Saturday, February 03, 2007

Therapy; On The Air

February 3, 2007

Every day we hear the radio waves broadcasting these sometimes self proclaimed “experts” in how to live your life better. Some have a real background in psychological therapy, others may hold a certificate in counseling and some others may just portray themselves as “I know better than you.” Some call themselves “doctor” due to holding a PhD in an unrelated field.

People across the land have problems and too many haven’t the skills to adequately deal with them, they think. Calling radio programs is affordable, it’s free and you stand a good chance of getting on the air, provided your particular ‘problem’ is interesting enough to make the ‘expert’ look good and helpful and boost their broadcast ratings. High ratings translate into precious advertising dollars for the host therapist and station owners.

Most all end up sharing their knowledge with us through the local Barnes and Noble in the form of the many books they ‘write.’ ‘Expert’ advice and a peek into how these radio therapists (not to be confused with the medical field of radiotherapy) have helped many are all yours, for $14.95 a book.

Periodically, the radio therapist grants an appearance in a town for a book signing, advertising for listeners to drop on by and buy the latest and best help and advice they have offered. Enamored listeners line up hours in advance for the chance to actually meet Dr. Whoever and purchase a copy of the latest hawking, sometimes personally signed by the author, for a small extra fee, sometimes included in regular purchase price.

Listening to their programs, there isn’t any shortage of callers tearfully explaining their ‘problem’ or ‘uncertainty’ to the host. Naturally, after granting the caller a scant few seconds of consideration, the host has the answer, often something the caller already knew but for whatever reason, didn’t want to face. Dump the boyfriend, buy the wife a new wardrobe, cancel the cable bill, find a new job, confront the boss or the secretary, the caller is told what to do, the host looks knowledgeable and everything is happy ever after.

Or is it?

Often times, these radio therapists are exposed for a seedy past or not following their own advice. It isn’t all of them, mind you, but some do become exposed through past lovers who may have embarrassing photos they make public or seedy stories of illicit love affairs. These exposé’s have been known to shatter careers after drawn out court battles and tearful apologies to listeners. The crafty ones own up to the past misdeeds, after denials and minimizing the deeds. Then, they may go on the offensive by claiming the conduct was from before they had whatever ‘epiphany’ it was that enlightened them to now embrace the values and mores they now extol, but many listeners have held dear their entire lives. Of course, having whatever past misdeed that have been exposed aired publicly becomes their basis for now holding superior knowledge to give you advice as they can claim their own failures as proof of whatever they now speak against isn’t good for you. In the meantime, the dollars and accolades keep pouring in, providing the radio therapist a very grand lifestyle.

The host may also make claims of only being human, excusing their own shortcomings, but it seems some forget their callers are also human. As such, we tend to look at our troubles through our own eyes and mindset, not the one we may be experiencing the problem with. It is only natural and competent therapists and counselors realizing this, advise both people, usually in a relationship arrangement or marriage, only after sitting down and listening to both sides equally. Then, instead of telling them what they must do, they guide the couple to discovery of the answer between them and within them.

How can a radio therapist do this when most often, they only get one side of a multifaceted problem? Are there people still in abusive relationships, following the advice of Dr So and So who had a glib piece of helpful advice? Were salvageable relationships scrapped due to the same? No one really keeps track of any of this, just hawk whatever appears a success for the host, all yours again for another $14.95 at your Barnes Noble.

If you ever do have the opportunity to meet one at their book signings or other personal appearances and for some reason, miss out, don’t dare express any disappointment to the ‘kind and caring’ Dr. So and So. If you do, even if you try to do it in a calm and complimentary manner, don’t be surprised to receive an answer of what an “appalling sense of entitlement” you have, even though you may not have asked for anything. Be prepared to be ‘dressed down’ for using his or her own advice of “getting something off your chest to the person who disappointed you,” when that person may be the radio therapist himself or herself. Expect to be told you need their books more now than ever to “learn humility and courtesy.”

Once was the time, when we had smaller communities and neighbors that knew each other, we could turn to trusted friends, clergy or real doctors for advice. As with most of our older ways, this too has fallen by the wayside. In the days of Urban sprawl, mega-churches, hiding inside of our homes, ATM cards and computer purchasing, we seem to have forgotten that we need to interact with each other and be there for others. In the vacuum created, we now have entertainers giving us advice on what we should have learned from human interaction. In return, the radio therapist/entertainer becomes wealthy beyond their wildest dreams and keeps pumping out their daily shows and hawking their latest book.

Some use their ‘celebrity’ to speak out for or against politicians, world events, even the current War on Terror, leaving listeners feeling as if they have some marvelous insight into whatever position they may favor. Enamored fans may adopt the same agenda, feeling a closer relationship to the host.

With all their punditry, though, they are just lucky people who have been able to market themselves successfully, at our expense. They don’t have all the answers, no one does. We each have the answer we may need inside of us, but may need help discovering it. Going through a call screener to hopefully air your grief on the airwaves may not be the best way to discover yourself. Running down to the local Barnes and Noble because of their latest release also may not be the best method. Competent counselors and therapists are available that will sit down and help you find the answers, if need be. They won’t give you glib answers, cut you off assuming what you will say next or put you on hold for “station identity break” or “pay the bills commercials.”

Remember, if you do feel the desire to read one of their books, Goodwill and the Salvation Army always seem to have a good supply of them.


UPDATE: I am not endorsing this, nor do I have any plans of reading beyond the reviews, but have found that I am not alone in my views of these radio therapists. What is ironic, if not downright funny, is that to "discover" how to end your reliance on them, you need to purchase someone elses book. SHAM The Self-Help and Actualization Movement


u∃∃l!∃ said...

I never give any credibility to Celebrity endorsements or opinions beyond those related to their own area of expertise (which is usually singing or acting).

In the age of too much information, I am starting to take a serious look at credibility, and putting more effort into being able to determine something about the credibility level of my sources.

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. Books are good for transmitting a body of knowledge or an experience, but are a poor format for "being heard" in that person-to-person way we sometimes need. For that alone, I can see how talk-radio format is more appealing.

A while ago I did therapy but then outgrew it. That was my determination, though, not the therapist's!

As a friend said to me once, "The so-called need for therapy is the inability to say the right two words at the right time to the right people."

i(F U don't know what those two words are, then no one can help you. -:)