Dr. Phil McGraw first became famous for appearing multiple times on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Then, as if a sitcom star, he was given his own spin-off talk show to speak on issues such as addiction, parental guidance, and more. Since then, he’s become a best-selling author and is worth $400 million, earning almost $70 million per year.
Before he was a talk show host, he was a trial consultant and a private practicing psychologist. He’s not a licensed psychologist anymore, and that’s just the first of many behind the scenes facts which are quite alarming and troubling about Dr. Phil. Many guests have levied some bombshell accusations against him over the years, and we’ll touch on those here.
Everything is not hunky-dory behind the scenes of Dr. Phil. Not everything is as it appears on camera. Here are 20 behind the scenes things that really happened on Dr. Phil.
20 His First Controversy: Hiring A Former Patient
Back in 1988, the Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists came down on Dr. Phil after determining that he’d hired a former patient before terminating his therapy on said patient. He was reprimanded and was imposed administrative penalties. They also investigated claims by the patient of inappropriate conduct initiated by McGraw, but the board closed the complaint file in June 1990, finding no evidence of physical contact.
19 Strange Copyright Trial
Back in 2018, Dr. Phil went to trial against a former employee, Leah Rothman, accusing her of copyright infringement. Rothman claimed that working on the show caused her hair to fall out, and that he allegedly yells, uses profanity & scare tactics, and makes employees cry in the workplace. The copyright infringement claim had him pursuing the former segment director, Rothman, for purloining behind-the-scenes footage of the show (such as allegedly giving guests alcohol and drugs).
18 Setting Up Dates And Hotels Before Green-Lighting Guests
Stephen Key was an expert on the show who wrote a blog about his exciting time preparing for Dr. Phil. When he was first brought in, before being green-lit to appear, they asked him questions, he was given a wardrobe, and they started discussing hotel & travel dates. But his appearance wasn’t confirmed yet, and it made him antsy, because other guests have allegedly been booked to show, with plane tickets and hotel stays, but have been pulled last minute for odd reasons.
17 Waves Of Layoffs After Returning From Hiatus
When the staff of Dr. Phil returned to the show after a hiatus, in August of 2015, they were met with dismay: a wave of layoffs. The reason for the layoffs was unclear, as the show was still one of the most-watched in the genre, averaging 4.3 million total viewers. The layoffs came just days after returning from the summer hiatus— for instance, the entire transcription department was axed.
16 Scaling Back Medical Benefits For Employees
Besides the heartless layoffs, Dr. Phil’s executives also cut medical benefits for several employees, which forced crew members to file complaints against the talk show host. An individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap, “They could have notified them [employees] while we were on break and given them time over the summer to look for other jobs. Instead they let them go right after we got back.”
15 Union Employees Filing A Formal Complaint
With the scaling back of medical benefits, several union employees on the show filed a formal complaint with the Directors Guild of America. And while the benefit cuts seemed minor to some, an insider explained that staffers not covered by union benefits were scrambling— mainly those with families— after their monthly premiums jumped from $200 to $2,000. However, Dr. Phil is one of the only syndicated talk shows to offer benefits to workers not covered by unions.
14 Staffers Postponing Medical Procedures Because Of Insurance Jumps
Many were upset with the new changes that came after the summer of 2015 to Dr. Phil. While the man earns $70 million a year thanks to his talk show and self-help books, he was personally unaffected by the shenanigans. But employees were forced to scramble to find new insurance, and an insider even said, “I’ve even heard of people having to postpone medical procedures because the new benefit plan won’t cover things they had already scheduled.” The insider added that things were so bad, “There’s about to be a mutiny.”
13 Guests Reportedly Given Illicit Substances
The impression on Dr. Phil is that he’s there to help troubled people, such as addicts trying to achieve sobriety. But a bombshell headline (which led to a trial) showed that he might be instigating such addict behavior. Todd Herzog, winner of Survivor: China, and a recovering alcoholic, was allegedly given vodka and Xanax during the taping of his show, for dramatic effect. Another guest, Jordan Smith, who struggled with heroin, says he was taken to Skid Row in LA by the show’s producers to find a fix.
12 He Allegedly Locked Employees In A Room
Leah Rothman, mentioned earlier, was a long-time segment director for the show. In 2016, she filed a lawsuit against McGraw for false imprisonment and emotional distress. She alleged that McGraw called employees into work outside of normal working hours, locked about 300 of them in a guarded room, and yelled at them for leaking info to the press! The show vehemently denied the accusations, but Rothman had compelling evidence: a brief video clip from the archives showing the behavior in question— but the judge refused to let the video be entered into evidence, citing copyright issues.
