Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy


Marriage and Family Therapy

First Committee Member

Katherine M. Hertlein, Chair

Second Committee Member

Gerald R. Weeks

Third Committee Member

Stephen T. Fife

Graduate Faculty Representative

Paul J. Traudt

Number of Pages



Marriage and family therapists work from an ecological perspective, which includes the influence of mass media. The current study, a quantitative content analysis of The Dr. Phil Show, draws from communication studies, specifically cultivation theory. A content analysis is a first step to understanding how television messages affect client expectations of psychotherapy. Coding categories adapted from the common factors of psychotherapy literature are employed to determine how well the messages of The Dr. Phil Show correspond with practices related to positive psychotherapeutic outcomes. Common factors specific to the field of marriage and family therapy are utilized. The Dr. Phil Show was selected for its popularity, but also because it meets three criteria associated with greater effect size in cultivation studies: 1) genre or program specificity, 2) credible content, and 3) little familiarity with the topic for viewers. Seven hypotheses were tested, with the assumption that there would be significantly more negative events than positive. Overall, the results are more positive than expected for some variables, including a relational conceptualization of problems. However, there were numerous personal attacks and criticism, which undermines much of the positive results. Implications for marriage and family therapists are discussed.


Common factors; Content analysis; Cultivation; Dr. Phil (Television program); Family counseling; Marital psychotherapy; Mass media; Psychotherapy; Psychotherapy expectations


Counseling Psychology | Mass Communication

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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