Dr. Phil McGraw is a well-known mental health professional, author, and TV personality best known for his TV show ‘Dr. Phil’. Born in Vinita, Oklahoma, in the US, he used to play college football as a youngster. He eventually obtained a Ph. D. degree from the University of North Texas and soon joined his father’s private psychology practice. However, he gave up his private practice to eventually start ‘Pathways’, a self-motivation seminar, and a company ‘Courtroom Sciences’. He also used to appear regularly on Oprah Winfrey’s show until he began his own program ‘Dr. Phil’ in 2002. While the show is extremely popular, it has faced its share of criticisms as well. McGraw has also authored several self-help books that have become best-sellers. Besides hosting his own show, he has made guest appearances in multiple TV shows and movies. He portrayed himself in the horror comedy film ‘Scary Movie 4’ as well as in the comedy drama film ‘Madea Goes to Jail’. He was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 15th highest earning celebrity in the world in 2015.
Childhood & Early Life
Phillip McGraw was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, in the US on 1st September 1950 to mother Anne Geraldine and father Joseph J McGraw, who worked as an equipment supplier. His father had a lifelong aim of becoming a psychologist, which he later achieved. He had three sisters, Deana, Donna, and Brenda. They grew up in the oilfields of North Texas.
He studied at the Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas. A talented athlete, he was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Tulsa. There he played as a middle linebacker under coach Glenn Dobbs.
He received his BA in psychology from the Midwestern State University and later earned an MA in experimental psychology and a Ph. D. in clinical psychology from the University of North Texas. Then he joined his father in Wichita Falls, Texas, where the latter had started his private practice in psychology.
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Phil McGraw and his father jointly ran their private practice for a few years and then joined a successful businesswoman from Texas named Thelma Box to create the ‘Pathways’ seminar. It was an experience-based training program that proved to be a massive success. After a few years, McGraw signed an agreement for the sale of his Pathways seminar stock for $325,000.
Later in 1990, along with lawyer Gary Dobbs, McGraw co-founded Courtroom Sciences Inc (CSI). It eventually became a profitable venture which advised Fortune 500 companies and helped injured plaintiffs in achieving settlements. McGraw eventually gave up his practice of psychology.
His legal consulting firm was hired by Oprah Winfrey in 1995 for the Amarillo Texas beef trial. The case ended after three years with a victory for Oprah, for which she was immensely grateful to him. Therefore, she invited him to her show and he began appearing weekly as a relationship and life strategy expert from April 1998.
He published his bestselling book ‘Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters’ in 1999. Over the next few years, he continued to publish several other bestsellers, such as ‘Relationship Rescue’ and ‘The Ultimate Weight Solution Food Guide’.
The 'Dr. Phil' Show
After Dr. Phil found popularity in Oprah Winfrey’s show, he decided to launch his own talk show ‘Dr. Phil’. The show debuted on 16th September 2002. In the show, he offers advice in the form of ‘life strategies’ based on his experience as a clinical and forensic psychologist. The show has proved to be a success and has been nominated for numerous ‘Daytime Emmy Awards’.
The show covers many topics, such as weight loss, financial planning, autistic children, unhappy marriages, and dysfunctional families. It has a serious tone, with occasional humor. Despite its success, McGraw’s advice and methods have been criticized by some psychotherapists and other mental health professionals. ‘The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ called his conduct in an episode ‘unethical’ as well as ‘irresponsible’.
The popularity of the show has led to several spin-off shows such as ‘The Doctors’ which started airing in 2008. It is an hour-long program presented by McGraw and his son Jay McGraw. The show has received high ratings and also airs in several other countries such as Canada, Mexico, and Finland besides the USA.
Dr. Phil McGraw has played cameo roles in some TV shows, such as ‘Sesame Street’, ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Hannah Montana’. He also played a cameo role in the 2006 horror comedy film ‘Scary Movie 4’ and the 2009 drama comedy ‘Madea Goes to Jail’.
He formed the Dr. Phil Foundation in order to raise funds to fight childhood obesity. It also works with other organizations that support the needs of underprivileged children and their families.
Controversies & Scandals
Throughout his career, McGraw has kindled controversies on numerous occasions. One such occasion was when he visited Britney Spears in her hospital room. This visit, which appeared to be an attempt to make Spears and her parents participate in the ‘Dr. Phil’ television show, garnered a lot of criticism from Spears’ family as well as mental health professionals. .
In 2017, he was accused of endangering the health of his guests to boost his show’s ratings. A spokesman, however, denied these allegations and called them untrue.
Phil McGraw got married to cheerleader Debbie Higgins McCall in 1970. However, their marriage was annulled after three years due to personal conflicts.
McGraw began dating Robin Jo Jameson in 1973 and married her after a few years. They have two children named Jay and Jordan.