Are psychologists in Reality TV making the drama better or worse?

Psychologists participating in Reality TV shows has come under increased scrutiny since shows such as Married at First Sight and 2017’s short-lived Last Resort.

In 2017 the Australian Psychological Society was forced to redraft its Ethical Guidelines for Psychologists Working in the Media due to psychologists working as talent in shows where participants were put through the Reality TV wringer.

An increase in this area, raises questions about whether psychologists are working with producers to stretch the drama or assist to resolve it.

In the case of Married at First Sight John Aitken defends the off-screen psychologists who look after its emotive participants.

“Participants get a full duty of care, before, during and after the show by a totally independent set of psychologists because there is a lot of pressure on them during the experiment,” he said.

Yet in 2017 a complaint to the Psychological Council of New South Wales resulted in Aitken and Mel Schilling no longer credited as psychologists on the show but as “relationship experts.” Trisha Stafford remains credited as a neuropsychotherapist.

Schilling, who recently copped some criticism for reprimanding a male over derogatory language whilst failing to address female behaviour, recently told TV Tonight psychologists within Reality TV was still a new area.

“We’re actually all learning together working in conjunction with the Board and the APS to develop those guidelines. What does it mean for a psychologist to be in the media? What is our responsibility and our duty of care?” she said.

“We don’t do anything, we observe them and talk to them,” Trisha Stafford insisted.

But surely producers construct situations to elicit dramatic outcomes?

“Not really,” Stafford continued. “They film them. It’s an Unscripted television show. I mean you couldn’t script them.”

Schilling added, “That’s where it’s an experiment, and like any experiment you throw in different variables and see how people respond to that. So this is capturing the responses to that.”

The Australian Psychological Society did not respond to enquiries about its redrafted guidelines for psychologists working in the media.

TV Tonight was unable to find a registered psychologist willing to go on the record.

Via: News Corp, Daily Mail


  1. Armchair Analyst

    whilst this show is addictive it has little or no value. The experts knew what they were getting themselves into. i would question there expertness though.

  2. Only watch snipits of this awful reality programme. Take a tip Its one of the worst realtiy tv programme I wouldn’t waste any money on programms like this. They are pathetic and the so called experts are stupid. The people who were selected for this programme boy are they regretting it now.
    Going to need lots of counselling

  3. I think this show has somewhat changed over the years…. the network has seen a lot of worth being made here from advertising.. The show is heavily scripted! the first promo to air with elizabeth even had a hint of what was going to happened! its very predictable, there are even mistakes in the editing, and even last night ep had a voice over redone! nine can say what they want but its very clear here that the show is very scripted. the experts are just puppets in this show and are being paid very well to act the way they are. it all makes for exciting tv and max income for all involved.

  4. A valuable question as ethics and morals are needed in this genre and media in general. The media has a duty of care in how they tell stories, show media clips and showcase reality ‘experiments’ and shows.

    • I’m not sure regular viewers who watch these shows worry too much about the psychological welfare of the participants, they want to see how far human behaviour can devolve when put into a competing relationship scenario, especially if it means using sex as a weapon, there are plenty looking for vicarious enjoyment and prepared to be judgemental of other peoples folly’s and obvious stupidity as they willingly exploit themselves for a brief period of narcissistic fame, that is why reality TV in general has been so popular in recent years

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