Mental health experts are mixed on the effectiveness of the therapies shown on some of our favorite Bravo shows. In this Women’s Health article, Elisabeth Netherton, MD, explains behind the healing sessions on reality TV.
Reality television has been my therapy for years. It started with Keeping Up With The Kardashians when I was home sick with mono in high school, and moved into The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills during a tough spot in my 20s.
But more and more, we are seeing alternative therapy and healing take place on the screen. From Jax Taylor’s dalliance with Reiki on Vanderpump Rules to Whitney Rose’s healing journey on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, it seems every show has mental health care moments that seem intended to educate fans, but often just leave them raising their eyebrows.
Dorit Kemsley goes to EMDR therapy on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
On the most recent season of RHOBH, viewers watched a disturbing break-in at Dorit and PK Kemsley’s home. The reality TV personality was home alone with the couple’s two young children, Jagger and Phoenix, who were sleeping in the next room when the burglary occurred. Dorit was held at gunpoint as she begged the robbers to spare her children’s lives.
Though the burglars left Dorit physically unharmed, she was traumatized by the experience and sought professional help through eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
EMDR is recommended by the World Health Organization as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After the therapy session Dorit—in full glam, naturally—pops out for a bougie lunch with Erika Jayne. While being supported by friends can be helpful after a trauma therapy session, all experts encourage a more low-key interaction following EMDR.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City see a shaman.
In the most recent season of the show, White Rose opens up about her individual healing journey after recently uncovering some memories of abuse from her childhood. Throughout the first few episodes, viewers have a front row seat as she works through this trauma with various healing modalities. It makes for some pretty inspiring (albeit at times goofy) television.
This leads all the RHOSLC ladies to participate in a group healing session spearheaded by Whitney during their cast trip to Arizona in episode two. Kseniya, who is identified as a shaman, leads the group in a blanket-clad outdoor ceremony where the ladies sip a cacao drink and discuss what they would like to “release” or heal from. Jen Shah releases the fear of her impending trial and calls in innocence, Whitney calls in oneness, and there are a lot of tears.
Dorinda Medley invites a sound healer to Blue Stone Manor on The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip.
In an effort to “make it nice” with her new co-stars, Dorinda plans a sound healing experience for the ladies upon their arrival at her house in the Berkshires. “I get right into that sort of thing; I think it centers you,” Dorinda says as viewers watch her sound healer of choice unpack tuning forks and singing bowls. And let me tell you, watching Phaedra Park, Brandi Glanville, Jill Zarin, and the rest of the cast lay down for a peaceful moment on a yoga moment is just as hilarious as it sounds.
While Dr. Netherton says there is no medical evidence on this method yet, it’s a classic example of a practice that’s essentially harmless. “I would just hate for that to be a substitute for an evaluation with a therapist or psychiatrist,” she cautions.
Jax Taylor sees a Reiki healer on Vanderpump Rules.
Jax’s choice was Reiki, a form of energy healing. To practice it, one lays down on a table, as seen in the show, and the person administering the healing touches different energy centers or chakras on the other person’s body, explains Bernstein, who is also a Reiki practitioner.
“When someone is having an explosive outburst, we want to get to the root of what’s causing that,” Dr. Netherton says. She recommends that someone struggling with expressing themselves productively engage in cognitive behavioral therapy to explore their thoughts and learn how to change their behaviors.
Read the full Women’s Health article with sources.