Dr. Phil – Compassionate Truth or Quiet Quackery?

Dr. Phil - Compassionate Truth or Quiet Quackery?

Dr. Phil McGraw is like a late night movie you don’t really want to watch, but you do, because there’s nothing else worthwhile on television. It’s either that or Martha Stewart, and even though the latter is a choice for drunken cake bakers, Dr. Phil’s show is the most captivating of the bunch. Let’s take a look at what McGraw’s credentials are, shall we? According to the website Forensic Psychology, “Much of the public confusion on this point is due to the TV personality’s use of the title ‘Doctor.’ Like Laura Schlessinger, the conservative radio pundit with a Ph.D. in physiology who calls herself ‘Dr. Laura,’ anyone with a doctoral degree is technically a doctor (of philosophy). But to engage in therapy as a clinical psychologist, a person must also be licensed in the appropriate state. While McGraw holds a doctoral degree in psychology, he is not licensed as a psychologist or a mental health practitioner in any state.”

See, many psychics, quacks and charlatans rise to fame through chance and popularity. McGraw’s rise to fame is beautifully outlined in the above mentioned website. According to the site, McGraw was licensed as a clinical psychologist a very, very long time ago, “Once upon a time, McGraw really was licensed as a clinical psychologist. In 1989, the Texas board that licenses psychologists disciplined him for an inappropriate “dual relationship” with a 19-year-old patient. (McGraw denies the young woman’s claim that the relationship was sexual.) The Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists ordered him to take an ethics class and have his practice supervised for a year. He subsequently stopped practicing therapy and started a jury consultation firm, Courtroom Sciences Inc. (CSI). It was in this capacity that he met Oprah Winfrey, then fighting a lawsuit by the beef industry, who boosted him into the world of show biz” Are you still a Dr. Phil fan? You might say to yourself, “Well, he always talks so nicely to the people on his show,” or, “Robin McGraw is so pretty when he jokes about their marriage.” We’re not planning to dilute McGraw’s advice on the show, as we strongly believe many people have been able to overcome life’s obstacles with his advice, so before you grab your television remote and switch off the television, read on to see what we have to say.

In 2007, McGraw earned $45 million from a weekly viewership of 6.7 million viewers. If his ultra-voyeuristic pseudo-science therapy is worth $45 million, then hey, we hand him a “Happy” badge and send him on his merry way, but in actual fact, McGraw’s television show is all about ratings and is not about trying to save people from their own lives. McGraw has also been slapped on the wrist several times in the past for his outrageous voyeurism. In 2008, McGraw burst into Britney Spears’ room without an invitation from the then embattled Spears. He released a statement after the incident and “diagnosed” her condition. It is this band wagon jumping that has caused McGraw to be labeled as the “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” of television/radio psychologists. “It’s the quintessential cultural product,” said media consultant Ellen McGrath, also a psychologist. “Get some quick advice and change your life. You, too, can hit the psychological jackpot…. It’s a spectator sport to watch someone be humiliated.”

The latest scandal that rocked Dr. Phil’s world was the uber-controversial and uneasy interview with Dina Lohan. She was allegedly paid $50 000 to appear on the show and speak about her toils and troubles, but the slightly off-kilter Lohan was stuck with Dr. Phil’s one liners and off-beat humour, which made the episode one of the hardest episodes to watch in the show’s history. It was the moment his show jumped the shark and became more of a vehicle for exploitation, than true psychological therapy. During the interview, Lohan was quite visibly intoxicated, yet McGraw continued the interview and exploited her for all it was worth ($50 000).

There’s an extremely fine line between quackery and quasi-intellectual advice in today’s world. McGraw is an amalgam of the two. He might have a doctorate in psychology with a penchant for the overly salacious, but what sets McGraw apart from the rest of the pseudo-psychologists is his absolute attention and easy exploitation of current world trends. We still watch Dr. Phil every single day, not because we’re in dire need of advice, but because we’re addicted to a voyeuristic intellectual with a non-clinical-I-am-your-best-friend approach. It is not our place to pass moral judgment on those who have achieved a sense of well-being and enlightenment through Dr. Phil’s show, but it is our place to deliver social criticism on an entertainment industry that has defined itself as a quick-fix industry that redesigns your life – as long as you tune in.

Should we accept McGraw’s advice as the truth? Should we define ourselves along McGraw’s stereotypical lines? Should we live our lives according to the rules of a television show? No, we shouldn’t, and even though McGraw has been criticized for his flaws and been defined as the celebrity of psychiatry, we should still listen to what he has to say. In a society ravaged by the external shallowness of celebrity, McGraw is a shining bald light that still attempts to have quasi-intellectual truth to his gospel. His methodology might be wack, but his intentions – which are slightly skewed – still offer us more truth and compassion than the society we exist in on a daily basis. Oscar Wilde summed it up perfectly, “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

Do you think Dr. Phil needs to be taken off the airwaves? Have you ever used his advice in your life? Do you watch Dr. Phil on a daily basis? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.


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