Deranged psychotherapist? May seem like an oxymoron – but it’s reality this time.
It’s hardly news that the Dr. Phil Show, a psychotherapy for entertainment venue taped in the United States, has at it’s core the exploitation of human tragedy for viewer consumption. Watching the dysfunction of other people can offer us a feeling of wellness and an opportunity to say: “Hey, glad that’s not me!” or “And we thought our family was bad.”
The show has it’s merits. It offers viewers information and educates the public about mental health issues. Whether or not Dr. Phil exploits patients and their families is, in my account, a question every viewer must ask and answer for themselves – while indulging in the voyeurism the television show offers.
On Friday, January 12th, 2013, the Dr. Phil show aired a program titled: Bipolar and Mentally Ill Moms. The producers slid in the Dissociative Identity Disorder/multiple personality diagnosis and lifestyle under that title. Why that decision was made is up for grabs. While I think a critique of the show is in order, it’s a blog post left for another day. If interested in the show, keep an eye on video-clips on YouTube where full-length episodes of Dr. Phil eventually appear.
Here is the synopsis from the Dr. Phil website regarding Jenny – a mother claiming to suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder, commonly known as multiple personalities.
“Then, Jenny is a 53-year-old mother of three who says she suffers from dissociative identity disorder, formally known as multiple personality disorder. She says she has 22 “alters,” whom she calls “parts of me.” Jenny reveals the traumatic childhood experiences that she believes caused her to take on multiple personalities. And, Jenny’s son, Robert, 30, shares what life was like growing up with Jenny. Then, Jenny’s biographer, Judy, a retired therapist who wrote Twenty-Two Faces, based on Jenny’s journals and their sessions together, joins the show to defend herself against accusations that she may be exploiting Jenny.” Retrieved 01/12/13. http://drphil.com/shows/show/1947/
Judy, the retired psychotherapist claiming to have treated Jenny for 20 years published her patient’s biography- I refuse to offer the title (currently out of stock at Amazon).
Before I go further, I want to say “Thank you” to Jenny’s son, Robert, for appearing on the show. Robert offered facts about his mother’s life saying that the biography does not correspond with his family narrative. The Dr. Phil show offered a very important fact in this patient/therapist drama – the therapist sued Robert so she could retain lifetime rights to his mother’s story. Viewers learned that the therapist is reaping monetary gain from her patient’s life.
The Dr. Phil show gave viewers the opportunity to see multiple personalities and the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder for what it is – absurd. The show highlighted how a deranged psychotherapist led her patient into a lifetime of mental illness and distress. The audience gasped and laughed at some of the therapist’s wild claims.
But for a woman and her family suffering under the direction of a psychotherapist-gone-mad, the show and biography would be laughable. Reality, however, begs compassion for a family exploited for monetary fame and gain by a psychotherapist – behavior that should be admonished by the psychiatric profession on ethical grounds. Will any psychotherapist, or psychiatric association, speak out and do so?.
I admit, I bought and read the book. I want to write an extensive book review, as Douglas Mesner, a Harvard journalist, took the time to do, but I can’t get myself to do it. This book is one of the most difficult reads I’ve mastered – because it is poorly written, disorganized, and contrived. I gave this biography my time and attention. I wrote extensive notes to myself outlining page numbers and evidence of contradictions and implausible plot twists. My notes, however, will unlikely morph into a book review. The book … will collect dust in my study.
You know what? In disgust, I can write no more.
- Join the Dr. Phil show discussion here: http://community.drphil.com/boards/?EntryID=33881/
Further support of Jenny Hill and her therapist/friend/biographer Judy Byington-Weindorf