Dr. Phil Charged With Practicing Without A License in Britney Spears Stunt

Much like our own embarrassment over faux television judges, it appears that psychologists are not happy with Dr. Phil’s conversion of their field into a form of entertainment. A complaint has been filed that Dr. Phillip C. McGraw’s (his real name) rush to interject himself into the Britney Spears controversy constitutes practicing without a license. It could present an interesting question for both medical and legal personalities on television.

The complaint against Dr. Phil was filed with the California Board of Psychology. It is a felony to practicing without a license in California. Dr. Phil previously gave up his license in 2006. Notably, when they go on his show, participants sign a contract that includes a provision that he is not medically treating them. Notably, when his show began in 2002, the Board investigated whether he was practicing without a license. In what would be an insult to most true doctors, the Board found that Dr. Phil was not in violation because he was acting as an entertainer, not as a psychiatrist.

The problem of Dr. Phil began when he showed up at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after Spears was involuntarily admitted. He was reportedly asked to visit her by her visit on a confidential basis. This visit is viewed in the complaint as practicing clinical psychology as well as violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Among other things, he is accused to shattering her professional confidentiality and relationship with her treating psychiatrist.

His greatest defense is found in Section 2903 of the California Business and Professions Code, which defines “The practice of psychology is defined as rendering or offering to render for a fee … any psychological service involving the application of psychological principles, methods and procedures … [such as] the methods and procedures of interviewing, counseling, psychotherapy, behavior modification and hypnosis.” He clearly was not acting for a fee. Yet, his best defense may be his old defense: he is really not engaging in real psychology.

Spears family was publicly outraged by Dr. Phil’s disclosure of the visit to the media and violating their trust. Of course, next time they may want to hire a real psychiatrist instead of trying to have their Pop star treated by a Pop psychologist. Notably, Dr. Phil’s controversial public discussion of his visit and dire predictions of Spears’ demise could be cited (and perhaps was intended) as evidence that he was acting as an entertainer rather than a clinical psychiatrist.

This is not the first time that Dr. Phil has been in trouble on ethics.McGraw gave up his license in Texas before he completed disciplined measure meted out by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in 1989. He was accused by a former therapy client of having an improper relationship with her. McGraw gave her a job but denied improper physical contact. He was nevertheless found guilty of violating professional rules and officially reprimanded. He then closed his practice completing the specific punishments.

It is difficult to get the full story on this earlier allegation. The Texas Board record <<a href=”a refers to a “dual relationship/violation of code of ethics” for a Phillip C. McGraw. It states here that there was a charge of a “dual relationship/violation of code of ethics” for a Phillip C. McGraw. It states the punishment as “Supervised Practice (1 yr); 01/27/89, Violation of Code of Ethics Satisfactory Completion of Professional Ethics Course and Board’s, Board’s Jurisprudence Exam; Physical and Psychological Evaluations.”

The act of visiting a hospital is clearly different from the show itself since it was not filmed or done for public consumption. For McGraw, however, he might have to admit that he did not care a wink about Spears and was doing this (despite the understanding of the family) solely for ratings. Notably, unless there are criminal charges, it is unclear that the Board has any jurisdiction to punish McGraw even if he were found in violation.

Ironically, if he caused harm to Spears, he could be sued in tort. Under the common law standard, even if you are not a doctor, you are held to the same professional standard if you hold yourself out as a doctor. Obviously, McGraw is a trained but not licensed doctor. Once again, his saving grace is that Spears was already a car wreck and he merely came to gawk.

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25 thoughts on “Dr. Phil Charged With Practicing Without A License in Britney Spears Stunt”

  1. Dr. Phil is an entertainer and an entertainer only. Any previous training he may have had has long since been thrown out the Window.

    Guests who appear on his show are obviously desperate for help. I think most are severely depressed, suffer from severe anxiety, or have other mental health issues and think they are going to get the help they so desperately need because they do not have the resources or have been informed on where to go for good professional psychiatric help. So they write the Dr. Phil show.

