabaret star’s response was a sign of her growth.
“When Dorinda was saying, ‘I didn’t have to go to rehab,’ and Luann says, ‘Can you please not shame me for that?’ I was very proud of Luann for that. Her emotional development, as forced upon her as it was, is really admirable.”
Despite her critique, Dorinda isn’t without suffering of her own. “Dorinda having lost this love of her life Richard and with him, a really lovely, elegant life with a lot of depth and access. You can tell how cheated she has felt and feels by his death. When people go through that kind of loss, there’s a lot of fear that we can’t do that again, we can’t create that life again. You can feel that she’s scared of that.
“Part of grief is being angry and afraid, and she just so happens to be in a group of highly intense, reactive women. If she were in a different setting, I think it’d be easier for her to recover, but she’s right in the lion’s den. When you’re around other people’s griefs and fears, it can really activate and compound your own.”
As the conversation around mental health has become a storyline, Thomas feels the language of treatment and therapy is being used as weaponry.
“Words like codependency and addiction get thrown around and pinned on people without anyone really asking what led them into those relationships or patterns. ‘So-and-so’s doing this’ then someone will chime in, ‘Oh that’s because they’re in a relationship with a narcissist.’ These women are really throwing these terms around. I also think almost everyone on this season has accused one another of being an alcoholic; it’s getting passed around like a hot potato.
“We’ve really got to think about how we’re treating that. Saying ‘you need help,’ or ‘you need rehab,’ is damaging, instead of saying,’ ‘I see you struggling and I see that you want to be happy.’
Thomas’ diagnosis for “Housewives” is fairly simple: “Their emotions are above and beyond their capacity for dealing with them. Emotional strength and intelligence is a process and a muscle that needs to be developed, and for many of them, they’re being overwhelmed.”
“If your emotional resources are below what the situation is calling for, you break down. People will make it more about your personality, but what we’re seeing is pain that spills over into different forms.”