As I meet new people and make new friends, it’s a routine question I get asked what do you do for work? When I reply that I am a Marriage and Family Therapist I often hear a comment something like: “So, you’re like Dr. Phil or Dr. Laura, or something?” When I hear this, it’s all I can do not to laugh out loud. It’s also all I can do not to lash out in anger that these T.V. personalities have so strongly tainted the image of my profession. So I usually respond by saying something like “Yeah, kinda like them. But I’m be a real therapist and I know what I’m talking about”.
I usually then have to go on to explain that Dr. Laura has only a post-doctoral degree in psychology (which is like a weekend course for get rich quick investors) and Dr. Phil (who unfortunately has a legitimate degree in psychology) who does no better at counseling people than a T.V. preacher does at saving souls.
Let me explain: Sure, these two are legitimate doctors but then so is Dr. Seuss. Just because he has Dr. in front of his name doesn’t mean that I’m going to make life decisions based on his rhymes even though they are insightful and clever. However, I would sooner take advice from Dr. Seuss before those other two idiots because those other two are simply entertainers. They are no better at counseling people than Jerry Springer who is also an entertainer.
They share a lot of other similarities with Jerry springer, too. For example, Jerry has all sorts of messed up families on his show with all sorts of problems. So does Laura and Phil. Jerry gives insightful comments about how stupid people on his show are. So does Laura and Phil. Jerry wears a snazzy suit. So does Laura and Phil. The difference: Jerry gets higher ratings.
So for those of you who may be wondering what the difference is between TV therapy and real therapy here are a few things to know:
1) No half-way decent therapist would EVER openly ridicule you.
2) No therapist (who is ALWAYS committed by their state license and their professional organization to maintain strict client confidentiality) would put you on air for all the world to see and hear.
3) No good therapist will tell you what to do. The reason for this is because by the very nature of telling someone what to do, you’re imposing your beliefs and values on them. No therapist should EVER do this.
4) No therapist would ever drag you into their office for an hour, dig up your deepest secrets, impose their beliefs on you by telling what you should do, then leave you on your own with no follow-up. This is not only unethical but there are laws against it. It’s called client/patient abandonment.
5). Lastly, no real therapist has a conflict of interest (such as trying to get higher ratings for themselves) when giving you counseling or deciding whether to take you on as a client.
So how do Phil and Laura get away with it? Simply. They have disclaimers in fine print for participants of their show that state that this is not real therapy and that the views and opinions expressed are not intended to be therapeutic. This disclaimer is also at the end of each of their shows.
Let me state it once again, Dr. Laura and Dr. Phil are only entertainers the same as Jerry Springer. Please do not base anything in your relationship off of what you hear on their shows. Just value them for the entertainment they give you by bringing messed up families on their show for all the world to see so that we can have a laugh and realize our relationships may not be so bad. In my mind, what they do is worse than what the Romans did in the Coliseum.