The Man Behind the Mustache: The Truth About Dr. Phil

Dr. Phil McGraw has been coming into the homes of millions of families all across America, thanks to his successful television show Dr. Phil. After his appearance on Oprah, fans fell in love with Dr. Phil, and he has since become a staple in pop culture. The popular host continues to blend psychology and reality TV for amazing entertainment. His style impacted various other shows, and he has produced over two thousand episodes of Dr. Phil to date.

Dr. Phil and Robin on the red carpet in 2007 / Dr. Phil at a fundraiser standing on stage with a woman rubbing his bald head / Dr. Phil standing with Robin and his sons with their girlfriends
Photo by Jim Smeal, BEI, Shutterstock / Chris Hatcher, BEI, Shutterstock / Andrew Parson, Shutterstock

After premiering on September 16th, 2002, Dr. Phil beat the test of time and remains relevant today. With 18 seasons and counting, the Dr. Phil show is promoted as “the most comprehensive forum on mental health issues in the history of television.” His wife Robin is also featured on the show through her segment “Robin’s World.” Although Dr. Phil McGraw has been in the headlines for years, there is still a lot to learn about the McGraw family.

Today we’re gonna take a deep dive into America’s favorite therapist.

A Football Star

We are used to seeing Dr. Phil as a smart therapist on screen, but he had a life before psychology. He was born in Vinita, Oklahoma, and grew up with three sisters in North Texas. Even though his father, Joseph J. McGraw, was a psychologist, Dr. Phil wasn’t sure what he wanted to be as a teenager. Back in high school, Phil McGraw was a football player.

Dr. Phil in his high school football uniform

That’s right; that six-foot-four talk show host used to be a linebacker. He was really good at it too. He even earned a football scholarship to the University of Tulsa before graduating from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, with his bachelor’s degree.

High School Sweethearts

Dr. Phil’s wife Robin is almost as famous as he is. He constantly talks about how much he loves her and how amazing she is. They are a beautiful couple, but, as it turns out, she isn’t his first wife. In high school, he dated (and eventually married) Debbie Higgins. Dr. Phil even stated how natural it was: “I was the big football player, and she was the cheerleader. It was just the thing to do.”

Dr. Phil and his wife, Robin, when they were first married
Source: Pinterest

Unfortunately, the high school sweethearts didn’t have a fairy tale ending. The couple broke up in 1973, three years into their marriage, and Dr. Phil said it just didn’t work out. However, his ex didn’t have the best things to say about the TV doctor. She called him domineering and said he has unrealistic expectations of marriage.

His Rise to Fame

As you probably already know, Dr. Phil first made a name for himself by appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the late 1990s. The talk-show host first met Dr. Phil in 1996 when she needed a therapist on set. She was dealing with cattlemen who accused her of defaming the beef industry on her show. That’s when she hired Dr. Phil to help and counsel her.

Oprah and Dr. Phil without a mustache
Photo by Amanda Schwab / Starpix / Shutterstock

Oprah was so impressed that she helped him create his own show where he counseled people on television. Dr. Phil took the world by storm and became a massive success. In 2015, Forbes stated that in the past 12 months, Dr. Phil earned $70 million, making him the 15th highest-paid celebrity in the entire world. Now, that’s pretty impressive for a country boy.

Dr. Phil vs. the Press

Once you hit celebrity status, gossip comes with the territory. The public loves a good scandal, and the tabloids love to make up stories about some of the most famous people in Hollywood. Dr. Phil is no exception. After years of rumors all over the media, Robin had enough. The couple filed a 250 million-dollar lawsuit against The National Inquirer for publishing lies about their relationship as well as other aspects of their lives.

Dr. Phil and Robin on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards
Photo by Picture Perfect / Shutterstock

While discussing the suit with The Daily Mail, Phil stated, “As a member of the media, I have a deep respect for the First Amendment. But it does not protect these people who knowingly print lies for money, particularly lies about my wife.”

Robin’s Sweet Tooth

Like most of us, Robin has a sweet tooth and loves a delicious dessert. Her favorite isn’t ice cream or pie; it’s cake. And not just any cake, a full-blown wedding cake! That sounds a little intense for me, but it makes her happy, and her husband definitely knows that. Robin gushed about how Phil always keeps the romance alive whenever it’s time for a celebration.

