Psychologist Phil McGraw-known to millions as Dr. Phil-has used his blunt, no-nonsense approach to shame guests on his hit syndicated show, "Dr. Phil" (2002- ), into getting real and healing themselves. Never one to promise easy cures by the end of his hour-long program, McGraw has made a point of telling viewers and guests that he's providing a wake-up call to their problems. McGraw has been called a great many things-arrogant, aggressive, controversial, confident, irreproachable, and authoritative-but never ingratiating. In his meteoric rise to the top of the daytime talk circuit-his mentor and producer Oprah Winfrey has been the only one to beat him in the ratings-Dr. Phil has dispensed his tough love to millions of adoring fans who hang on his every word, nod obediently, and could care less about his checkered past, making him "America's Favorite Therapist."
Because his father, J l McGraw, a supplier of oil rig equipment, quit his job at 40 out of boredom to study psychology full time, McGraw had a challenging childhood. The family moved in with aunt Deana and her husband in Oklahoma City, where McGraw delivered newspapers to help make ends meet. He later credited this time as the defining moment when he learned how to take charge of his life. McGraw followed his father's footsteps and attended the University of Tulsa, but dropped out after his freshman year. He later earned his degrees-a B.S., M.A., and Ph.D.-from North Texas State University. During his college years, McGraw played football as a linebacker, but was sidelined with an eye injury that left him partially blinded. True to character, McGraw never let the injury get him down-he studied optic nerve damage and wore a patch over his one good eye to help improve his vision in the injured one. For his Ph.D. dissertation, McGraw drew upon his self-healing experience when he studied how psychology could relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
After graduation, McGraw entered his father's private practice, only to discover that he disliked being a therapist. Nonetheless, he opened his own private practice, which he shut down in 1989 after he was reprimanded by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists for a complaint filed by a former client who claimed McGraw carried on an inappropriate sexual relationship with her. The reprimand, according to the unauthorized biography The Making of Dr. Phil: The Straight-Talking True Story of Everyone's Favorite Therapist, forced McGraw to undergo physical and psychological exams, attend an ethics class, and be supervised by a licensed psychologist for a year. In 1989, McGraw moved to Dallas and formed Courtroom Sciences, Inc. (CSI) with lawyer and ex-neighbor Gary Dobbs. CSI quickly became a leading litigation consulting firm, providing top corporations mock trials, jury evaluations and trial preparation. McGraw developed into an industry giant and was offered a television show in the mid-90's, but chose to stay in business because he loved the competition.
It was while consulting on a high-profile case that McGraw's life changed forever. Entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey was sued by the Texas beef industry after she said on her show that she'd never eat another hamburger after an outbreak of mad-cow disease. Winfrey hired CSI and McGraw prepared her for the upcoming trial-during the process, the talk show star suffered a mild break down. The retired therapist sprang back into action and guided Winfrey back to mental health in typically blunt fashion. She later won her case, and on the victory episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (1986-2011), Winfrey presented McGraw to her audience. He was soon making regular appearances on her show, which led to getting a program of his own. He quickly developed a reputation as being aggressive and confrontational, much to the delight of his adoring audience. His harsh style, however, created some controversy. On one episode, McGraw tricked a drug-addicted teen into appearing under false pretenses, then confronted the lad with a choice: seek rehabilitation or go to jail. Another guest-a convicted murderer and prison escapee-sued McGraw and others, claiming she was held in an apartment against her will, which prompted her to escape through the window via strung-together bed sheets-she fell and later had her leg amputated below the knee. A class-action lawsuit was filed against McGraw for his public endorsement of a line of controversial weight-loss supplements, Shape Up!, that allegedly failed to live up to expectations.
Despite the controversies (another suit was filed by an aviation firm claiming McGraw stiffed them on bills for transport services rendered), McGraw's popularity continued to grow: he was named one of People magazine's "Most Intriguing People of 2002"; Barbara Walters included him on her 2002 "Ten Most Fascinating People" special; and a Newsweek cover story in September 2002 was the magazine's best-selling profile that year. Meanwhile, McGraw authored five #1 New York Times bestsellers, including Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, Self Matters: Creating Your Life From the Inside Out and The Ultimate Weight Solution Cookbook: Recipes for Weight Loss Freedom. McGraw also contributed a monthly column to O, The Oprah Magazine, and appeared as himself on several sitcoms, including "The Bernie Mac Show" (Fox, 2001-06), "Norm" (ABC, 1999-2001) and, fittingly, "Fraiser" (NBC, 1993-2004). His show, which has been syndicated all over the country, earned two daytime Emmy nominations, while his son, Jay, released his own best-selling book: Life Strategies for Teens.
McGraw continued to branch out with the Dr. Phil brand beyond the typical confines of books and television, including inking a deal in January 2006 with Match.com to dispense his tough love advice on dating and relationships to Internet daters. Off camera, McGraw showed just how successful he'd b0een when he donated two exclusive sports cars-a 2002 Ferrari Spider 360 and a 2001 Gemballa Porsche Turbo-to the fourth annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car auction. Meanwhile, he appeared in a series of CBS primetime specials that covered various topics including spousal abuse and drug addiction. In one highly-publicized special, McGraw confronted a humbled Pat O'Brien over his battle with alcohol abuse. McGraw showed his lighter side when he appeared in "Scary Movie 4" (2006), playing himself opposite Shaquille O'Neill in spoof of "The Saw" (2004) that gave the audience the peculiar pleasure of watching him cut his foot off.
Cast (Feature Film)
Founded Pathways, the popular self-motivation seminars
Co-founded Courtroom Sciences, Inc., a full-service trial sciences firm, which helped high-profile trial lawyers to build airtight cases using psychology
Met Oprah Winfrey when she hired CSI and McGraw to help with her case against the Texas beef industry; made first appeared on the victory episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show"
Began making regular appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show"
Launched his own nationally syndicated series, "Dr. Phil"; earned two daytime Emmy nominations in 2003 and 2004
Played Himself on "Fraiser" (NBC) in an episode titled "The Devil & Dr. Phil"