Dr. Phil McGraw has been an institution in American society for almost two decades. Through the platform of his nationally syndicated program “The Dr. Phil Show,” McGraw takes the topics that are toughest to talk about and gives them light. This idea can be seen in today’s show as a 21-year-old woman named Bailey believes she is in love with a woman she met through the Internet and has never met in person.
Dr. Phil talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his career, today’s interesting episode and the single biggest influence in his career.
DJ Sixsmith: How have you carved your niche in a crowded television marketplace and created a show with such longevity?
Dr. Phil: We’re in our 16th season now and I said when we started “The Dr. Phil Show” that we were going to talk about things that matter to people who care. That included talking about some of the silent epidemics in America that people didn’t talk about in polite society. I think that’s what we’ve done and I think people have responded to that. We deliver very usable common sense information to people’s homes everyday for free and I think that’s a winning combination.
DS: Today’s episode features issues that come along with dating in the social media era. What has been the greatest effect of technology on developing relationships?
DP: Like everything else, it’s a double-edged sword. When we started this particular show 16 years ago, the first text had not been sent and people were not using the Internet to meet each other. These are new phenomenons for us and for the people that are using them. The danger is that all you really know is about the other person is that they too have access to a computer. You don’t know if they are who they say they are. You don’t know what their background is. You don’t know what their motivations or intentions are. That means you have a lot of safeguards built in that you wouldn’t necessarily have to have if you met somebody in the real world.
DS: What is is your process like when you are preparing to have these tough conversations on national television?
DP: We do a lot of homework on these people and that’s what we did with today’s guest Bailey. Bailey is a young woman that has become so consumed with, infatuated with and in her words in love with this woman that she encountered on the Internet. It has crowded everything else out of her life. She was an honors student and has now dropped out. She was active in dance, she’s now quit that. She has no other relationships that she’s pursuing. Everything is involved in pursuing this woman she’s never met. The attention that is going to this woman Jasmine is unwanted. Jasmine does not want this attention and she’s getting hundreds and thousands of emails, posts and messages every day and every week from Bailey. She’s getting nude photos of her and she doesn’t want these. Bailey is convinced that they are in love with each other and that they’re going to be together forever. We have to disabuse her of that and the cautionary tale is that her mother did not know she was involved in this. She did not know how deeply this had encroached on her life.
DS: You’ve helped a lot of people during your career. Who has inspired you the most?
DP: I read a book one time called “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Dr. Viktor Frankel. He was an Austrian psychiatrist, who was a prisoner of war in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He talks about being controlled and his very life hanging in the balance by the people who controlled him. He said that they can control everything about me except for one thing and that’s the attitude I take about it. I can’t control what I do and whether I live or die, but I can control the attitude I take about it. He said the attitude I take is that I am going to create meaning to my suffering, so it’s not just for nothing. He really inspired me to help people understand why they do what they do and don’t do what they don’t do and to create meaning in whatever they experience in their lives. That’s probably the single most important influence I’ve had in my life.
Check your local listing for today’s episode of “The Dr. Phil Show” at 3pm EST/PST.