Television talk shows have increasingly become the domain of celebrity psychologists. Personalities like Dr. Phil and reality shows like Hoarders devoted to uncovering problems in personal relationships and mental health have gained large viewerships on TV. Many credit this to the fact that many viewers could be battling mental health illnesses themselves, and it is estimated that almost 46% of those in the United States will experience mental health problems in their lifetimes. So while many watching are looking into an accredited online program to get a PhDand fix the problems of those, other may be struggling to figure out how to fix themselves.
Many decry the commercialization of psychology on television, believing that the shows are simply making sensational claims and trying to unearth conflict in order to drive ratings. However, many television series do get some aspects of psychology correct, according to the American Psychological Association.
Obsessed is one such show, a reality series produced by A&E about obsessive-compulsive disorders, that the APA says gives a fairly accurate depiction of actual mental health issues. The show follows episodic treatment of OCD sufferers over months, and not every show chronicles a successful case. Another A&E series, Intervention, receives much lower marks from the APA. One psychologist consultant for the show, Dennis Marikis, PhD, argues that much of the nuance and complexity of cases is edited out of the program to focus more on the dramatic conflict between patients, families and friends.
Daytime television is typically when seedier talk shows can be found playing on cable television. Dr. Phil’s daytime show is renowned for taking celebrities and everyday people alike and exposing flaws in their personal relationships. This is done to compel Dr. Phil’s guest to make a dramatic life change regarding these issues. For example, a May 2012 episode of Dr. Phil highlighted issues between NFL superstar Terrell Owens and three women that accused Owens of falling behind on child support.
“The thing is, with me traveling back and forth, I don’t have a set schedule,” Owens was quoted as saying on the show. “Pretty much 90 percent of the time every time I’ve reached out it’s been a bad time.” Owens reported paying more than $50,000 monthly in child support payments, but that he hadn’t seen some of his children in more than a year.
Does exposing these issues to a wide audience create lasting changes in these people’s lives? It’s tough to say, but many viewers are left with an interest in psychology. Pursuing this interest towards a PhD or PsyD program in psychology can launch an individual into a lucrative and high-profile career.
Students can go online to complete an accredited doctoral degree program from reputable schools over the Internet. One such program is the Doctor of Psychology, or PsyD, degree available through California Southern University’s School of Behavioral Sciences. The program requires 60 accredited course hours for completion at a cost of $330 per credit. Instead of a final thesis, the CSU PsyD degree culminates in a doctoral project that may involve community-based research, critical analysis of related literature or a clinical internship.
Psychology on TV will likely always be edited to ensure dramatic conflict. Many who bemoan these dramatizations may be encouraged to find that these programs are encouraging further study in psychology.