Lorraine Bracco is known for portraying two great characters in two of the greatest mob stories ever told. After playing mob wife Karen Hill in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, she went on to play Tony Soprano’s therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, in the HBO series The Sopranos. Both roles earned her plenty of award nominations.
Tony’s relationship with Dr. Melfi was a special one as he confided in her things that no one else ever got to know about. Dr. Melfi was also the only person who’d stand up to Tony and call him out for his behavior without him feeling disrespected. During their numerous session together, she gave him plenty of solid advice.
Not To Get Romantically Involved With Adriana
There was one incident in the series in which Tony and Adriana almost slept together. There was no doubt that 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 in managing the situation. He went to see Dr. Melfi and told her how he saw Adriana as an appropriate replacement for Carmela. But he was also aware that this would create problems with both Christopher and Carmela. Dr. Melfi simply advised him not to do it and he didn’t.
Forget About Pie-O-My
Tony became attached to Ralph’s racing horse Pie-O-My in a manner that was unusual, often talking about it in a manner that others found odd. When Pie-O-My died in a stable fire, Tony was devastated. The fire department concluded that the fire was accidental but Tony believed that Ralph intentionally set the fire so that he would collect on the $200,000 insurance policy.
No one else appeared to share in Tony’s grief. When he told Dr. Melfi about it, she told him not to let it trouble him so much or else it would lead him to poor decisions. However, he didn’t. Instead, his anger piled up, making him strangle Ralph to death. This was an uninformed decision because Ralph was his highest earner. In the future, Tony would see a drop in income.
There’s No Shame In Taking Medication
After Tony had a panic attack in the pilot episode and blacked out, he was advised to see a psychiatrist because his problem was probably stress-related rather than something physical. That marked the start of his lengthy doctor-patient relationship with Dr. Melfi.
Dr. Melfi listened to his problems keenly and told him that thanks to the advancements in the field of medicine, there were available solutions that could help. She described Prozac to him for a start, something he wasn’t so keen on taking but realized later on that it helped him significantly.
Avoid Airing Out His Frustrations About His Mother In Front Of His Children
A.J. never gave his parents an easy time throughout the series. Things got worse when he drove Carmela’s car without a license and crashed it. Carmela and Tony lectured him on how he could have killed people but he laughed it off, stating that it would have been interesting since death depicts the absurdity of life.
Dr. Melfi knew what the problem was when Tony told him about the whole incident. He often aired out his frustrations about his own mother in front of the children and as a result, they were becoming rogue. Tony’s constantly stating that his mother Livia was dead to him also lead A.J. to disrespect him too.
Take Responsibility For His Actions
Out of frustration, Tony refused to take responsibility for his actions as well as those of his children. In A.J.’s case specifically, he blamed it on the Soprano gene which caused erratic behavior. Apparently, the gene could be traced all the way back to his great grandfather who took his own life by driving a mule cart over a mountain.
As expected, Dr. Melfi disagreed with his assessment. “When you blame your genes, your really blaming yourself and that’s what we should be talking about,” she said. The ever-calm therapist advised Tony to take responsibility both as a parent and as an adult and he’ll soon see the “gene” going away.
There Is No Total Control
During one of Season 2’s early episodes, Dr. Melfi was blunt with Tony, asking him what he wanted to achieve with therapy. After all, he had been quite inconsistent with attendances.
Tony told her that he wanted to achieve total control over everything in his life, including his health and his business. 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.
Open Up More
It was understandable for Tony to be a little bit secretive with Dr. Melfi at times. He was a mob boss with plenty of skeletons in his closet. He once mentioned that he was having trouble with his cousin Tony Blundetto but didn’t want to shed more light on it. This upset Dr. Melfi, who told him she could only help if he opened up more.
Their sessions were covered through doctor-patient confidentiality; there was nothing she could say even if the feds questioned her. Tony eventually took her advice, leading to him getting better ideas about Blundetto, such as not to hand him over to the Lupertazzi crime family.
To Bring Carmela To The Therapy Sessions
After complaining a lot about his family, Tony was advised by Dr. Melfi to bring his wife Carmela along for one of the sessions. He was skeptical about it but he agreed to do it anyway. The first session didn’t go so well, with Carmela feeling that the therapist was trying to paint her as the problem.
However, when Carmela went alone for the next, she came to the realization that she was being too judgmental towards her husband and that she needed to understand him more due to the nature of their work. This helped improve their marriage. Later on, Carmela got her own therapist.
Appreciate The Little Progress
There were times when Tony felt that the therapy sessions were not helping him. However, he was wrong. When he complained about wanting to quit during the fourth year of therapy, Dr. Melfi reminded him that progress had indeed been made. He was no longer depressed or having panic attacks as was the case with their first-ever sessions.
Realizing just how true this was, Tony took back his words and opted to carry on with therapy. He would continue to do so until the penultimate episode of the series.
To Control His Anger
Tony had anger issues, which Dr. Melfi noticed very early on. She advised him to tone it down or else it would lead to problems, especially for a man who was in organized crime.
This appeared to work as Tony showed restraint a lot of times in the series. He forgave many of his subordinates for mistakes that would have easily gotten them whacked. During arguments with his A.J. or Carmela, Tony was normally able to cool off after only airing out his grievances for a few seconds.