Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Dr. Phil

November 4, 2023 | Miles Brucker

Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Dr. Phil

We all have a social mask, right? We put it on, we go out, put our best foot forward, our best image. But behind that social mask is a personal truth, what we really, really believe about who we are and what we're capable of. – Dr. Phil.

Here are some interesting facts about daytime-TV legend Dr. Phil.

1. Big Bucks

In 2015, Forbes listed Dr. Phil’s earnings at $70 million for the previous 12 months, which made him the 15th highest earning celebrity in the entire world.


2. Rise To Fame

McGraw first gained celebrity status with appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the late 1990s. Oprah first met Dr. Phil in 1996, when she was dealing with cattlemen who claimed she defamed the beef industry on her show. She hired Dr. Phil to assist and counsel her.

Dr. Phil facts Getty Images

3. Born To Be

McGraw was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, the son of Anne Geraldine and Joseph J. McGraw, Jr. He grew up with three sisters in the oilfields of North Texas, where his father was an equipment supplier. During his childhood, his family moved so his father could pursue a lifelong goal of becoming a psychologist.

Dr. Phil FactsFlickr, Craig ONeal

4. Athletics

In 1968, he was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Tulsa, where he played middle linebacker.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

5. “Dr". Phil

Dr. Phil is an actual doctor. He earned a PhD degree in clinical psychology in 1979 at the University of North Texas. McGraw was guided through the doctoral program by Frank Lawlis, who later became the primary contributing psychologist for the Dr. Phil television show.

Dr. Phil FactsFlickr, Great Degree

6. Borrowing Lines

In 1983, McGraw and his father joined Thelma Box, a successful Texas businesswoman who presented "Pathways" seminars: "experience-based training which allows individuals to achieve and create their own results". Critics claim that many of the "phrases and the terminology" used by McGraw on the Oprah and Dr. Phil shows were coined by Box and presented by McGraw in this seminar. McGraw admits that some of the material from Life Strategies, his first best-seller, is taken from the Pathways seminar.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

7. First Step In The Journey To Riches

Eight years after joining Thelma Box, McGraw signed an agreement for the sale of his Pathways seminar stock for $325,000 without notifying either his father or Box of the impending sale.

Dr. Phil facts Getty Images

8. First Controversy

In 1988, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists determined that McGraw had hired a former patient for "part-time temporary employment" and cited "a possible failure to provide proper separation between termination of therapy and the initiation of employment". The board issued a letter of reprimand and imposed administrative penalties. The board also investigated claims made by the patient of inappropriate contact initiated by McGraw, but the "Findings of Fact" document issued by the board at the end of its investigation includes no reference to any physical contact of any kind. The board closed its complaint file in June 1990.

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9. Before Dr. Phil Was TV’s #1 Psychologist, He Was A Trial Consultant

In 1990, McGraw joined lawyer Gary Dobbs in co-founding Courtroom Sciences, Inc. (CSI), a trial consulting firm that led to McGraw’s relationship with Oprah Winfrey. Eventually, CSI became a profitable enterprise, advising Fortune 500 companies and injured plaintiffs in achieving settlements.

Dr. Phil FactsFlickr, NewhouseSU

10. No Longer A Psychologist

After starting CSI, McGraw ceased the practice of psychology. He kept his license current and in good standing until he elected to retire it 15 years later in 2006. Appearing on the Today Show in January 2008, McGraw said that he has made it "very clear" that his current work does not involve the practice of psychology. The California Board of Psychology determined in 2002 that he did not require a license because his show involves "entertainment" rather than psychology.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

11. Best-Selling Author

In 1999, McGraw published his first best-selling book, Life Strategies. In the next four years, McGraw published three additional best-selling relationship books.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

12. Weight Loss Woes

In 2003, McGraw entered the weight loss business, selling shakes, energy bars, and supplements. These products carried the brand name "Shape It Up, Woo, Woo!" The supplements were met with swift criticism from various sources, accusing McGraw of lacking the expertise to recommend weight loss products. Facing a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Shape Up's claims, McGraw pulled his supplements off the market in March 2004.

Dr. Phil FactsFlickr, faungg

13. Weight Loss Lawsuits

In October 2005, several people who used McGraw's products declared an intent to file a class action lawsuit against him, claiming that although the $120-per-month supplements did not stimulate weight loss. McGraw settled the suit in September 2006 for $10.5 million.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

14. An Independent Biography

The Making of Dr. Phil wasn’t commissioned by Phil McGraw; it was created by two reporters, Sophia Dembling and Lisa Gutierrez. The book probes McGraw's history, with interviews of his childhood friends and former classmates. The book reports that McGraw allegedly used unethical business practices in a gym business early in his career and that he was allegedly abusive to his first wife. Understandably, the book received no promotional help from McGraw or his associates.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

15. Keeping The Dollars Flowing In!

In 2005, McGraw signed a five-year extension of his syndication deal with his show's distributors, King World Productions, Inc. The deal will pay McGraw $15 million a year and keep the show in production through the 2013–2014 television season.

