Good Will Hunting

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Sarah Heins
Psy 442
Thad Warren
28 November 2012
Because Movies Tell It All
One of the blessings of movies is that it contains a large story with many details into a
nice, 2-hour package. And although all of the story lines may not be completely realistic, these
stories connect with the audience because the scenarios, situations and feelings resonate with
those popping their popcorn. Good Will Hunting is no different. Viewers can see the story behind
the story and evaluate the happenings before their eyes.
Will named the apparent psychological dynamic himself as, “attachment disorder with
fear of abandonment.” He had been abused when he was younger, leaving him with the fierce
fear of someone he cared about leaving him or hurting him. This fear directly influenced his
relationship with others and actions towards others. He became a pro at avoiding issues in
conversations he did not wish to discuss, such as turning the conversation back on the one who
was asking questions. His anger and aggression became regular aspects of his behavior, which
was evident at his court trial when listing his misdemeanors.
Possibly the most evident, pervasive and serious issues resulting from this issue though,
was the isolation he created for himself. He pushed others away before they had the chance to
reject him. For example, Will went through dozens of counselors before coming to Sean, who
Will also (unsuccessfully) attempted to dump. Will broke up with Skylar when she asked him to
move with her because he was afraid she would abandon him later. Another issue was Will’s
inability to leave Chuckie, the small town and the janitor job.
Sean practiced both good and bad counseling skills. Unethical practices included losing
control with Will, becoming violent with Will, and having a relationship outside of the
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counseling session. Another possibly unethical practice could have been the hug the two
exchanged, though that is debatable. Also, depending on how much Sean shared with Professor
Lambeau about Will could be breaking confidentiality. When Will was visiting the first trial
counselors, Professor Lambeau and another sat in on the session. If they all had not signed a
waiver, this would be unethical as well.
However, Sean practiced many good counseling techniques. For example, he did not take
lightly the building rapport with Will. Since Will had the fear of abandonment, it was essential
that he saw that Sean would not leave him. Sean also disclosed information such as how he met
his wife with Will to help him to talk . Sean also presented a number of challenges too, such as,
“What do you really want to do?” when Will declined the job with NASA. Sean exposed blind
spots to Will, while still withholding bias. Sean also summarized Will’s story, and worked with
him until the end of the counseling sessions when Sean really handed the torch back to Will,
allowing and causing Will to claim the problem himself and move forward without Sean.
Because of the techniques Sean used, Will showed resistance in the first sessions,
avoiding every question, becoming verbally aggressive and hurtful towards Sean (especially
when concerning his wife), and showing reluctance to answer any of Sean’s questions. Yet at the
end of the movie, we saw the greatest gains from these techniques of all – resolve. Will had to be
able to name and claim his “attachment disorder with fear of abandonment” and know that it was
not his fault or under his control, so that he could move on. He leaves his old town and job,
moves to California with Skylar, and takes a very nice job, one that matches his abilities.
The general flow of Egan’s model was very evident as so much time was spent in stage
one, particularly in the story stage. After all of the story was out, the helping process quickly
arrived at stage three. Several challenges were made that caused Will to realize what he was
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doing, opportunities were explored with Skylar and jobs, desires and commitment were
evaluated until Will came to the conclusion of what he wanted (best fit strategy) and how to do it
(plan). Will and Sean spent much time answering, “What is going on?” when discussing his
friends, work, knowledge, and past. Less time was spent answering, “What do I need or want?”
when discussing Skylar and the job opportunities. Once Will was firmly grounded on these two
issues, he answered, “How do I get it?” This is not to say that he never went back and revisited
the previous two questions; this is just the general flow of the counseling sessions.
Overall, I felt that Sean was very effective at counseling Will for several reasons. Sean
counseled Will in a way that spoke to his personality. This meant that he shot it straight with
Will, built up a strong rapport, became slightly aggressive, challenged him regularly, and gave
him tough love. Sean did not give pity or sympathy; he empathized. Sean discreetly helped Will
come to terms with his life. So discreetly that it could seem that Sean was not even helping, as
Lambeau eluded to at one point. I find this as noteworthy, because I believe that an effective
counselor should not help in such a way that is like wearing a button that says, “I’m helping
you!” Instead, an effective counselor merely holds the mirror in different angles and at different
distances, allowing the client to take control and help himself. This was noteworthy to me
because it is something I struggle with – I want to fix the problem myself, instead of facilitating.
Recently I have heard more and more stories of abuse from people I know, so hearing the
abuse that Will experienced and how it affected him really hit home with me. Not only does my
heart go out those who have experienced this, but it stirs a desire within me to help these
individuals. And although this is on a smaller scale, I too have felt the fear of abandonment
similar to Will’s. I have pushed away boyfriends in the past in an attempt to not get hurt myself
from their rejection. To be proactive in my current relationship, I often prayed to God to give me
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the strength to not put a wall of isolation and to demolish the fear of rejection. And like Will
also, I have practiced controlling something else in my life when I have not had control of
another situation. This most often is a destructive behavior, which was true in both his and my
This movie made the ethical implications that aggression in the counseling profession
was acceptable, that one could take as much time as was needed in any situation, that a nonprofessional helper could help a client (Skylar helping Will), that a group of friends will not be
mad if one of them takes off without notice, that a helper could counsel again after taking years
off without renewing licenses and such, and that a helper and client can have a relationship
outside of the session. However, films are films and must give off the cinema appeal. It is
therefore important to base ethical decisions in the helping sessions off the APA code of ethics
and not off Good Will Hunting.
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