    Dr. Phil is downright rude to a lot of these guests. Making comments such as “I only agreed to do this show because you have a daughter and I want to do everything I can to make sure she doesn’t turn out like you”, or when a guest is trying to explain something something and his response is “what’s your point” is not considered to be good therapeutic communication which is the first thing you learn in psychology 101. When these guests get visibly upset he quickly changes his words around to divert the situation.

    I do have to add that I personally know someone who appeared on his show and his production team interviews the guests on film before the show and edits them, so when they air it for the show the guest is made to look a lot worse than they are, and they do this for the drama aspect of it, which questions his ethics as well. Many guests complain of them twisting there words or responses and Dr. Phil’s response is always “well these are your words”….. well yes but they were not said in that context. He does this for ratings. For money.

    The only connection Dr. Phil has with Texas is he has an ego the size of it.

    I agree with the above comment that there should be a disclaimer before or after the show so the viewer understands that it is a reality show only. He is a hoax. Plain and simple.

  2. I think Dr. Phil is being judged by a lot of jealous people. He,s a smart educated and intuitive person who also is blessed with good old common sense and no BS attitude. Sometimes a lot of going no where talk and beating around the bush is just a dragged out money grabbing way of some professionals with all those degrees . Some people can,t afford years of therapy to come to the same conclusion he can guide someone to in an hour show an a referral to great follow up therapy with some great therapist and phycologists. I know I sometimes get great advice from people with no degrees, don,t you . It doesn,t mean I can,t think for myself, only sometimes your just to close to see your own nose. Be glad someone genuinely cares about people.

  3. Karen,

    I can tell you are passionate about your cause but you are actually guilty of the same thing you accuse Dr. Phil of doing…

    You are ignoring the fact that most people now cannot afford higher education and your elitism is showing. Just because you think something is ‘common sense’, doesn’t make it so for everyone. If no one taught you critical thinking skills, and you never learn to question authority, how do you expect that person to know more than what we suppose a reputable doctor on TV would know. If you were taught that all people are basically good and like ourselves, it doesn’t ever even occur to you that someone would purposefully set out on a brainwashing agenda. Because YOU would never behave that way, you assume no one else does by default.

    So in your condescending remarks to the person who poured their heartfelt cry out on a blog, you copied exactly what you accuse Phil of doing. Did you “hear” yourself at all??? There are people with bigger issues like how to survive when you are sick and unemployable – let alone seek out a mental health agency you didn’t know anything about to actually look for….

    I am so angry that you dismissed this person as lacking knowledge you assume everyone has – and choosing not to do anything about their situation. Would you tell a family member to look up free services or would you give them a strategy to actually help them? Your obvious irk for people who engage in self-harming behaviour that is biologically driven is just more evidence that humans have more of a bizarre need to be right instead of true acts of kindness.

    This person merely said what the masses are saying…they are so preoccupied by the life events that are so desperate and sometimes you can’t appreciate how people DONT know or take time out to question a doctorate that by its mere utterance of doctor in front of one’s name, gives a false sense of trust because of the meaning we place on the word doctor – trusted, caring, and know what’s good for us.’ They are willing to put themselves in harms way not understanding the consequence of their misguided trust.

    For me, once the lie detectors and paternity tests came on as regular features of the show , it may as well be Jerry Springer or Maury who both once attempted serious careers in journalism. It turns out, humans have a voracious appetite to be better than others,feel morally superior to others and are fairly selfish even in our desire to help others.

    In ALL humans, we cannot act on what we don’t know and what we don’t know piles up a lot higher than what we do know. So please, can we try to transcend judgement in such cavalier uses of it. Realize that not everyone has it as good or as bad you – your experience of life is limited to what you think you know….all of us have that trait.

    Maybe you should just be grateful that life did not start you as a poor, starving child in Somalia. Maybe you should carefully weigh your own limitations and prejudices before you start handing out advice. A true student off humanity could not ignore the fact that we are each unique and remarkably the same.

