Why I love Dr. Drew: part 1

by Mary Oxford, PhD on February 23, 2010 · 8 comments

in addictions,stigma

Dr. Drew

I have a confession to make. I love watching Dr. Drew. (If there’s anyone left out there who doesn’t know, Dr. Drew is Drew Pinsky, MD, a noted addiction medicine specialist and faculty member at USC’s medical school. Whether he’s being interviewed on CNN or appearing on his VH1 shows Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew or its spinoffs Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew or Sober House, it seems like the ubiquitous Dr. Drew has become America’s favorite doctor.

And I think that’s great.

Of course, I’m aware that plenty of my colleagues in the mental health field may disagree with me. They’re concerned about the exploitation of addicts and conflicts of interest, and I understand those concerns. I’m not saying they aren’t valid, but I think the value that he brings to millions of American households far outweighs them.

A big problem remains

Let’s face it:  Despite years of medical and psychiatric advances, as Dr. Oldham pointed out in a previous post, a considerable amount of stigma remains. That’s a big problem because we know stigma often prevents many people who need help from getting it and we all feel its effects whether we recognize them or not.

Thanks to Dr. Drew and others like him–think Dr. Phil and the good folks at Intervention among them–millions of people, especially young people, get to see what treatment and therapy and rehab are all about.  It may not always be pretty, but it’s definitely a trip. On display on just about any episode: tears, anger, fear, destructive behavior, gut-wrenching confessions, isolation and loneliness, shame, aggression and other not-quite-so-pleasant experiences.

You know what else makes for great television drama? All those other things viewers get to see as well: hope newly discovered, the recognition and acknowledgement that sobriety feels good, honesty, joy, contentment and peace, self-acceptance, forgiveness–not just of others but of oneself, too–strength, the power of relationships, along with other wonderful and wondrous emotions and discoveries.

A public service

Each episode amounts to what I consider a public service. Showcasing real people, even if they are celebrities (yes, even B-list celebrities), with very real and significant problems demonstrates that that lots of other people have to deal with similarly tough issues that viewers at home may be facing. Demystifying the process that gets addicts and others with mental illness from A to Z opens the door for people to feel free to seek help. There’s no doubt in my mind that stigma related to addiction and mental illness is reduced as a result.

You’ve probably heard the saying “you’re only as sick as your secrets.” Isn’t it time we applied the same concept to stigma? By coming clean about mental illness and addiction, whether in the privacy of our homes or on national television, we have the chance, like the celebrities on Dr. Drew’s shows, to prove to ourselves and to others that healing and wholeness are indeed possible.

I ♥ Dr. Drew for showing us the way.

(For those who might be interested in learning more about Dr. Drew, I recommend this recent article from the New York Times Magazine.)

Editor’s note: For more on why Dr. Oxford ♥ Dr. Drew, see part 2 of her post.

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Why I love Dr. Drew: part 2
March 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

rhonda bowman February 26, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I just wont to say, I love the show Dr.Drew dont stop it from coming !

Monica Ricci February 25, 2010 at 12:08 am

It’s TV. Having done TV myself in my own industry, I understand and try to explain to my clients that it’s not an accurate portrayal of the process. It is simply not possible to show every aspect, every nuance, and every single reality of anything on television. What we hope for is an increased public awareness of the important issues, to reduce the shame and guilt of those profiled, and to show the people behind the issues as human beings with feelings. In that respect, I do think shows like Intervention, Celebrity Rehab, Sex Rehab and Hoarders accomplish that goal.

