Dr. Phil is set to receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a ceremony on February 21st. His claim to fame is his daytime talk show, in which he addresses various mental health and relationship problems of his guests.
How Can You Practice Without a License?
Dr. Phil may be famous enough for the Hollywood walk of fame, but it’s important to note that Dr. Phil is not actually licensed to practice psychology. He has a Ph.D. in the subject, but he hasn’t been licensed for years, and never in California where the show takes place.
All that means he is simply giving advice—advice that makes him millions—which has the potential to be incredibly damaging to the people who trust him to solve their problems.
This process is often completely exploitative of the guests who come to share their various issues and ask for his help. Dr. Phil brings people on his show to spill their deepest, darkest secrets in front of a studio audience and the world. There’s often a lot of drama, shouting, and tears. It’s always a spectacle, and it capitalizes on people’s trauma for its entertainment value.
All of that is well and good when adult participants volunteer to tell their stories on the show. This is not always the case, though. Some of Dr. Phil’s guests are teenagers participating in the show at the behest of their parents. The show turns these “badly behaved” teens and the issues they face into stories to use on the show for entertainment purposes.
The Transportation Problem
If a teenager or child refuses to participate in the show or exercises any sort of autonomy or intense emotion, the show sends transporters in the middle of the night to take the surprised child out of bed, load them into a van, and take them to the set. With parental permission, of course.
Dr. Phil uses a couple of different companies to transport wayward teenagers. Two of the most commonly used seem to be Safe Interventions and New Start Transports. Both of the companies proudly advertise their work on Dr. Phil on their sites.
This video posted to Dr. Phil’s YouTube Channel shows a 13-year-old girl being physically removed from her bed by strangers in the middle of the night. She is visibly upset. The show uses her terror to demonstrate that she is out of control, and Dr. Phil lectures the parents to save this young woman from herself.
In this video one of the transporters calls this young woman a “special package” as she begs them to go away, repeatedly screaming “no” as they move closer to her.
The show airs these videos on the episodes in which Dr. Phil is “helping” these children and their families. They use the girls’ reaction to the transporters as evidence of their continual bad behavior.
Trauma For Profit
Dr. Phil is using the fear and anger of these minors for entertainment and shock value. Filming these teenagers is an ethically questionable move. Dr. Phil exploiting their pain in deeply vulnerable moments in their lives. This practice is far more harmful than helpful for these young women. This is not helping these girls.
Dr. Phil does this regularly, claiming to desperate parents that he can fix these kids and keep them safe with his traumatizing transport methods and long-term treatment centers.
Dr. Phil is not exactly the only exploitative reality programming out there today. Most reality TV is exploitative in some way or another and much of it manipulates emotions for the sake of entertainment value. Or there are shows like The Biggest Loser, that use fat-shaming to entertain audiences. The difference here is that at least that show is shamelessly exploiting willing adults. The teens of Dr. Phil don’t get that choice.