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We confront an uncomfortable reality with Robin Williams' death

August 12, 2014
by Heidi Voet Smith, LPC
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As a supervisor to counseling interns, I regularly assign my interns to watch “Good Will Hunting” and write a paper on the relationship between Will and his therapist, Sean, and why that relationship worked, I believe, without a doubt, that Robin Williams' Academy Award-winning role as Dr. Sean Maguire is the most powerful cinematic display of effective therapy. In fact, Williams is so convincing in that role that it seems impossible to me that he couldn't have spent years in therapy himself. The level of depth he brought to the role assures me that Williams knew pain, grief and healing.

Over the last 24 hours, the media has reviewed the long relationship Williams had with addiction and depression. How is it possible that with all the money and resources Williams had access to, he couldn't get this under control? It seems that in the addiction and mental health industries we want to blame all failures on a lack of resources, funding and availability of services. But that obviously wasn't the issue here.

What I continue to learn as I work with those afflicted with addiction and mental illness is that sometimes people just don't get better. It is a depressing reality, but one that we must face. These illnesses are as deadly as cancer, diabetes, even the Ebola virus. We can't blame this loss on a failure of the system. All we can blame it on is a deadly disease that is insidious.

I hope I can honor Williams' legacy each time I ask a counseling student to watch “Good Will Hunting” and use his life as an education that sometimes all the money and resources in the world can't fix addiction or mental illness.



Thanks, Heidi, for posting this. Before I became a therapist I watched Robin masterfully play Sean Maguire. The vulnerability of that character and the actor behind the character moved me. I marveled that a therapist could be that open about his own pain. Now I see that Sean was using self-disclosure to get through to his highly defended patient.

Heidi Voet Smith

Clinical Director Chapter House Counseling Center

Heidi Voet Smith



 Heidi Voet Smith, (LPC-S, MA), is the Clinical Director and Co-Founder at Chapter House Sober...

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