Robin McGraw sitting in the grass on a blanket with a piece of cake in her hand and the rest of it sitting on a cake dome
Source: Twitter

“He always does the one thing he knows I really love, and that is getting my favorite dessert for every occasion, wedding cake. That is my go-to-dessert, and he knows I love it and always makes sure it is here for me.” That is so sweet! I need to find myself a husband who treats me the way Dr. Phil treats Robin.

A Long, Happy Marriage

When we watch Dr. Phil on TV, he appears to be the smartest one in the room and certainly shows his guest a good amount of tough love. He comes across as very level headed and logical because he doesn’t show much emotion. Sometimes, you have to act that way to truly help people. However, when it comes to his family, Dr. Phil wears his heart on his sleeve.

Robin and Phil McGraw with their two children when they were younger
Source: Pinterest

The tough therapist we all know and love definitely has a soft side. For his 40th anniversary, Phil took to social media to show how happy he is. He posted video clips that featured romantic music and a montage of family photos through the years. He captioned it, “40 loving years and counting with the same sweet girl I met at 19!! Here’s to 40 more. I love you, Phillip.”

His Opinion on Legalization

Dr. Phil has been very open about his opinion on kids smoking certain green products, and he thinks it’s a terrible idea. He famously explained, “Your brain grows until you’re 25 at least, and it’s constantly changing. When you get to be 18, 19, 20, it’s actually pruning itself back. When you smoke… it’s like opening your computer up and pouring water inside, a lot of things short out, and it connects where it’s not supposed to and really creates problems.”

Dr. Phil on the red carpet in 2016
Photo by Henry Lamb / Photowire / BEI / Shutterstock

His spokespeople reported that this was just a metaphor about “impairing cognitive efficiency.” But critics say that the statement does not line up with modern medical evidence. With the world evolving and certain drugs becoming more accepted, I think it’s important to look at both sides. Everything has side effects.


Cheating Might Be Genetic

On several occasions, Dr. Phil discussed how brain scans could actually showcase people who are more likely to cheat on their partners. The concept is fascinating, and the talk-show host revealed that “There are certain brain patterns that make us high-risk for this. They’ve now identified a gene that they believe may have a contribution to this, as well. So yes, how your brain is configured, how it’s wired, can be a huge contributing factor.”

Dr. Phil sitting on a motorcycle holding fruit by the foots
Photo by Broadimage / Shutterstock

That’s a really interesting concept that makes a lot of sense… when Dr. Phil explains it. He added, “You find these people that have a history of cheating, you compare their brains to normal, and you see it’s dramatically different.”

Family Tragedy

In 2001, Robin’s sister Candi was a victim of a terrible act of violence. Someone threw a jar of sulfuric acid over a highway overpass. When the acid came through the windshield, Cindi was in the passenger seat and got severely injured. Over 70% of her body and face were burned, and she was in the hospital for three weeks.

Robin and her sister posing for a portrait
Source: Twitter

It’s honestly a miracle that she survived. In fact, there was only a 30% chance that she would make it through. Cindi made an appearance on Dr. Phil so that she could speak about the tragedy and about how she got through such a traumatic incident that required 12 surgeries.

His Son’s Talent

As we know, Dr. Phil followed in his dad’s footsteps and went into psychology. So naturally, one would assume that his son would pursue a similar career path. After all, Dr. Phil is the most famous therapist in the world. His son Jay inherited his dad’s interests and is also a TV doctor and talk-show host.

Dr. Phil, his son Jay / Dr. Phil with his son Jordan
Photo by Henry Lamb, Photowire, BEI, Shutterstock / Larry Marano, Shutterstock

His son Jordan chose a completely different career path. He stayed in the show biz industry, but instead of becoming a TV personality, he is a pretty successful recording artist and even opened for the Jonas Brothers. He started playing guitar at 15 and joined a few bands before he finally launched a solo career. Joe Jonas directed his first single “Flexible,” which had a few celebrity cameos, including one from his dear old dad.

Why They Don’t Drink

As we mentioned, both Dr. Phil and his wife Robin came from troubled homes. Neither of them had a great childhood, as they watched alcohol break their families apart. Since they are both aware that alcohol addiction runs in their families, they both refrain from the bottle.

