The Good Doctor

BY Jon Barrett

April 12 2011 10:00 AM ET

 So parents need to be careful, then?
I think they need to be very careful, and I think that you need to have a dialogue with your kids about sexuality. I think you need to have a dialogue about differences in sexuality, not only in terms of when they become sexually active, but how they identify themselves, and they need to know we have so many gay and lesbian youth that have suffered because they don’t perceive an air of acceptance within their own family. If this was a dialogue that was had before this even ever became an issue or a question, that child would predict acceptance, that child would predict support, that child would know that we have a family that is inclusive, they wouldn’t go through all of that pain. So I don’t think this is a conversation you have with your kids if you think it may be an issue. I think it’s a conversation you have with your kids to make them well-rounded in terms of their own expectations and how they would react to others in the world. It’s not a conversation, it’s a dialogue. Kids process at a different rate and in age-appropriate ways.

Did you have these conversations with your children when they were growing up?
Yes, and we had the conversations because they were often stimulated by religious teachings. They would come home and say, you know, I know how we talk and how we feel about this, but when I have these religious teachings that seem to fly in the face of that. And so it was really a great stimulus for us to talk about those things and — and resolve that. Psychology and religion have always been considered to be a clash of ideologies, where you had science and faith coming together, and that had to be mutually exclusive. As a career psychologist, I never saw it that way at all. So I always talked to them about that because, you know, they would hear again, psychology is antireligion and I’d say, “No, no. That’s not true. You can have conflicts, but you don’t have to have conflicts,” and then when other things came up like sexuality, then it was natural for us to have those conversations.

Speaking of conflict, I know two years ago you had the only daytime talk show that devoted an hour to Prop. 8, where half of your audience was for the proposition and half of them were against the proposition. How did that come about?
Well, I can tell you when it was over we had to put a roof back on the building, because it got very passionate and very heated, but I will say in acknowledging both sides of the debate that I thought we had a very intelligent discussion. People had serious disagreements with one another about what was right and not right. I truly believe that the basis of all bias, prejudice, and stereotypical thinking is born in ignorance. If you give people information, I think they will process it and embrace it.

I think people who don’t watch your show might be surprised that you’re so supportive of gay causes. Do you think this is as a result of some misconceptions we might have of white men from Texas?
Yeah, I think they think this little boy’s a redneck mouth-breather [laughing] and there’s no way he’s going to be informed and enlightened, and you know what? I’ll tell you, I’m very proud of the Dr. Phil show. And I’m not talking about myself in the third person. I’m proud of the show. We have 300 people on the staff here. We have many gay and lesbian adults who work here. But we do our homework. Because I know people listen to what I say and I think they’re entitled to hear the truth as I see it, and we have a very blue-ribbon advisory board here that most people don’t know about. We have the top minds in psychology and psychiatry, medicine, sociology, nursing. Many of them from the top learning centers in the country, from Harvard University, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, USC, University of Texas. All of these top learning centers, and two former presidents of the American Psychological Association are on the advisory board. We try to make sure that we give people accurate information. They don’t always have to agree with it, and if it is controversial, I will put the opposing side on the show. So I never underestimate my viewers, and I think they’re intelligent as a group and I think they’re inquisitive, they ask questions and make up their own minds. If they ask me where I stand on an issue, I tell them.
 










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