Quietly, discreetly, more and more reality shows have been showing stars regularly attending therapy. But unlike earlier iterations of therapy on TV, these sessions feel like a normal part of life, like going to meet your girlfriend for lunch at, say, SUR to work through your relationship drama. And with a recent American Psychological Association poll showing that nearly half of respondents say the stigma toward seeking mental health services has decreased in recent years, it’s no surprise therapy on reality TV has become a more accepted, normal part of a show.
Jamie Otis, one of the success stories of A&E’s “Married At First Sight,” will proudly attest to that. Otis sat through couples counseling and therapy during that show as well as the spinoff “Married At First Sight: The First Year.”
“I mean, everyone knew 10, 20 years ago, therapy had such a stigma to it. That means you’re flawed,” Otis said. “Now, people are able to come out a bit more and share their stories.”
According to Otis, reality TV shows might not have set out to destigmatize therapy, but that has certainly been one result ― even if the road was bumpy getting there.
The Problem With Therapy In Early Reality TV
Therapy looked a lot different on reality TV even just a decade ago. Many shows that featured therapy or therapists in the late ’90s and early 2000s often involved Drew Pinsky ― better known as Dr. Drew ― a celebrity doctor and addiction specialist. ”Big Brother,” for example, was one of the first reality shows to employ a therapist regularly. The program used Pinsky in its earlier seasons, although he only observed contestants rather than interacted with them in typical sessions. “Survivor” also had psychologists around for consultations as early as its first season.
As time went on, mental health professionals started appearing in front of the camera instead of behind it. But as more shows started experimenting with featuring therapy in their...