Dr. Phil facts Getty Images

16. Nosey Neighbors

In 2006, the Dr. Phil House (a clone of CBS's Big Brother) aired as part of the Dr. Phil television show. Following a protest by neighbors, the house in Los Angeles was shut down, and production resumed on a sound stage on a studio back lot.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

17. Additional Troubles With The Law

McGraw was named a co-defendant, along with CBS Television, in a 2006 lawsuit filed in relation to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. The lawsuit was filed by Deepak Kalpoe and his brother Satish Kalpoe, who were two of the last people seen with Natalee.  They allege that show’s portrayal of them—using hidden-camera footage edited in an allegedly misleading way—constituted defamation.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

18. Drama With Britney

In January 2008, McGraw visited pop star Britney Spears in her hospital room, attempting to get Spears to take part in an "intervention" on the Dr. Phil television show. The visit and Phil’s subsequent commentary drew criticism from mental health professionals. Spears' family spokeswoman Lou Taylor said, "This is another example of a trust being betrayed. Rather than helping the family’s situation, the celebrity psychologist caused additional damage".

Dr. Phil facts Getty Images

19. Big, Big Bucks!

Dr. Phil’s estimated net worth is $400 million.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

20. More Controversy

On April 13, 2008, a producer for the Dr. Phil show secured $30,000 bail for the ringleader of a group of eight teenage girls who viciously beat another girl and videotaped the attack. Producers of the Dr. Phil show planned to tape a one-hour show devoted to the incident. However, when news broke that a Dr. Phil show producer had posted bail for the teen, the outcry caused the show to cancel their plans.

Dr. Phil FactsFlickr, RubyGoes

21. Charity And Kindness

McGraw announced the formation of the Dr. Phil Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood obesity, on October 22, 2003. The Foundation also supports charitable organizations that help address the emotional, spiritual and monetary needs of many children and families.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

22. An Unsuccessful Marriage

McGraw married his first wife, an ex-cheerleader and homecoming queen named Debbie Higgins McCall, in 1970, when he was 20 years old. According to her, McGraw was domineering and would not allow her to participate in the family business. She claimed that she was confined to domestic duties, which included lifting weights to improve her figure.

Dr. Phil FactsWikimedia Commons

23. A Successful Marriage

During the process of annulling his marriage to Debbie in 1973, McGraw began dating Robin Jo Jameson. The couple had two children, Jay, born in 1979, and Jordan, born 1986.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

24. Following Daddy

Jay McGraw (Phil’s eldest son) followed in his father's footsteps, publishing life strategies and weight loss books aimed at teenagers.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

25. A Spicy Wedding

Jay McGraw became engaged to Erica Dahm, one of the renowned triplets known for their modeling careers. Dr. Phil was best man at his son's wedding.

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

26. Phil’s Got Wings

Phil McGraw is a private pilot, with an instrument rating, flying single engine airplanes. He has also identified himself as a Christian.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

27. Bad Dog!

Janet Harris, a regular Dr. Phil Show guest, alleges she got an infectious disease after Dr. Phil’s dog bit her. Harris claimed that instead of going to a hospital, Dr. Phil wanted to avoid publicity, so he procured antibiotics via a friend who was a nurse. Harris said that the improper treatment led to her infection, which caused tremors in her right hand and permanent hearing loss. Dr. Phil’s attorneys are asking the lawsuit be dismissed because Harris had signed an arbitration agreement and she has no case.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

28. Sometimes It’s Hard To Help

In 2011, a homeless man with a golden voice named Williams became an overnight media sensation and was offered on several reputable talk shows. Shortly after, it was revealed the one-time addict was still drinking. Dr. Phil brought Williams onto his show to stage an intervention-style episode. After the incident, Williams ended up in a confrontation with his daughter at the Renaissance Hotel, resulting in law enforcement being summoned. No charges were filed. Dr. Phil then paid for Williams to stay at a fancy rehab facility, but despite Phil’s best efforts, he Williams out of rehab 12 days later.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

29. A Blissful Marriage

Dr. Phil's wife Robin McGraw has admitted that friends find it strange that she never argues with her husband. The mother-of-two, 61, who has been married to the TV star for 37 years said, “People cannot understand when we say we don't fight".

Dr. Phil factsGetty Images

30. Fight For The Homeless

When a guest arrived on Phil’s show and admitted to paying homeless people $20 to bash each other in the head with bottles and eat raw frogs, Phil stood up and said, “Stop the tape, stop the tape. I don’t want to talk to you. That’s despicable. You can go". After kicking the guest off his show, Dr. Phil donated $25,000 to programs for the homeless nationwide.

Dr. Phil FactsShutterstock

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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