Is Dr. Phil A Real Doctor? (Everything To Know)

Dr Phil McGraw at a ceremony


With a popular TV show, Dr. Phil has made a name for himself offering psychological advice to his sometimes dramatic guests.

As with any TV show, the goal of the program is to entertain the audience.

However, when it comes to mental health, a serious issue in modern society, some might wonder whether Dr. Phil has any right to offer advice.

In particular, they wonder if he’s a real doctor at all.

Here’s what you need to know about whether Dr. Phil is a real doctor or not.


Is Dr. Phil A Real Doctor?

Dr. Phil McGraw at "A Night of Honour"


Since he is no longer licensed as a psychologist, he is not technically a doctor anymore.

At most, the “Doctor” attached to his name is an academic one.

Dr. Phil received his doctorate in psychology from North Texas State University.

He also practiced psychology and held a license to do so in the state for 20 years.

However, he also faced several allegations of sexual misconduct from some of his patients.

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists examined a case in which a woman accused Dr. Phil of sexual misconduct while she was a student and worker at his office.

He’d receive an acquittal since the Board found no evidence behind these claims.

Yet he also faced other cases of misconduct throughout his career.

Eventually, he chose to retire his psychology license in 2006.

Shortly after, he moved to California to start his television show.


Can Dr. Phil Legally Give Psychological Consultations?

Robin McGraw, Dr. Phil McGraw


The entire premise of Dr. Phil’s show is to consult various guests with their mental health or lifestyle problems.

Some critics wonder if Dr. Phil is legally able to do so.

It’s a thorny issue.

On the one hand, although he is no longer licensed, Dr. Phil does have 20 years’ worth of experience in the field.

He spent those 20 years treating patients of all ages with a variety of mental health issues.

Because of that, some believe that his experience qualifies him to help others.

It’s certainly a stance that Dr. Phil takes himself.

On the other hand, he’s never held a license to practice in California.

California’s licensing requirements are different from Texas’s where he did hold a license.

Because of that, the standards he holds which are based on the Texan model are not the same standards that California holds.

As a result, the quality of care that his guests receive may not actually be good.

Secondly, it’s illegal for doctors to practice without a license.

No one wants a surgeon who isn’t licensed to practice on them.

The same goes for someone who is advising on certain mental health matters.

Because it’s illegal to practice without a license, Dr. Phil could technically get in trouble.

He gets around the legality, however, by having his guest’s sign paperwork before the show.

The paperwork essentially states that the guests are willing to receive advice from Dr. Phil.

It does not state that he’s consulting them.

This is an important distinction to make when determining the legality of his actions.

Since he’s only advising his guests, it means that his guests are free to ignore what he says.

Consulting his guests, on the other hand, would mean that he could write various prescriptions or refer them to a treatment center personally.

It’s when a doctor is consulting that he’s practicing.

Advising is something that anyone can do.

Because of this distinction, Dr. Phil is not actually breaking the law by advising his guests on various methods to help treat their mental illness.


Can Dr. Phil Give Medical Advice?

medical checkup concept


The other thorny issue when it comes to Dr. Phil is whether he can legally give medical advice or not.

For example, can he refer a patient to a rehab center or suggest that they start on certain medications?

The answer is no.

Legally, Dr. Phil cannot give medical advice to the point where he’s writing a prescription for them or referring them to a center.

That’s because he isn’t a licensed psychiatrist, and he never was.

Only an individual who has a license in the state in which they’re practicing can give medical advice and see it through.

Dr. Phil can suggest a rehab center, but he cannot write a referral notice to that center on behalf of the patient.

Dr. Phil can suggest a medication to help treat mental illness, but he cannot actually prescribe it himself.

The problem with this is that the viewers of the show might think that the advice he gives is actually good.

In reality, the knowledge on which he bases his advice is 20 years old.

The problem with not continuing to maintain a license is that it means you’re no longer aware of the latest research in the field.

Dr. Phil can always choose to do the research for himself, but it isn’t quite the same as having those resources when you’re licensed.

Besides, as a celebrity and showrunner, he likely doesn’t have much time to do the type of research needed.

Because of that, much of the advice he gives uses his experience as a basis.

His experience is more than 20 years old.

New studies and treatments have emerged since that time.

He may not advise his guests to pursue those treatments because he isn’t aware of them or because he doesn’t have experience with them.

As a result, his guests don’t receive the quality of care that they need.


Why Do Doctors Have To Keep Renewing Their Licenses?

Portrait of mature, doctor sitting in medical office


Doctors never truly leave school.

After receiving their doctorate degree in the medical field, they can start practicing medicine.

Psychologists can start treating patients.

However, depending on the state in which they’re in, they also have to renew their license every few years.

In certain states, the license needs renewal every year.

In other states, the renewal occurs every two or three years.

It might make you wonder why doctors have to keep renewing their license to practice.

The reason is that it keeps them compliant and aware of any changes in the medical and psychological fields.

When medical students are in school, they’re learning all about the new ways to help people.

Those ways are always changing as new research comes to light.

After they graduate and pass the board exams to receive their license, they already are behind on some treatments.

Having doctors renew their license forces them to keep up their education and be aware of the latest treatment methods.

In return, their patients are able to receive high-quality care.

They’re not receiving treatments that are subpar or outdated.

Instead, they’re receiving the latest treatment which is likely more effective.

It’s illegal to practice medicine and psychology if you’re not licensed.

The reason it’s illegal is that it’s dangerous for doctors to practice without the latest information.

It also means they’re not giving their patients the best care possible.

That takes advantage of their patients who are paying them and expecting the best care possible.