11 He Was Accused Of Assault By A Former Client
Sara Morrison was the patient that Dr. Phil treated while he was still in private practice, who he then hired to work in his office. Already highly unethical, the trouble mounted from there. In 2009, Morrison went public with an accusation that McGraw had sexually abused her during her employment. “Phil would pull me down to sit on his lap while he talked on the phone with patients, other doctors, even his wife. He’d be running his hands up and down the inside of my thigh all the way up to my panties.” Dr. Phil won the case.
10 He Was Sued For Defamation
Guests who are unhappy with their appearance on Dr. Phil often claim that the footage of them was deceptive, edited, or negatively impacted to make them look bad. McGraw, however, always defends the stylistic choices of his staff. Some guests have initiated legal action, such as brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, when they appeared on an episode about Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. The show seemed to suggest the Kalpoes were involved in the disappearance, and the brothers sued for defamation, but the charges were eventually dismissed.
9 He Exploited Britney Spears During Her Breakdown
Dr. Phil is an entertainment show, first and foremost. It’s important to understand that there is a lot of exploitation going on. During Britney Spears’ public meltdown in 2007, the Spears family contacted Dr. Phil to see if he could help. They sought the doctor, not the show, but McGraw showed up at Spears’ hospital amidst a bevy of cameras and talked openly to the press about the star’s health. The family’s invitation of trust was exploited for ratings.
8 He Bailed A Teenager Out Of Jail So He Could Interview Her
In 2008, McGraw entangled himself in drama that involved multiple girls beating another teen in a YouTube video. Mercedes McNichols, one of the attackers, was being held on $30,000 bond for her actions, and Dr. Phil’s show bailed her out so he could interview her. News of the incident leaked, and producers decided not to air the segments.
7 Unholy Matrimony
Before there was Robin McGraw, there was Debbie Higgins McCall. The two married in 1970 and separated after three years. McCall emerged from the shadows and told the press that Dr. Phil encouraged her to stay at home, to devote herself to domestic life, and to “bulk up her chest.” “When I confronted him about his infidelities, he didn’t deny these girls and told me that it had nothing to do with his feelings towards me, to grow up, that’s the way it was in the world.”
6 A Judge Called Him A Charlatan For Not Helping Guests
McGraw has given the impression that he wants to help guests, but his lack of assistance and follow-ups have drawn scrutiny. Particularly from a judge who said, “What a charlatan this man is. This is a man who says he is a doctor to help people, but he certainly didn’t help you.” This came after a couple was arrested following a shoplifting spree. The couple had been on McGraw’s show, but his “treatment plan” had been to give them three signed copies of his latest book.
5 He Gave “Cash Me Outside Girl” A Worldwide Platform
Even Dr. Phil calls his platform-inducing segment with Danielle Bregoli— the “cash me outside girl”— his “moment of infamy.” The out of control 14-year-old needed help, and instead of Dr. Phil helping her, he made the girl into an internet sensation. She also scored a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Atlantic Records, and now goes by Bhad Bhabie.
4 Producers Of The Show Chase Scandalous Guests
There are rumors that producers of the show chase guests— by that, we mean that they scour the internet to find the most salacious people and stories they can find, and then persuade them to appear on the show. McGraw has bailed people out of jail for interviews, he’s lied to get guests to appear on camera, and he’s been accused of exploiting more than one vulnerable guest for ratings.
3 He Interviewed Shelley Duvall During Her Mental Crisis
Shelley Duvall, famous for acting in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, was interviewed in 2016 while struggling with severe mental illness. Dr. Phil claimed he wanted to help her, but it was closer to exploitation. The interview was nothing short of cruel, and Vivian Kubrick, daughter of Stanley, said, “Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitive entertainment. It’s appallingly cruel… I recoil in complete disgust.”
2 Many Of His Insights Aren’t Psychologically Sound
Many experts say that most of McGraw’s insights are not psychologically sound, and his guidance can even be detrimental to the individual. His rigid world views and questionable parenting advice— such as when he told a mother not to support her young son buying Barbie dolls— is evidence of his lack of skill, according to Dr. Laurie Essig. “Good thing we have Dr. Phil to keep us trapped in the way things are rather than help us imagine the way things could be,” she once wrote.
1 Many Of His Phrases And Terminology Are Borrowed
Back in 1983, McGraw joined Thelma Box (a Texas businesswoman) to present the “Pathways” seminars, which were “experience-based training allowing individuals to achieve and create their own results.” Critics claim that many of the phrases and terminology used by McGraw on his show were coined by Box, basically stolen, and presented at the seminar. McGraw has even admitted that some material from Life Strategies, his first best-seller, was taken from the Pathways seminar.
Sources: factinate.com, ranker.com, hollywoodreporter.com, allbusiness.com, projectcasting.com