Dr. Phil and Robin posing together on the red carpet
Photo by Mediapunch / Shutterstock

McGraw is very open about the fact that he doesn’t drink. In 2014, he revealed that he hadn’t had a drink in more than 45 years. Robin said, “The first date that we went on, I asked him if he drank alcohol, and he said, ‘No. I think I’m allergic to it’ and I said, ‘Oh, I think I love you!’” It’s like a match made in heaven.

Spreading the Wealth

Ever since he made his debut on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil has had tremendous success. His talk-show is a huge hit, and he has become America’s favorite therapist. However, the McGraw family has no problem sharing their secrets of success with the rest of the world.

Reese Witherspoon, Dr. Phil, and Robin posing together at an awards show
Photo by BEI / Shutterstock

While enjoying a long and happy marriage, a beautiful family, and an overall fulfilling life, Dr. Phil and Robin know that not everyone is as lucky as they are. Instead of just enjoying their lives, they want to spread the wealth so that other people can be as happy as they are. Robin doesn’t like to keep secrets, which inspired the title of her podcast, I’ve Got A Secret.

Playing Games

We watch Dr. Phil constantly encourage his guests to be open and honest, but when Phil and Robin were still in the dating game, they weren’t as truthful as you’d expect. These two even played some relationship mind-games. They started dating, but before things got serious, they broke up. Robin wanted to focus on her studies, but then she had second thoughts about Phil.

Robin and Dr. Phil posing on the red carpet in 2015
Photo by Andrew Parsons / Shutterstock

She called his house phone and left a message for him to call her. When he did, she told her friend to answer and tell him she was out on a date. I guess she made him a little bit jealous, and her trick worked! He won her over, and by the next Valentine’s Day, they were engaged.

I’ve Got a Secret

As Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin McGraw certainly made a name for herself in her own right. She comes across as the sweetest woman ever when she appears on Dr. Phil, and she is also a successful author who has written nine books. In September 2019, she launched her podcast called I’ve Got a Secret.

Robin McGraw sitting in a chair on the red carpet
Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

On the podcast, Robin discusses her life as an entrepreneur, mother, philanthropist, and best-selling author. She shares her thoughts and brings in experts to share their opinions. Her intention is to help motivate and empower others by guiding them in the right direction- particularly women. Her advice and knowledge, in general, are actually pretty helpful. I recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.

The Trick to a Perfect Marriage

It’s clear that Dr. Phil and Robin have a beautiful relationship and love each other immensely. Their long marriage is inspiring and extremely rare in Hollywood. Of course, there are fights and disagreements in every relationship, but the trick is to get past that and remember why you fell in love in the first place.

Robin and Dr. Phil joking around on a Christmas themed set
Source: Twitter

Robin revealed that her secret to a long, successful marriage is to perfect the art of flirting. Many people flirt during the honeymoon phase and then slowly stop. Robin believes that flirting is the secret to keeping a relationship hot and steamy. “Always flirt! A piece of advice I’d tell women: learn what your husband considers flirting and learn what makes your husband happy,” she says.

No Comment

As we know, Dr. Phil and Robin are no strangers to the tabloids. They’ve heard plenty of rumors about themselves and their families, and they really don’t appreciate it. We mentioned how they filed a lawsuit against the tabloids, proving how serious they are about others interfering with their relationship.

Dr. Phil and Robin standing next to his star on the Hollywood walk of fame with Robin pointing to Dr. Phil
Photo by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

It can get extremely frustrating when people are continually lying about you and smearing your name just to make money. Robin said: “I think it’s the belief that you can’t live in Hollywood and be happily married, but you can.” When she discussed the press fueling feuds on The Talk, Robin expressed the importance of the phrase “no comment.”

Plastic Surgery Speculations

It’s no secret that Dr. Phil is married to a beautiful woman. But Robin’s good looks and youthful appearance really has people talking. Some people wonder what kind of food she eats, how much water she drinks, or what her skincare routine is. At 66 years old, she’s doing something right. The woman is always glowing.

Robin McGraw at a younger age / Robin McGraw on the red carpet in 2007
Source: Twitter / Photo by Jim Smeal, BEI, Shutterstock

However, other people have speculated that her stunning looks aren’t just lucky genetics, but that she actually went under the knife. I think they are just jealous. It’s hard to believe that Robin got surgeries to enhance or maintain her looks. Not that there is anything wrong with getting plastic surgery, it’s just difficult for me to believe Robin did. Some people are naturally beautiful.