With regard to Dr. Phil, it’s problematic that he isn’t a licensed psychologist.

It’s also why he’ll have various medical experts who do have a license on his show.

They can prescribe and refer his guests when he can’t.

However, their sole purpose is to perform these roles and not to give advice.

Their advice may be better since they’re aware of newer treatments for mental illness.

Since Dr. Phil is the star of the show, though, he’s the one who advises his guests.

Doctors need to renew their licenses to ensure they’re up to date on the latest techniques and treatments to help their patients the best that they can.


Is Dr. Phil A Fraud?

Dr. Phil McGraw at a ceremony


Because he isn’t a licensed doctor, some may wonder if he’s a fraud.

The answer is a bit tricky.

The definition of fraud states that it is a wrongful or criminal deception with the intention to receive financial gain as a result of the deceit.

By this definition, Dr. Phil is not a fraud.

While he is intending to receive financial gain through his show, it isn’t through wrongful or criminal deception.

He genuinely attempts to give advice based on his outdated experience.

Some courts, however, may believe that since he’s advising without a license, that could potentially be criminal.

As a result, then he would be a fraud since he is illegally giving medical advice for financial gain.

According to Dr. Phil, however, he is not consulting them.

He’s only giving them advice based on his professional experience.

It’s a small loophole that allows him to continue to offer advice despite not having a license to do so.

Dr. Phil is not conning his guests out of their money.

He isn’t telling them to sign up for a miracle cure that he sells.

His money comes from the viewership on his show.

Because he isn’t selling them anything or giving criminal advice, Dr. Phil is not a fraud.


Why Can Dr. Phil No Longer Practice Psychology?

American TV personality and author Dr. Phil


Although Dr. Phil doesn’t professionally practice psychology anymore, he used to.

For 20 years, he worked in the state of Texas as a psychologist.

However, he no longer practices now because he voluntarily retired his license to do so.

Without a license, he cannot practice psychology.

That means he cannot treat or refer patients to treatment centers or undergo treatment programs.

The biggest reason that Dr. Phil doesn’t practice psychology is that he doesn’t want to.

He’s become an entertainer rather than a medical professional.

His show may feature guests with real mental illnesses, but it’s about the emotional story and breakthrough rather than actually treating the patient.

As with any daytime show, there’s always a good amount of drama, too, to keep the viewers interested and coming back.

Dr. Phil likely makes more with his TV show than he did as a practicing psychologist.

That might be another reason he doesn’t want to return to practice.

Finally, he has said that he doesn’t need to return to practicing psychology.

He believes that his 20 years taught him everything he needed to know to help people.

It would also be a lot of work for him to return to practice since he’s been out of the loop for several decades.

He’d need to undergo a lot of education to fill that gap.

That’s something he likely doesn’t have time for nor an interest in doing.

Dr. Phil is concentrating on his work as an entertainer instead.


What Qualifications Does Dr. Phil Have?

qualification word written on wood block. qualification text on table, concept


To determine the qualifications that Dr. Phil has as a psychologist, it’s important to know his background.

He started his studies at the University of Tulsa where he received a football scholarship.

He’d played as a linebacker throughout high school.

His undergraduate studies finished when he attended Midwestern State University in 1975.

Four years after that, he received his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of North Texas.

It was in 1979 that he started practicing psychology with his father.

After a few years of one-on-one psychology, he decided it wasn’t quite what he wanted to do.

He turned his efforts to two businesses instead.

The first, called Pathways, was a self-motivation seminar.

It was popular, and he saw moderate success with it.

The second business venture was Courtroom Sciences.

This business helped lawyers prepare for court by providing mock trials, mediation, jury selection, and behavioral analysis.

It was through Courtroom Sciences that he met Oprah Winfrey.

She was facing legal trouble with a beef company that claimed she had defamed them.

He helped her with the case which was ultimately won.

After that, Dr. Phil started to guest star on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

His popularity led him to start his own show called Dr. Phil.

While the show has had its share of controversies, it has remained one of the most-viewed shows on daytime television.

With all this in mind, there’s no question that Dr. Phil has the experience to advise guests.

It also indicates that he’s aware of what makes an entertaining show since he’s worked with Oprah Winfrey before.

As a former practicing psychologist and an entertainer, Dr. Phil has some qualifications to run a show and give non-clinical advice to his guests.


Is Dr. Phil A Forensic Psychologist?

Dr. Phil McGraw & wife Robin McGraw at the 2016 Kids' Choice Awards


Because of his new true-crime podcast, Mystery and Murder: Analysis by Dr. Phil, you may wonder if he has a background in forensic psychology.

Dr. Phil studied clinical psychology at school.

Clinical psychology covers mental illness and behavioral disorders.

The goal of clinical psychology is to treat these behaviors and replace them with positive behaviors instead.

Despite going to school for clinical psychology originally, he also has a post-doctorate in forensic psychology.

Forensic psychology covers the mental illness and behaviors of criminals.

It’s used to help predict certain behaviors that might lead to a life of crime in certain individuals.

It’s useful in helping individuals receive the care they need before they start committing crimes.

It can also be helpful for law enforcement as it can give them a profile for the type of individual that they’re looking for.

Because he has a post-doctorate in forensic psychology, Dr. Phil was a forensic psychologist and has that experience.

Since he’s no longer licensed, he is no longer a forensic psychologist.



Dr. Phil is, academically, a doctor.

He received his doctorate in clinical psychology and practiced for a number of years before surrendering his license.

Dr. Phil is no longer a practicing doctor because he does not have a license to practice.

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