Stutz is an intimate look at Jonah Hill’s therapeutic journey 

Photo by: Brenden Cowan

On Nov. 14, Jonah Hill released an intimate Netflix documentary about his therapist to share the tools that have helped him, with the hope that they will help someone else.

While a thoughtful gesture, therapy is an extremely personal experience, just because this approach worked on him doesn’t mean it will work on everybody else.

The documentary does many things right but while it aims to be honest, it also feels awkward as it dances on the ethical guidelines of the patient and therapist relationship. The documentary is set up as a therapy session on Hill’s therapist Phil Stutz, with some insight into Hill’s own progress.

Stutz has been a psychiatrist for decades and has worked with many other Hollywood entertainers. His approach and years of experience seem to be aimed at therapy skeptics, or at people whom traditional therapy hasn’t worked for. He is humorous which makes the environment comfortable, but he still has those hard-hitting questions that make one reflect.

This leads to one of the good things that came of the documentary. It further normalized therapy. If big names such as Jonah Hill are as open about their therapeutic journey the stigma about going to therapy would decrease. Stutz’s relaxed approach takes away the fear and stereotypes that are often associated with therapy.

Which is another important message that came from the documentary, the critique of traditional therapy and the explanation of why therapy may not work as well for certain people. Stutz and Hill describe how so many people go to therapy in hopes of the therapist telling them what to do when in reality, most therapy is actually the person doing the work themselves. This shocks many people which makes them reluctant to seek out further help.

This circles back to the main problem of the documentary, it only shows one approach to therapy when there are many approaches, and it should also be client focused, not generalized as the documentary makes it seem. 

The documentary does touch on some big general points that a lot of people can relate to such as perfectionism, dealing with loss, and body image issues. Those are more on Hill’s side, but Stutz’s part of the story is also emotional and has a lot of points that the audience can grip onto as well. And serves as a great reminder that therapists have their own struggles themselves.

One of the tools discussed in the documentary touches on a hierarchy of needs that Stutz called the “Three Levels of the Life Force.” It is structured as a pyramid, the base looks at the relationship with your body which is how you sleep, eat, and exercise. The middle tier is the relationship with others and the top tier is the relationship with your unconscious mind. The takeaway here is that you need a good relationship on the lower tiers in order to have a good relationship on the higher ones. 

This shows that exercise and diet have a seldom-mentioned impact on mental health.

Other tools touch on the importance of suffering to be happy, the acceptance of making mistakes and not being fooled by ideals of a perfect world, and proactive approaches in order to see change. There is a little bit of everything here that is highly educational and worth keeping in mind when taking care of one’s mental health. 

Knowing that Stutz is Hill’s therapist led to some uncomfortable instances where Hill asked extremely personal questions and Stutz was reluctant to answer. This blurs the lines between their professional relationship, it’s understandable Hill wants to make therapy more accessible and that he shares a deep relationship with Stutz, but this blurring of boundaries could have some repercussions on how they see each other after filming this.

Ultimately, therapy should definitely be more accessible, but it shouldn’t come in the form of one size fits all kind of approach. The documentary is vulnerable and shone a different light on therapy for skeptics.

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