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.