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The Doctor Is In: Phil McGraw Wants To Help You Get Real


WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Kate Coyne

Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo Once Again, You’ve Resolved To Lose Weight, Fix Your Marriage, Or Get Out Of Debt. Dr. Phil Explains The Four Steps You Must Take For Those Promises To Really Pay Off

In an auditorium packed with 200 jaded kids, a restless silence has fallen over the room. The assembled students, all from a working-class town in eastern New York, have got their share of problems, from alcoholic parents to sibling feuds and slipping grades. The quiet mood in the room-enforced by watchful teachers on the lookout for any outbursts-is suddenly broken when one girl gets a glimpse of the man they're here to meet. She lets out a gleeful squeal, and soon the rest of the kids are shrieking and cheering with earsplitting enthusiasm. This rapturous welcome isn't for a top athlete or a movie icon or a red-hot musician. Instead, the applause and adoration are aimed at a 56-year-old clinical psychologist from Texas. But make no mistake: When Dr. Phil McGraw saunters into the room, a huge grin on his face, he may as well be a rock star.

The social workers at the school had written to McGraw explaining that his techniques for dealing with peer pressure and bullying-as outlined on his daily syndicated talk show, Dr. Phil-had helped these adolescents tremendously. McGraw thought an in-person meeting would help even more, so while he was in New York City to help his wife, Robin, promote her new book, he agreed to meet with the students.

To some, the idea of taking questions from a room full of teens would be about as appealing as a trip to the periodontist. But McGraw takes it all in stride, answering each question-from trivial inquiries about his cameo role alongside Shaquille O'Neal in Scary Movie 4 to mumbled questions about parents on the verge of a divorce-with grace and aplomb. This is, after all, what he does best and what has made him famous; his popular show is now in its fifth season.

McGraw is a family man (he and Robin have been married for 30 years and have two sons, Jay, 27, and Jordan, 20), and he's most comfortable talking about matters that hit close to home. He understands that many people are struggling to make their marriages work, stick to their diets, get their kids to listen up, and pay their bills on time. And he knows that this is the time of year when people most want to make a change.

"People mean well when they make New Year's resolutions," McGraw says later that afternoon at a Manhattan hotel, his imposing six-foot-four-inch frame softened by a gray flannel suit. "But resolutions are fueled by emotions, and the problem with emotions is, they're fickle. They fade. They change. And sure enough, when they do, you're going to let your resolution slide."

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