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Is Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew Helpful or Hurtful?

Posted: 08/04/10 04:57 PM ET

Most people view addiction therapy as a private matter -- something that should only be between the afflicted person and the therapist. But Hollywood has a different idea, as evidenced by the success of Dr. Drew Pinsky's Celebrity Rehab show, now in its fourth season. For those who are unfamiliar with the reality television show, it highlights C- and D-list celebrities who have checked into the Pasadena Recovery Center to battle various addiction problems. Dr. Drew Pinsky (simply called Dr. Drew) and his staff treat the celebrities.

Not only are these celebrities getting addiction treatment on national television, but they're also in a group therapy setting rather than private, one-on-one counseling. Many professionals tout individual therapy as superior to group therapy for a number of reasons: no one except the therapist knows the patient's secrets, the therapist gets more time to handle the patient's particular problems, patients can penetrate deeper into their inner problems than with group therapy, patients don't have to listen to other people talk about their woes, and patients don't have to coordinate their calendar with other people and available group therapy slots.

With that said, though, group therapy does have many merits. One of the greatest benefits offered by group therapy, especially in drug or alcohol treatment, is the support from peers struggling with similar battles, and the sense of hope and encouragement that recovering addicts can transfer between each other as they jointly overcome their addictions. For many addicts, breaking free from an addiction on their own (or with just a therapist to help) can seem like an overwhelming and impossible task. In a group session, though, recovering addicts witness firsthand what is possible.

Another beneficial aspect of group therapy in drug and alcohol treatment is that when recovering addicts speak with the authority of like experiences, it can be difficult to deny the value of what is said. While recovery group therapy sessions will vary in the level of confrontation encouraged (not all groups have the sensational confrontation level that Dr. Drew's facility does), most will allow fellow group members to speak when they feel that a recovering addict is being less than honest about their recovery. When confronted with the shared knowledge of other recovering addicts, it can be more difficult to maintain faulty cognitive processes or denial about personal dependence issues. The group as a whole carries respected and authoritative wisdom that can be very hard to deny.

Also realize that many addicts enter rehab suffering from a sense of isolation. Through the bond building process of group therapy, isolation leads to community and often friendship. Because everyone in the group is encouraged to participate, even members struggling with social interaction receive a forum of expression.

Of course, Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab show also has another layer to its treatment: the cameras are on the patients 24/7 for the duration of their treatment. Does this fact help or hinder the treatment of those the show highlights?

A Personal Choice

In reality, whether a person decides to engage in individual or group therapy for their addiction problem is a matter of personal choice. Some people heal better in a group setting, while others need the one-on-one contact and attention to overcome their demons. For celebrities, though, being in front of the camera is often one of their addictions too. So if it takes feeding that one addiction to get them off the more dangerous drug or alcohol addiction, who are we to say whether that's good or bad? After all, the celebrity's entire life is already plastered across the television screen and in the tabloids. There's really no harm if the public witnesses their healing process too.

Some critics of the show state that the celebrities in treatment are simply there to give their career a boost. While that may be an underlying motive of some of the celebrity patients, ultimately they are getting help in a real treatment center and under the supervision of a real medical doctor. So yes, they are getting publicity and getting their name out there, but they're also getting their life back together. With their life on track again, their future job prospects are higher too. That's definitely a big motivator for treatment ... and it's a good one.

When it comes to overcoming addiction, everyone has to find his or her own personal motivator. Yes, addicts need to get well because they want to preserve their health. But they also have an underlying motivator to address. For some people that motivator could be their kids or their spouse or even their dog. Whatever it is, the addict needs to identify it and grab it so they can finally end the cycle of living a life of extreme highs and lows. Remember that these celebrities want to be happy just like everyone else. If the prospect of boosting their career gets them the help they need so they can finally live a happy and successful life, so be it.

Success or Failure?

Another criticism of the show is that viewers witness what happens to people during detox and rehab. But is that really bad?

Some could argue that the celebrities are actually doing a favor for their fans. Viewers (especially teens and young adults) can witness how unglamorous and uncool drugs and alcohol really are. This alone may deter some people from trying drugs in the first place.

For those viewers who are currently suffering from an addiction, they can see the inspirational side of the show. After all, if these celebrities can get help, so can anyone. Seeing someone go through treatment and come out successfully can inspire others to take similar steps.

But perhaps the real question is: Are Dr. Drew's Celebrity Rehab patients successful in their quest to kick their addictions? While some of his patients have relapsed since leaving the show, many others have stayed clean and sober, either by entering a sober living facility, continuing outpatient group meetings, or simply by making serious life changes. Since Dr. Drew can't be with his patients forever, the addict does have to claim responsibility for his or her life after rehab, and that includes taking responsibility for the decision to use drugs/alcohol or to abstain.

Ultimately, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew is not just another reality TV show; it's real. Dr. Drew is a person to take seriously. While there are some reality "doctors" who are wasting viewers' time, Dr. Drew seems to be sincere, and he does have a good program for those who want to go through it. As long as the celebrities are there for the right reasons, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew may be what it takes to get has-been celebrities on the road to success and happiness again.

 
 
 

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