    To the person who is bipolar and suicidal – there is help to be found. There are many crisis lines and mental health agencies that are non-profit. It is perhaps better to seek solace and understanding in people who are not financially motivated to “help” or people who view helping as some great accomplishment to be bragged about. Offering help and then chastising someone because they don’t know as much as you do seems a bit at odds.

    I don’t know where you studied but telling people you studied for years to understand them is slightly more than patronizing. I give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are also coming from incomplete knowledge and just didn’t know better. Now you do.

  4. I do understand what karen is saying & agree. My current situation is that I need help in a bad way. At this point in life I don’t care who helps, as long as someone will. I’m on ssdi & diagnosed with bipolar disorder, general axiety disorder, anxiety ptsd, & more. With only medicare I can’t get the help I need! One week in a government facilitated hopspital is a joke, to say the least! I’ve attempted suicide & have unconsciencely sabataged my life to a horrible existance! Yet no entity or desent treatment center will even listen to me without money! The whole mental health issue has turned into a bussiness, not cocerened with the idea of humanity! I’ve been there, done that and seen fist hand what it’s all about! You are “well” whenever your ins.is gone wether that is a day or a year. They are not interested in your health or wellbeing & humans are treated like cattle, in & out, it’s just a JOB, & “they” could care less what happens to you!!!! I need good help & can never get it!!! Some at least get help though the show from places they would never be able to afford. I only wish I could get on the stupid show, & have real help with real counseling for my REAL issues! I’m dying a slow death & not one person is willing to help! If I had the $ it takes for real help, I at least would have less stress! It is joke,,, a real joke for DOCTORS to pretend they care! All i’ve ever seen has been people who do as little as possible, www aiting for the next shute to open for the next victims to come through! Honestly, i’ve been to the same place 3 times in a 4 month period & heard & watched the same theropist, doctors, ect… I’ve had a dr. forget I was his patient for 3 days & theropist tell me I have no hope untill ” my next life”. I wdream of someone listening to me, with assets to help!


    1. Do you realize the fact you are talking about all these things (about yourself), is something most with bi-polar etc., are incapable of doing. Most people with mental illness are incapable of recognizing they are ill, let alone, admitting it. Fact you ARE, says to me that you have ALL the power in the world, to help yourself. So, in the meantime, go to the library and start reading all the self-help books OTHER THAN those from make-shift quacks like Dr. Phil and go get better. There is something called circumstance as well you know. When we change them, so do our lives…change (usually for the better). Maybe you should start saying you DO have hope. No therapist tells a patient they have no hope. Dr. Phil might, but not a real therapist. It is against regulations you know. DO NOT go to a hospital where yes, we can only be treated as our turn comes as they are too busy. CALL THE MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION instead and find a free clinic. STOP BEING BRAINWASHED BY PHIL who is telling everyone how sick they are when all I see are people being mean to each other for the most part. (a choice)

  5. I’m sick of the hypocrisy!!! Everyone here writes how he’s a fraud! How do they know? Most are obsessed with degrees and titles. He want to school. his background is good enough! some of the worst doctors I’ve known are the ones who claim to be so homored!!! The man here is smart, he cares , he teaches and informs… So many people are mentally sick. Yeah he makes over $80 million a year. Hes thanking Oprah. I believe the haters are just jealous that he is so well k own and rich. If you don’t like him… Why waste your time telling us so? We all make errors … Get over it!

