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