Dr. Jennifer Melfi is probably the last person anyone would expect to be associated with organized crime. Her private life is unassuming; she's divorced - but dating her psychiatrist ex-husband - and has a son who attends Bard College. Professionally, she is respected psychiatrist in private practice. One day, however, she opened the door of her office and came face to face with la cosa nostra personified: Tony Soprano sitting in her waiting room. Referred by his neighbor, the notorious capo was seeking treatment for anxiety attacks. That meeting was a seminal event in Melfi's life -one that she often wishes had never happened.
In the course of treating Tony, Dr. Melfi has arguably become the person who knows him best. Tony trusts her, telling her things that even Carmela and his closest friends don't know. As a result, she's helped to uncover the root causes of his anxiety and depression, and has actually guided him to some breakthroughs. For example, it was Dr. Melfi who helped Tony to see the reasons for his attachment to the ducks that nested in his backyard. And it was Melfi who got him to admit that his own mother tried to have him killed.
But when Dr. Melfi took on the task of helping Tony with his problems, she unwittingly let herself in for some monumental woes of her own. Helping a killer to feel better about himself is stressful work - there have been times when Melfi thought Tony was going to physically hurt her - and drove Dr. Melfi to self-medicate with increasing amounts of vodka. Her own therapist, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, once prescribed Ativan, (a sedative) and Luvox, (a drug to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) for her. In addition to the work-related stressors, Dr. Melfi was attacked in the stairwell of a parking garage one night and brutally raped. When the rapist was freed on a technicality, Melfi confessed to Kupferberg that it made her feel better knowing that Tony would "squash" her attacker "like a bug" if she wanted it. Dr. Kupferberg has advised Melfi that despite her commendable sense of responsibility to her patient, she must terminate her treatment of Tony. But while she may agree with him, it's easier said than done.