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How ethical is the therapy in reality TV shows?

by Ratan Srivastava

When DMX cried, it was a defining moment in reality-TV therapy. In a VH1 Couples Therapy session four years ago, the rapper said that his mother never told him she loved him. “All I wanted to say was ‘Mommy,'” said a 41-year-old guy who has five platinum records under his belt. “I believe a lot of people forget that no matter how strong a guy is, no matter how tough a person is, we all need to be someone’s baby.” His mother turned up on set for a sad reconciliation the following week, which appeared on the following week’s broadcast.

DMX’s journey was a mix of TV magic as well as personal growth. Over the course of 10 episodes, the rapper with his then-wife, Tashera Simmons, discussed topics that are common in couples therapy: he never wanted to be married, she lost herself inside the relationship, as well as he fought with monogamy. However, if Simmons noticed changes in her husband as a result of the show’s host, psychologist Jenn Mann, the audience did as well.

Every reality programme claims to offer a window into human nature, but there’s no way of knowing if your favourite Real Housewife would have flipped that table in rage if there wasn’t a camera present. Audiences are treated to the whole new layer of questionable entertainment as the team follows these very same volatile cast members beyond their therapists’ closed doors, with one problem: therapy isn’t entertainment. Can an intellectual breakthrough be trusted if it occurs in front of a camera? And if that’s the case, why are therapists allowing everyone to watch?

Couples Therapy comprises ten cast members—reality TV’s regular collection of B-list celebrities—who live together in a home for the length of shooting, similar to the traditional set-ups on The Bachelor or The Real World, series that put a melting pot of cast members under one roof.

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