My best,
Monica Ricci

CC February 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I also love Dr. Drew. He is such a handsome man and to have him be SO smart is such an ideal man for me. In some ways, he reminds me of my husband. My husband is also a college graduate, he is very smart and has also gone gray haired at a young age. But I digress. In my opinon, I think Dr. Drew speaking out about addicts really helps the family members who have addicts in their families understand what addicts go through. I my self am married to a recovering alcholic. He has relapsed a couple of times in our relationship. And for me watching TV shows like Celebrity Rehab and Intervention, I get a better understanding of what it is like being addicted to something and what it is like to try amd recover. Some may say that it is an invasion of privacy but I think it is very important to show people what addiction is all about. I can say that it has helped me understand my husband better and for that, I am very grateful for Dr. Drew.

Liz February 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Wow.. so Dr Drew is a cup half empty? More like a cool drink of water. (OK..I admit.. he has lots of appeal and yes my husband knows that Dr Drew is my TV crush) And while I’m not a psych professional (I’m in Obstetrics) I have to say that Dr Drew brings more to the table than “he’s better than nothing”. Here are my humble thoughts: I’m intrigued by the show because it brings the perils of a certain lifestyle to my living room. I’m tired of how the media glamorizes Hollywood, celebrities and their lifestyles. I’m not a huge TV fan. I don’t watch Entertainment tonight. I don’t subscribe to People magazine. I generally don’t care what people in Hollywood are doing. However, many young people today are mesmerized by the glamorized lifestyles. But what they don’t know is that Porn rarely catapaults its particpants into “happily ever after”. Touring with rock bands for months at a time brings temptation to even the strongest individuals. Not all celebrities lives are train wrecks but they certainly seem to be on Celebrity Rehab. It’s painful to watch but also hard to look away. Perhaps it’s only the B list that want to go public with their struggles but I think it’s courageous of them to bare all in front of everyone. And honestly, whenever I watch the show it just reinforces the fact that I need to continue talking with my kids, help them develop strong morals and values and keep our family core a priority with all of us. I don’t consider the show “psychology lite”. I consider it a fairly decent warning as to what can happen if children don’t receive guidance,boundaries, compassion, empathy and love from their parents. But what do I know? I’m not a PhD (I only have a Master’s) but you know what? In 8th grade..I thought Cliffnotes were the coolest invention. Celebrity Rehab might actually do more for the middle school aged crowd than any DARE program.

Cheesus February 24, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I thought Rogers take on Dr. Drew was a better read then the blog post.

Undertoad February 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Roger, unlike Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, and many others, Dr. Drew is the real deal: a board-certified, practicing physician to start with who can recite A&P with the best of ’em. He takes a scientific, real medicine-based approach to the TV and radio programs. Very much the antithesis of Dr. Phil actually.

Roger Verdon February 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

I remember not understanding some things about paleontology so I visited the children’s section of the library, got a rudimentary book and suddenly received a basic overview in simple enough terms that I could finally go on and visit the adult section and continue my studies. I suppose Dr. Drew is like that, and because he’s like that he is the CliffNotes of the human condition. But once you’ve tasted psychology lite, why bother with the real thing? I suppose his value can be measured as a cup half empty, so it’s a sorry state of affairs to offer up Dr. Drew as the doorway to psychological knowledge versus nothing at all. And yet, perhaps I’m being far too serious. Maybe Dr. Drew offers enough of a glimpse into mental breakage to raise empathy levels and suppress the stigma that diminishes mental health as an unnecessary goal. That would be a great result of having him on the airwaves. I will give you this. He is far less damaging than his commentating counterparts who sully the airwaves with 24/7 views of democracy expressed as a video parlor game. But I fear the Frankenstein principle ithat is nfesting television. I fear that if one Dr. Drew draws ratings, why not two? Why not combine Drs. Phil and Drew with Dr. Ruth?
And yet, in the end, I have this nagging sensation that you are right
to suggest that despite the obvious downsides, there are plenty of upside too to Dr. Drew et al. If troubled individuals see their own illnesses portrayed on TV, they might get help for themselves. And yes, if stigma is reduced by televising B actors who are in psychic pain, then who am I to protest?
So I stand corrected. Yes, Dr. Drew is OK and that’s unfortunate.

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