Is The Patient Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Created by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, FX on Hulu’s psychological thriller series ‘The Patient’ revolves around a therapist named Alan Strauss, who is held captive by a serial killer named Sam Fortner. Sam wants to put an end to his homicidal urges and seeks the help of Alan. To save himself and Sam’s potential victims, Alan gets forced to kill the serial killer’s “compulsion to kill.” Starring Steve Carell as Alan and Domhnall Gleeson as Sam, the 2022 limited series offers a realistic exploration of the human psyche and psychotherapy, making one eager to find out whether the show has real-life origins. Well, let us share the answer!

Is The Patient a True Story?

No, ‘The Patient’ is not based on a true story. The show was conceived by creators Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg. The duo, who believes in “the value of introspection,” wanted to do a show that explores therapy. Since two of them had been through therapy, they were able to recognize the potential of such a show, especially with a thriller element integrated into it. “We [Fields and Weisberg] thought, ‘Is there a way to add a thriller element that ratchets up the stakes and makes it fun but doesn’t knock out the realism and truth about therapy?’” Weisberg told USA Today regarding the origin of the show.

Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Weisberg seemingly wanted to make sure that the stakes, a therapist changing the life of a serial killer to save his own life among many others, can be presented realistically. For the same, he met his therapist. “I did have to run (the idea) by my therapist, but I think I mostly just got a smile and a little bit of a chuckle. The subtext is too obvious to actually need exploration,” the co-creator added to USA Today. Even though the show is fictional, Fields and Weisberg had been careful about applying the principles of therapy to its narrative without adulterating it with many creative liberties.

“If you have a lot of therapy, the idea of cyclical anything becomes very obvious. That’s just how people work. That’s also what makes it powerful and interesting to do a story about somebody trying to break out of that cycle,” Weisberg told TheWrap about the psychological foundation of the show. “Whatever it is that you’re repeating – whether it’s alcoholism, violence, different kinds of abuse or even less aggressive things, just ways that people suffer — it’s very, very courageous to be the generation that’s going to try to change and try not to follow in those footsteps. And in a way, that’s exactly what Sam is trying to do,” he added.

Fields and Weisberg were adamant about exploring psychology and therapy realistically. Dennis Palumbo, a licensed psychotherapist, joined them as a consultant to ensure the same. The two creators then had to conceive Sam. During the primary stages of the creation of the show, they thought about a serial killer who “wanted to get better” and has “a lot of normal things” personality-wise. Sam is not a typical “neurotic” or “crazed” serial killer, which makes him stand apart from the numerous serial killer characters, conceived in the same mold, we have already seen in several films and TV shows.

Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/FX

Rather than attempting to terrorize the viewers with a serial killer character, Fields and Weisberg wanted to lead us through the intricacies and nuances of such a character. To materialize it, they wanted to stay away from the generic tropes of psychological thrillers. “We very purposefully set out to… not to get stuck in the trap, feeling obligated to deliver the tropes or moves of their genre but to let the character’s story unfold as it felt like it wanted to to us,” Fields told TheWrap in the same interview. Even though Sam had a traumatic childhood like several serial killers and serial killer characters, he is indeed a distinguished character.

Although ‘The Patient’ is not a true story of any particular individual, its fiction is controlled by a strong emphasis on reality, especially concerning therapy and psychology. The show depicts the relevance and significance of therapy in one’s life without misinterpreting its real-life principles.

Read More: Where Was The Patient Filmed?