    1. It is a very serious act indeed to offer psychological advice to someone without the five to eight years of education necessary in this field which enters the depths of the human brain. The years are so for a very good reason. I ask how you know as well as you suggest, that the man is in fact, doing the right thing by anyone. Perhaps for 60 minutes it may appear so, while an audience whales with applause as though watching a cross between a game show and reality TV. May I ask, why teaching anyone to be agressive, slang heavers and rude, pompous, human beings is a good idea or good example? There are other ways you know, to help, the best of which are by calm, understanding, and particularly; UNPUBLISIZED means. Tell me how sick or in how much trouble are we or do we believe anyone else is, who is able to take a free trip, primp up and look their best while saving their troubles until they finally arrive to a global television show(somehow well enough temporarily?) and how dedicated would this or any doctor be to demand it? If the man is SO intelligent and so devoted love, why does he force the people to take the ‘stage’. As for comments on doctors overall? There is no profession in the world which does not hold a few hindering spirits. We are speaking here of a profession; not whether the man or any man helps someone or not. The matter up for discussion is regarding credentials sir, and according to your analogy, is not unlike a student passing themself off later as the teacher simply because they took the course, with the defence that “hey…. I read the books and I took the course. Therefore I call myself Teacher so-and-so and have every right to walk in to a university and lecture!!! Get our drift now? Fact is, Only the teacher is the teacher and only the teacher has the years of background which you may not at all be aware is necessary, and for a darn good reason. The reason is, especially when it comes to mental illness: Leading someone with mental illness in the wrong direction, even in the most subtle of ways ,can be life altering and dangerous long-term to themselves or family. regardless of what it may ‘seem’ like on TV. It may effect them permanently in ways you or I will never know becuase those five to eight years of very intricate knowledge of THE BRAIN and how is actually works….is missing! One misperception or misdirection can be very, very hurtful. This is why so many waivers are signed before stepping on stage. I tell you this. If I had a very ‘real’ problem, the last thing I would be doing is seeking global coverage! I would be ‘apparently’ too troubled for all that. Mr. Phil is demeaning the profession. However, most of us long since, have realized it is just another ‘reality show.

  6. I strongly agree with Karen’s comments and feelings about Mr. McGraw. No, I will not refer to him as Dr. Anyone of anything. Unfortunately the name of his show misleads many of his viewers into believing he is giving professional advice. Yes, he was a licensed psychologist at one time, before he “retired” his license to avoid ethical sanctions. He should be asked to retire from his tv show by Queen Oprah and remain out of the public eye. Unfortunately this is not going to happen because his contract has just been renewed until 2016. Mr. McGraw is a disgrace to the mental health community and poor example of what therapy is and the REAL help that the right type of therapy (CBT MI Harm Reduction and many others) can bring to the people looking for help.

  7. I agree with Karen Maxwell, there needs to be a disclaimer for the show that people can understand. Please don’t get me wrong but I know some Americans who are not the sharpest pencil in the box and truly believe that what Dr Phil said on the TV is in their eyes the truth because they see it with their own eyes. What would happen if there was an issue on the TV that Dr Phil gave his personal opinion and advise on and someone in the TV public took his word as the truth and committed suicide because they could not beer to live with the consequences. Would he be held accountable because he suggested a perceived outcome that may or may not have been true!

  8. You have not burst my bubble in the least. And yes….we all know about the ‘beef’ versus OPRAH incident.

    About Phil McGraw.

    Please recall, I did not say or suggest Phil McGraw’s firm, has not put forth efforts to give aid to anyone, anytime. In fact, I did not speak of the ‘firm’.

    Sorry, I disagree with your comment – “Give up fighting insurance companies to host a network TV show? Hell yes, in a heartbeat.”

    I have studied psychology / sociology myself. The first textbook placed in my hand was: “Are You REALLY a Helper”. It was intended to not only aid in defining (or not) our passion to the profession, but define whether our passion to help the human race is so great, that being paid had nothing to do with it. A bit of time…even a year waiting for an insurance cheque, when (as you say) McGraw’s business was “highly successful?” Then, its a non-issue and borders on contrary.

    ‘Grandstanding’ is not a respected initiatve when it comes to certain professions and this is one. Arrogance has no place in mental health. Most important though is this: The man is hired as an entertainer and has implimented a grand disregard to the profession. To sit the accute matters of the mind in the same arena with ‘entertainment’ is simply a bad act.

