“LA Shrinks”: Way to Be Over-Exposed On Reality Television

LA Shrinks is “…the kind of show that could kill talk therapy.” Mark Perigard, Boston Herald

The new reality TV show LA Shrinks, about three upscale therapists, premiered Monday night at 10 P.M. on Bravo. MSN describes this series, which was actually taped last spring:

This new reality series follows the personal and professional lives of three very different Los Angeles therapists. Venus Nicolino, Ph.D., is a sharp-tongued life consultant and mom to four boys. Gregory Cason, Ph.D., is a psychologist specializing in cognitive therapy and living a ‘monogamish’ life with his partner of 23 years. Eris Huemer is a relationship therapist dealing with issues in her own marriage.

The clients seen by the therapists on the show were selected by the producers and weren’t known to them until the series began filming.

“Life Can Sometimes Suck” reads the title of the trailer (update on 12/24/14—this is no longer available).

Good Idea or Not?

The criticism began before LA Shrinks even aired. Goal Auzeen Saedi, Ph.D., expressed her distaste in a Psychology Today blog post. Her conclusion:

Even if a few rebels from our field decide to completely disparage and taint our reputations as a profession, we still prevail. How does that work? The knowledge of those two magical words in our lexicon that communicates volumes among us. Axis II.

Axis II is the DSM‘s category for personality disorders.

Psychology prof Thomas Plante also weighed in via a Psychology Today post—not just about LA Shrinks but about all reality show therapy:

Since effective psychotherapy depends upon confidentiality, privacy, and the trust of and belief in the professional provider, it seems hard to justify psychologists participating in reality show therapy. The risks of exploitation seem just too high. Additionally, there are many negative unintended consequences that are likely to unfold with reality TV therapy as well. Finally, many of the professionals who participate in these shows are not licensed mental health professionals at all and are thus being deceptive about their credentials. For example, in the new Bravo show, only two of the three featured therapists currently have a license to practice as mental health professionals in California.

Some Reviews of the Premiere Episode

Robert Lloyd, LA Times, reports that sex figures into it big-time. And “…almost everything that happens on camera here, outside the therapy sessions, feels uncomfortably contrived — the therapy just seems edited for effect…”

Mark PerigardBoston Herald, wonders about the clients/patients. Are they real or hired from “an improv troupe?”

Nicolino sees a couple with intimacy issues, Cason listens to a woman with road rage problems and Huemer mediates a couple who can’t agree on how much sex is enough.

How absolutely coincidental that they are all first-time clients — and that their stories somehow comment on or encourage the counselors to address their own issues.

Where’s Dr. Melfi to call bull when you need her?

The Media Life reviewer adds:

The patients share things that we — never mind their friends and co-workers —simply don’t need to know.

Maybe Americans will tire of this kind of oversharing and not only stop participating in these shows but also stop watching them. But as therapists say, first we have to want to change.

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