Dr. Drew Pinsky’s “Life Changers”


I accidentally watched Dr. Drew Pinsky’s “Life Changers” and it put me in a state of utter stupefaction.

That was fortunate, as I found myself unable to destroy the television.  Doubly fortunate, in that this was a hotel-room TV and the bill would have been padded for replacing the set.

Okay, so I was in a hotel flipping channels during the day.  I do this once in a while to see what is being communicated to the TV-watching public, especially about health.

Dr. Oz has a show.  His guest was Rachel Ray showing how to fix things you might screw up in the kitchen.  Common sense fixes with repartee.  I did not see this as a health problem and I did not make it to the end of the show.

I switched to Dr. Drew’s “Life Changers” to see what this “doctor” — I use the term loosely — was up to.  I saw the end of a segment where something related to substances was impacting both a mother and daughter.  The good doctor sent them to an expensive local treatment center and the show seemed to be paying for it.  It sounded like the same old 12 step model to me.

Dr. Drew directly asked for — and received — a great deal of hugging and crying from both parties.  This generated a lot of audience applause.

If you’ve never been in a TV audience, such applause and cheers are not spontaneous.  Not only do they have flashing lighted signs urging you to APPLAUD or CHEER, but there is a floor-manager who runs around waving his hands, urging more and more volume.  The cameras avoid showing him so that it looks like the audience is spontaneously driven to such heights of enthusiasm.

I am trying to avoid commenting on the fact that this is not science.  I mean, I am not stupid enough to suggest that it is anything other than wonderful for all concerned.

Then, out came a tired and crying young woman lamenting that her mother goes out with dangerous and criminal “bad boys.”  The mother, far more attractive than her daughter, talked with Dr. Drew both in the presence and absence of her daughter.

It did not take a lot of what I know to determine that this woman had been abused in childhood, had lapses of memory, and needed some pretty aggressive post traumatic stress disorder treatment.  She needed anti-depressants, perhaps, and definitely one or more sessions of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to cleanse the horrible trauma.

I prepared myself as Dr. Drew asked dumb questions like if her men had looked alike and how did she feel about Hitler.  In the meantime, I’m thinking about what receptors are and aren’t working in her brain and considering the psychodynamic formulation for her love of murderers and the incarcerated.

Then a woman called Dr. Sam came on stage to do an “exercise.”  She asked the patient about her personality — a nice girl — and told her she needed to learn to say “no.”  This, she probably did not know how to do.

Dr. Sam had an “exercise” which consisted of the patient saying “no” until she sounded like she meant it.  As she said it she was pushing her hands against Dr. Sam’s hands, until she could say no comfortably.

Dr. Drew had said a couple of times “it feels like an addiction, doesn’t it?” It was obvious that he was using the Sexual Addiction Model — a useful adjunct, perhaps, but is this really what was going on?

Some of it might be that people look for lost keys under streetlights because there, at least, you can see.

Most of it seemed to be good television.  There was expression of emotion that got the audience to react, and the visual of the woman pushing the hands of Dr. Sam.

Good television ain’t enough.  It is entertainment, not treatment.

The “abreaction,” or the reliving of the traumatic experience, would certainly be included in the treatment approach of any serious, or minimally credentialed, psychiatrist or psychologist — if they were honest.

Some serve other masters.  Like a television audience, or money, or keeping people in therapy when they can be fixed more quickly.

I know not everyone believes in Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).   However, any professional who knows what true treatment is — whether a Gestalt, Freudian or even Cognitive — could have done something better with this situation.

There are lots of people who believe in television, simply because they’ve been brought up with it.  They think — I know because they tell me — anything Dr. Drew does is good and right.  It isn’t.

His solutions are superficial and make good television.  I can see it because I have spent thirty years trying, really trying, to do the best and right thing.

Don’t be fooled if you feel you need real help with your problems.  Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz and their colleagues in broadcasting provide what the audience and the sponsors need – not what the troubled or mentally ill need.

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