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What The Sopranos teaches us about Mental Health

What The Sopranos teaches us about Mental Health

We take a look at the therapy sessions between Tony and Dr. Melfi, and what The Sopranos teaches us about Mental Health in general.

Therapy has always been a major part of The Sopranos. The show may have a mafia theme, but mental health is also an important part of it. The very first scene of the show was a mob boss talking to a therapist about what’s wrong with the world. That unique take lets us explore that world in great depth, but it also teaches us a hell of a lot about mental health itself. Let us take a look at that!

Tony’s therapy with Dr. Melfi – very realistic

What The Sopranos teaches us about Mental Health
Tony being aggressive on Dr. Melfi in The Sopranos.

Therapy is an essential part of The Sopranos. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) has spent hours and hours of screen-time with Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) in therapy throughout the show. Moreover, the best part about it is, that they were very accurate in showing how therapy works. All of this was because of David Chase, the creator of the show. David Chase admitted himself that the therapy sessions of the Sopranos were inspired by his own.

Therefore, The Sopranos has a very realistic touch when it comes to mental health and therapy. But what does it actually teach us about it?

Mental health lessons from The Sopranos


As we all know, Tony’s depression is a focal point of the show. The Sopranos teaches us how depression is “rage turned inwards”, according to the words of Dr. Melfi. It shows us how in a state of depression, we keep clinging onto the past and how it clouds our judgment.

Not only that, but the show informed us a lot about how depression affects your everyday life. Constant over-eating, being lazy, having un-even hours of sleep are just a few of the many symptoms. Here is an article about a writer who could relate to The Sopranos in terms of his own mental health. However, the show dives deeper into other aspects of mental health too, such as our childhood experiences that cause these issues.

How childhood traumas affect mental health

What The Sopranos teaches us about Mental Health
Lyvia Soprano in The Sopranos

It goes further down by diving deep into the root causes of this mental disease. And just like any other psychological condition, depression has its roots in our childhood. Tony’s gloomy view of his world was largely rooted in his childhood, especially his mother. Lyvia Soprano as a person was difficult to please, and that impacted her children too. Moreover, she often translated her aggression onto her children. Remember the time Tony told Melfi his mother pointed a fork at him, saying she’ll kill him. What’s worse is that this actually happened in real life, to David Chase. He said this about his mother and Lyvia, in an interview:

hqdefault The Sopranos, Mental Health

However, the show doesn’t stop there.


Just like depression, anxiety is also a major mental health hazard. The entire plot of the Sopranos began with Tony having a panic attack. And it continues to be a part of the show for the next 6 seasons. Moreover, the show dives deep into how these panic or anxiety attacks start. Just like depression, they also stem from childhood experiences. For instance, Tony’s first anxiety attack was when his father Johnny boy cut off a man’s finger in front of him. Ever since then, Tony has been uneasy whenever he’s had to deal with meat around him. He also has panic attacks when confronted with family problems, like how it was with the ducks. However, he only came to realize that once he began therapy.


The therapy sessions were very accurate, but that’s not all. The Sopranos taught us that for therapy to work, there have to be sincere efforts from both sides. In fact, the role of the patient is sometimes more important. All of the emotions and traumas have to be brought out by the person seeking therapy. Moreover, the patient has to be willing to unlearn a lot of toxic habits they have caught over the years. That requires you to be in a very different headspace.

That was the main problem with Tony. He never dived deep enough into his emotions. Moreover, he was never willing to unlearn a big chunk of the toxic traits he had acquired over the years. This video dives deep into how therapy works with regards to The Sopranos in this video:

Our verdict

In conclusion, we can easily say that The Sopranos got a lot about mental health very accurately. The show puts a lot of focus on it, and we have to admit that they did a great job. A lot of it is because of David Chase’s own awareness of mental health, and he did a great job at projecting it in the show. We hope that many viewers of the show got a lot of help from the Sopranos in dealing with their own troubles.