Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Never alone

This article pretty much distills my feelings about Dr. Phil:

The blend of Hollywood and psychology in TV shows like "Dr. Phil" offers cause for concern, said Atlanta psychologist Robert Simmermon. "It is important to distinguish between entertainment and actual treatment. It's not done very well," Simmermon said.

It's likely that some of the millions of people who tune into "Dr. Phil" ignore disclaimers and view it as therapy, Simmermon said. "I think it does need to be studied."


His Web site speaks with equal force to visitors.


The site includes a "Legal Disclaimer" that reads, in part, "All material provided on the Web site is provided for entertainment, educational or informational use only, is not necessarily created or approved by a certified mental health professional ..."

Simmermon and other psychologists said they expect viewers, even those with mental problems, to keep such shows in perspective.

"A mental health struggle doesn't affect the ability to be independent, decision-making people," said Leon Vandercreek of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. They can make "that judgment call that TV is entertainment."

But it's not unusual for patients to mention McGraw's comments or therapy they've seen on HBO's mob drama "The Sopranos" in their own sessions.

That's fine, said one New York psychologist. "I think there's more concern about people who have problems and aren't in therapy and (lack) someone to talk to about it," said George Stricker, a research professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y.

Studies show the majority of people with mental problems don't seek help, said Xavier Amador, a Columbia University adjunct professor and a board member of the advocacy group National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

And therein lies the problem: there are those who will use some like Dr. Phil as a substitute for real, personalized help.

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