Self-Care Advocate

Robin’s mother’s untimely death really inspired her to take care of herself. Robin admitted, “I grew up with an amazing mother,” but she said that her selflessness came at a huge cost. She felt strange, so she called to speak to Dr. Phil. After telling her daughter she felt funny, Robin recalled:

Dr. Phil and Robin with two grandchildren on the red carpet in 2016
Photo by Broadimage / Shutterstock

“And I said, ‘What do you mean by funny?’ And before I had even finished that question, she was already gone. She died, that fast, of undiagnosed heart disease.” From that moment forward, Robin has been determined not to carry her mother’s legacy and always makes sure to take care of her own health as well as her family’s.

Remembering Cindi

Remember Robin’s sister Cindi? The one who miraculously survived a terrible accident? Sadly, she passed away a few years ago, at 68 years old. Since the sisters were super close, the death was understandably hard on Robin. The grieving sister shared her thoughts on Instagram, saying, “We are all heartbroken, and we will miss her every day. She was our hero. You 3 made her life a dream.”

Brandi Broaduss with her mother Cindi posing together
Source: Facebook / Brandi Broaddus Conover

Robin continued, “She lived every day for her daughters, and you always made her the happiest woman ever! I will celebrate her and her strength and her unwavering support for me for the rest of my life. I miss her dearly.”


Back in 1988, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists determined that Dr. Phil hired an ex-patient of his for “part-time temporary employment” and stated “a possible failure to provide proper separation between the termination of therapy and the initiation of employment.” So, the board issued a letter of reprimand and imposed administrative consequences.

Dr. Phil behind a podium giving a speech in 2013
Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

The board also investigated allegations that the patient made against Dr. Phil, claiming that he initiated inappropriate contact with her. However, the “findings of fact” documented that there was no reference to any kind of physical contact at all. In 1990, the complaint file was closed. Still, the controversy always seems to surface.

A Real Psychologist?

In 1990, McGraw teamed up with a lawyer named Gary Dobbs, and the pair co-founded Courtroom Sciences, Inc. (CSI), a trial consulting firm that actually brought Dr. Phil and Oprah Winfrey together. CSI turned out to be a profitable enterprise. They helped companies, as well as injured accusers, reach settlements.

Oprah and Dr. Phil on the red carpet at the Emmy Awards in 2002
Photo by Alex Berliner / BEI / Shutterstock

There are a lot of people out there who claim that Dr. Phil isn’t a real doctor. After founding CSI, McGraw pursued psychology. His license was kept current and valid for 15 years until 2006 when he decided to retire. In 2008, Dr. Phil stated that his TV job doesn’t involve the practice of psychology. In 2002, the California Board of Psychology determined that he doesn’t require a license because the show’s premise is “entertainment” rather than psychology.

Weight Loss Supplements

As we know, obesity is a huge issue in America. Studies show that one out of five deaths in the United States are linked to obesity. Dr. Phil got involved in the weight loss industry in 2003 to see if he could help the situation. He began selling energy bars, shakes, and supplements for the company “Shape It Up, Woo Woo!”

Dr. Phil being interviewed about his diet book with fruits, nuts, and other healthier options spread out on a table
Source: Pinterest

Unfortunately, the supplements were met with much criticism from various sources, and McGraw was accused of lacking the expertise to recommend weight loss products. In March 2004, Dr. Phil pulled his supplements off the market when he was facing a Federal Trade Commission investigation into Shape Up’s claims.

An Independent Biography

In 2005, multiple people who used McGraw’s products declared an intent to file a class-action lawsuit against him. Reportedly, people were disappointed when they spent $120 a month on supplements that didn’t even help them with weight loss. In 2006, he settled for $10.5 million. But that wasn’t the end of his controversy.

Dr. Phil, Robin, Jay McGraw, and his girlfriend at the time on the red carpet in 2005
Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

A book entitled The Making of Dr. Phil was written by two reporters: Sophia Dembling and Lisa Gutierrez. The biography interviews Dr. Phil’s old classmates and childhood friends. According to the book, McGraw used unethical business practices early in his career. It also claims that he allegedly abused his first wife. Obviously, Dr. Phil and his associates wouldn’t promote the book, so you probably never heard of it.

