Alex Blaze

Maybe she was good at physiology?

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 30, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Dr. Laura Schlessinger, psychology, radio

Jesse Singal at The New Republic reminds us that even Dr. Laura's non-political opinions were pretty terrible, and that she gave bad advice all the time. In fact, that was the point of her show. He provides an example:

laura-schlessinger.jpgThe awfulness of Dr. Laura's advice is proportional to the severity of the caller's problem. A young woman named Jamie called in last week, thoroughly broken-sounding. She choked through her first words, thanking Dr. Laura for taking her call and thanking God for letting her get through. When her husband does certain things in bed, she says, sentences dissolving into tears, "it reminds me of being molested when I was young." She wants to get past it, to live a healthy life with her husband.

Dr. Laura has a question: "Why are you still crying about it?"

"Because it still bothers me, because I..." she starts to say before Dr. Laura interrupts.

"Oh whoa whoa whoa whoa!" she says. "Don't give me the usual nonsense here."

Over the course of the next six and a half soul-eating minutes, Dr. Laura explains some things to Jamie. She needs to just get over being molested. God gave her sexuality, which she's wasting "because some jerk did something evil. Makes no sense to me. To me that's affronting God." It's foolish for Jamie, at 29, to spend time thinking about what happened when she was 8. "It manipulates a man real good," Dr. Laura says, and that's what Jamie's doing to her husband with all her whining about being molested. She convinces Jamie that she's mad at her husband and is using this whole molestation thing to punish him. When Jamie explains that she wants her husband to hold her more, Dr. Laura says, "You're emasculating your husband so he'll be a father, because you don't have sex with your father." She has a solution: "Tonight, you're gonna seduce your husband, and you're gonna have a damn good time."

Turns out that isn't the way trained professionals handle that problem:

That's it. That's her advice: Don't worry about it. Seduce your husband. "Stop with the crying, stop with the sniveling, stop with the whining." I sent the clip to Dr. Bruce Perry, an expert on child trauma. He wasn't amused: "She was insensitive and distorted what this woman said," he wrote in an email. "She bullied the caller into affirming some detailed, overly-simplistic interpretation of the caller's problems with minimal information. In sum it was an unprofessional and uninformed way to respond to the problem this woman presented." Then, in his next email: "[H]opefully the woman will seek real professional help."

I didn't like Dr. Laura for much the same reason I didn't like Dr. Phil: they both try to find the easy solution to complex problems. A little yelling, cut away the complexity (and reality) of a situation and leave people with a few pieces of clichéd advice and voilà, your life will be fine. It's part and parcel with the conservative worldview, that people are machines who can do what someone else wants if they're punished and rewarded enough to do so.

It makes for good entertainment, I suppose, but it dumbs down everyone who listens in. Which is why her complaint about how people went after her advertisers rings hollow - the only reason she was in business in the first place was commercial media's profit motive. It's not like she's actually qualified to be giving people advice, in demeanor or education.


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!!! She actually did that to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse? Gimme a clue-by-four!

I've assisted people informally with the issues surrounding childhood sexual abuse. I always have to defer to the ACTUAL professionals but so often the active duty military types simply won't go to military mental health professionals. I do as much as I can support wise, all the while saying 'go to medical, talk to them'.

I always hear the same thing of "wow, it’s like your reading my mind! How do you know what I'm feeling?" and then I have to explain to them, yeah, you can survive childhood sexual abuse and assault. To recover fully takes lots of time, lots of understanding and lots of tears.

As for 'Dr' Laura, someone give me a clue-by-four and I’ll explain to her in painful detail just how damaging that bullshit she spouted was to that person and the long term consequences that she probably has from it.

Because that young lady? If she did actually try that, may have had a minor to a full breakdown. Having received ‘advice’ from a ‘doctor’ and having failed at that… she may ignore any advice from any competent mental health professional after that, not seek real therapeutic help or it could set that young lady up for a suicide attempt.

So, give me my clue-by-four! I have my own brand of therapy to dispense!

Terrifying, just terrifying.

Like Perry, I really hope the caller finds the professional help she needs.

But I'm also disturbed and concerned about the fact that someone with such a traumatic history and deep-seated problem should feel compelled to seek a public talk-show host for advice - on the air. That saddens me because it reminds me of how deep cuts in the extent and type of health care in this country, where mental health is denigrated and considered unncessary, have left people so incredibly vulnerable. For me, that's an even bigger problem than the presence of of this noxious woman (Dr. L) on the airwaves.

Good point. The New Republic(an) article says that the audience calls in because they're feeling masochistic, but it's more likely that most can't get professional help for financial reasons.

Little problems answered by a professional would be a fine radio show, but this woman needs long-term help.

Or it could be the fact that you don't have to look Dr. Laura in the face. When you go see a shrink or therapist, you have to directly "face" the problem - or at least the person who will help you solve it. Since so many issues are deeply personal, there are quite a few people (me, for one) who remain uncomfortable with that power dynamic.

I suppose the reason she is so popular is because so many people like seeing a train wreck. Who cares if there are people in there? It's exciting. (not)

GraciesDaddy GraciesDaddy | August 31, 2010 11:08 AM

My former boss -- a bona fide licensed Mental Health Counselor [LMHC] -- used to say with great derision, "If 'Doctor' Phil pulled the same crap in session that he does on TEE-vee, he'd have his license revoked."

Ratchet that up by two -- or THREE -- and you have "Doctor" Laura.

janiice J carney | August 31, 2010 12:02 PM

did she write that geco ad, with the drill sargent / Phyc, talking about nannypanny land and tossing the tisues to the cry baby?

Apparently, Dr. Laura has no clue as to what PTSD does to a person. She's an idiot. She should have been turned off by the FCC long ago for dispensing what would be called by most unlawful medical advice. She was practicing medicine without a license and should have been arrested and thrown in jail.

I find Dr. Laura as humorous as I find all the other reality TV garbage out there. Sadly, I used to listen to her and Mitch Albom, so I am one of the earlier radio contributors...It was the only radio station I used to get in one of the places I worked. I'm glad she's gone.

Dr. Laura is an example how "advice/therapy" from clueless hacks is often worse than no therapy (something many in the queer/trans communities know all too well). That this nasty woman has made millions of dollars mass communicating her bigotry make it that much worse. I'd love to say we've seen the last of her, but that's too much to hope for.

How can anyone take the band-aid advice of a radio shrinkette a suitable substitute for a real Therapist or Psychologist? Like most news and "news magazines" on the broadcast air waves they are really meant for entertainment value. These places all have instant read out of the number of people watching or listening to a given broadcast. They give people what they want to hear. After the fairness doctrine was removed from public broadcast requirements, in I think 1987, we have been bombarded by something less than real news.

ElectricHarpsichord | August 31, 2010 8:26 PM

Could you please put a trigger warning on this? Being suddenly hit with victim-blaming and admissions of molestation is definitely NOT good for survivors.