Are Media Psychotherapists Narcissistic?

February 15th, 2010 | Posted by Sherry Gaba in Addiction

I have noticed, as it is getting closer to my appearance on Celebrity Rehab 3’s VH1 Vlog, I am feeling excited and ambivalent at the same time.  I am asking myself what does that mean?  Am I feeling this way because I wonder how my appearance will rate with my colleagues (other professionals in the recovery field)?  Am I becoming obsessed with the whole process of being a part of one of the highest rated reality cable shows out there?  Have I become one of the Narcissistic Celebrities Dr. Drew Pinsky talks about in his book “The Mirror effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America?”  Have I become one of those Narcissists?  Well, I am certainly not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.  I am simply a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who happens to work with some celebrities in private practice and at some of the famed Malibu Rehabs, as well as working behind the scenes and in front of the cameras on Celebrity Rehab.  Yes, I appeared on television last year and yes, this year I will be on a VH1 Vlog.  I know when I first heard that my segment would not be airing on television and would be on the Vlog instead, I was a bit let down and disappointed.  I was surprised, because after all, last year I had aired so why not this year?  Did I not do a good job?  I wondered.  Am I not dramatic enough for a reality Television show which everyone knows is synonymous with drama?  Producers of these shows are known for stirring up drama.  In fact, producers often cast the most psychologically impaired contestants for just that reason; to stir up drama by dysfunctional individuals or in the case of Celebrity Rehab, dysfunctional celebrities.

When I worked on Celebrity Rehab 2, and 3, and Sober House, for me it was work as usual believe it or not.  I always felt present not really noticing the camera on me.  I was in the moment and was focused on my client.  Yes, the first time they put a mike on me, I felt a little special, but really, I am not star struck because I have been working with this population for quite some time.  Yes, when I began working at the first Malibu Rehab on the shores of Malibu, I had to pinch myself because I had always wanted to work at the beach and to be perfectly honest, it was a dream job.  Driving along Pacific Coast Highway while taking in the breath taking views of the Malibu coast is absolute heaven and in my opinion, a job just doesn’t get better than that.  In addition, it certainly is conducive to a peaceful  session when you are meeting with a client, a fountain of a Buddha statue in your midst while you overlook the ocean is certainly more serene than working within four walls.

Yes, those were the days.  However, back to my excitement and ambivalence, as it gets closer to my Internet appearance, yes, I feel proud that I am part of a reality show that, while it is dramatic, really plants a seed for the celebrities that attend treatment.  Dr. Drew purposefully has chosen professionals like myself to work there to contain these clients, as they begin to unearth all the emotional pain that has been numbed by drugs and alcohol for so long.  It is a privilege and an honor to be part of that process, and it is okay that I will appear on a Vlog instead of television.  Maybe we are all a little narcissistic, I really don’t know.  I do know that I am one of the luckiest clinicians working today because I have had the privilege to work in recovery.  I absolutely love what I do, whether it is within four walls, with an ocean view, or in front of a camera.  I am very blessed.

Sherry Gaba is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Agoura, Ca and does Life Coaching in person or by phone.  She is the contributing author of two books, including  the “Conscious Entrepreneur” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People.”  Tune in this week as she performs a session with one of the cast on Celebrity Rehab 3 on VH1’s Vlog. She can be reached at sherry@sgabatherapy.comwww.sgabatherapy.com.

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13 Responses

  • I can’t wait for the next season!

  • Yes… i also really like to visit new place, your idea is good.

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  • Great Blog here!! Keep up the good work. I have found it to be very informative, Thanks for all the help :)

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  • Yes, that is true, I agree with you, but I am not sure if there are no other options.

  • Thank you for sharing I wish I could go somwhere.

  • Hi from sunny Florida. That was a good read.

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  • Sherry Gaba says:

    What a great question. I would say every treatment center has their own policies regarding allowing an ex-spouse, spouse, or other family member to enter treatment with them. As a rule, I would say it is not the norm to enter treatment with someone who is related to you. With that being said, Celebrity Rehab, although it is a rigorous treatment program, is still television. Entering into the process of Celebrity Television Coaching or Psychotherapy, one knows that although you are doing the best you can with the clients, in the end, it is the producers who will decide how it will be edited and ultimately aired to the viewing audience. Just remember that Celebrity Rehab, although very helpful on many levels, is still a television reality show and like you said, many of the sessions with the clients are not aired and are happening “behind the scenes”. That is why I am being so open and honest about the fact that, although there is some therapy seen on air, there is much more that is “revealed” than what you get to see in the final product. Again, thank you for your comment. Sherry

  • Steve says:

    Your reflection on narcissism is much appreciated.

    The bigger issue for me, as a layperson, is transparency and clarity of on-camera clinicians about their work.

    An example of something which confuses me: The Fleiss/Sizemore matchup was described as OK by Dr. Pinsky because both consented. I can only guess that clinicians involved in the decision to have them in the same small treatment milieu had concerns, but overcame them.

    But, I didn’t hear anything about those concerns, or how they are typically resolved.

    The lack of clarity could give a person considering treatment the impression that being asked to do so side-by-side with a violent ex is not unusual. Or, for anyone headed into treatment, that sharing space with codependent exes might be standard fare.

    So, my question is: If an on-camera therapist finds essential elements of his/her work edited out or distorted, is there an obligation to offer greater context in some fashion? Does professional concern or frustration about these kinds of things rise occasionally? Often?

    Take care…