    With his analytical dissection of guest(s) , McGraw implies (globally) that by watching, YOU TOO can be cured in just one hour through your TV set and I am told, many interpret it as exactly that.

    a) Disrespects the profession
    b) The implication that mental health can be ‘cured’ or directed through a TV set is degrading to the business of medicine and to the millions who would NOT trade in their passion, nor patients, for a dollar
    c) Guest’s mental profiles are disrespected, and global viewers are drawn, (subliminally), to believe perhaps they ‘may’ not only relate, but could also have actual issues. I have personally seen relations crumble because of the directives of the show. In speaking with several physicians here, there have been more relationship breakdowns cropping up since McGraw aired, than have been in years.
    d) Through a barrage of, more often than not, condescending remarks and personal interpretation – at times an outright analytical smear campaign, the end is also an often arrogant summary with suggestive remarks that if the guest (and we all) follow McGraw’s advice, then life might even be livable, but if not….then “oh well…don’t say I didn’t tell ya,” as McGraw often says. Unremarkable indeed.

    Perhaps if the show began and ended with “The following (or preceding) is classified as entertainment only and is not intended as a professional cure for matters of mental health.”

    All that said…really, the bottom line is this: Much overstepping of boundaries has taken place, whereby a profession respected for centuries if not millennia, has been made out to be a superficial matter, corrected by a big guy on a TV screen, hired to entertain the masses and bring in more doe, rae, me. The only thing securing the railing to the stairs are prudent legalities and the almighty dollar.

  9. Karen Maxwell opines: “No reputable professional, of any kind, leaves or simply walks away from a passion they spent years in university for or the obvious passion to help others, just for fame and money.”


    Karen, I hate to burst your balloon, but Phil McGraw, Ph.D., practiced psychology for many years, branching out into forensic psychological consulting, which is how he met Oprah Winfrey. His firm was consulted for their expertise when she was sued in Texas for “insulting beef.” No, I am not making that up. She was sued by the beef producing industry for comments she made about eating red meat on her television program.

    Dr. Phil McGraw was a highly successful clinical psychologist in Texas and did indeed walk away from that. Thanks to the insurance companies making it increasingly difficult for psychologists and psychiatrists to get paid, many of them left the field for other work. For example, one psychiatrist I know went into emergency medicine. Phil now makes more in a week than many psychologists make in two years. Give up fighting insurance companies to host a network TV show? Hell yes, in a heartbeat.

    And oh yes, with Dr. McGraw’s able assistance and some good lawyers, Oprah won her case. The rest, as they say, is history.

  10. Dr. Phil does not only NOT have the credentials to cause the mass hysteria he has by leading people astray with this HUGE (Texas like, no offense) – non-authentic opinions while possibly leading people astray…BUT, HE IS HIRED AS AN ENTERTAINER, not a doctor of any kind!

    I wonder…why do the Americal people seem to need someone to follow by the masses at all times and it is always any new figure who appears on TV or a church pulpit.

    This certainly does not happen in Canada and certainly never would to this degree. We may be known as quiet and passive, but perhaps that is because we listen, think and work out what is right or wrong..authentic or just opinion.

    No reputable professional, of any kind, leaves or simply walks away from a passion they spent years in university for or the obvious passion to help others, just for fame and money.

    All therapists, doctors, psychatrists and psychologists take an oath to maintain doctor-patient confidentiality, meaning even with a court order, it is difficult to break that oath.

    THINK..just think is all one has to do.

    OPRAH, although bouyant, has a degree in communication and performing arts (acting) ONLY. She is a good talker and comes across as aggressive and a good pusher, however, it all still remains HER opinion. Are we all not worthy of our own opinion? Yes, it is fun to listen perhaps…but to follow? That is quite another thing.

    The bottom line is, it is all simply entertainment and classified as such for a very good reason.

    What kind of people want the world to know their personal problems is the first place. This should be the question here.

    Karen Maxwell, Freelance Writer for Sun Media

  11. Dr Phil Is a fraud. I hear he hasn’t renewed his License its been expired since 2006.. Anyone know any different? That’s what I hear.

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  13. Indeed, given her transformation into a perpetual machine of litigation, I am thinking of just renaming this blog as BritneySpearsLitigation.com. Heck, if I add the words diet, xxx, and golf, I could compete with Google in the number of hits.

  14. NNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now I’m unable to escape Britney wherever I go!

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