Childhood Problems

No matter how amazing someone’s life can look from the outside, nobody’s life is picture perfect. Everyone has their own set of challenges, and famous talk-show hosts are no exception, even Dr. Phil. Considering how level headed and logical he is, he faced a lot of problems at home growing up, and so did his wife, Robin.

Robin and Phil McGraw on the red carpet at the Country Music Awards in 2015
Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

Robin revealed how hard it was to grow up with an alcoholic father: “I lived in uncertainty every day because of it and didn’t like the feeling. I made decisions early on that I was going to do everything I could to be in control of myself and my life.” Robin and Dr. Phil both made a commitment to never put their own children through that and give them the best life possible.

Britney Drama

It’s no secret that celebrities need therapists too, and what better therapist to go to than Dr. Phil himself? We all know that 2007 wasn’t the best year for Britney Spears. After getting into all sorts of trouble and heading towards a downward spiral, McGraw decided to go visit the pop star in her hospital room in 2008 and tried to convince her to take part in an “intervention” on his show.

Britney Spears on the red carpet in 2007 sporting a wig
Photo by Matt Baron / BEI / Shutterstock

This drew a huge backlash from a number of mental health professionals. Lou Taylor, the spokeswoman for the Spears’ family, said, “This is another example of a trust being betrayed. Rather than helping the family situation, the celebrity psychologist caused additional damage.”

You Can’t Help Everyone

In 2011, a homeless man named Ted Williams became an overnight media sensation after his golden voice went viral. He was offered to appear on numerous reputable talk shows. It was later revealed that Williams was still drinking, despite the fact he used to be an addict. Dr. Phil brought Williams onto his stage for an intervention episode.

Ted Williams on the street asking for money / Ted Williams on the red carpet
Source: Twitter / Photo by Henry Lamb, Photowire, BEI, Shutterstock

Reportedly, after the episode, Williams and his daughter got into a fight at the Renaissance Hotel, and it got pretty bad; police were even called. No charges were filed. Dr. Phil truly seemed like he was trying to help; he even paid for Williams to go to rehab. But nothing worked. After 12 days in the fancy rehab facility, Williams left.

More Controversy

Dr. Phil brings all kinds of people who need help on to his show. He has a very sharp mind and seems to be good at reading people, but not all the time. Back in April 2008, a producer on the Dr. Phil show secured bail for the ringleader of eight teenage girls, who violently beat another girl and recorded it all on videotape.

Dr. Phil on the set of his show looking down on someone who is out of the photograph
Source: Reddit

The show actually planned to cover the incident and dedicate a special one hour show to these poor girls. However, shortly after, news broke that Dr. Phil’s producer, of all people, was the one who posted bail for the teen. This didn’t look good for the show, and they immediately had to cancel their plans for the episode.

Ups and Downs

Phil wasn’t always making $79 million a year. At 12 years old, Dr. Phil and his dad were homeless, living in a car in Kansas City. Then they got a room for $5 at the YMCA. Finally, they got enough money together to put a deposit on a one-bedroom apartment. They had no running water, electricity, heat, or air conditioning.

Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Harvey, and Dr. Phil posing together on the Hollywood Walk of Fame when Steve Harvey received his star.
Photo by Jim Smeal / BEI / Shutterstock

Psychology wasn’t his only career direction. Dr. Phil is actually a private pilot with an instrument rating and can fly single-engine planes. What you may not know about Dr. Phil is that he suffers from Type 2 diabetes. That explains his passion for health and obesity prevention.

Is He a Real Doctor?

Okay, so here is the biggest misconception about Dr. Phil. Many people accuse him of not being an actual doctor, and we will get to the bottom of this. So, Dr. Phil is not a psychologist. Yes, he is educated in the field, and he used to be certified to practice psychology in the state of California.

Dr. Phil walking up to the set of The View
Photo by Mediapunch / Shutterstock

However, he never renewed his license. Since his show is for “entertainment” purposes, he is not breaking any laws. He is highly educated in the field, and, technically speaking, he can still be called a doctor. But he is not qualified to practice or represent himself as a practicing psychologist without a valid license.