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By Neil Bernstein
Putting Yourself in the Picture
Q: I keep hearing therapists on the radio or seeing them on television and wondering how they managed to get there. Do you have tips on how to break into the media?
A: We've all seen and heard therapists do their stuff on the air. Some of us look down our noses at these smooth, glib personalities. How can they even dare to call themselves therapists? And others envy them for their public recognition, well-tuned media skills, and popular influence. But love them or hate them, they're an integral part of the media landscape these days.
If you're a sober, intellectually oriented, soft-spoken therapist, you probably aren't cut out for television. In fact, the media operates by principles different from those typically found in our consulting rooms. The quiet, thoughtful, contemplative therapist must become much more spontaneous and animated to come across on radio or television. Statements that begin with "It's possible that . . ." or "It's hard to say without more information, but . . ." don't cut it. To succeed on air, you need to be fast, dynamic, straightforward, opinionated, and funny.
My first media appearance came about 20 years ago. A publicity person had seen me do a conference presentation and asked if I was interested in being in the media. About a month later, a producer from the Sally Jessy Raphael Show, who'd gotten my name from the publicist, called to ask if I'd be willing to appear on a show about single men who've never married—a topic I'd given a few presentations on. The producer asked if I could round up some seasoned bachelors to appear with me. The ability to locate guests who are willing to speak about their own lives in this way is often what determines whether the show is interested in having you appear. I found it wasn't hard to get takers. Like me, the bachelors I contacted were titillated by the thought of appearing on national television. They agreed to be the guests, while I'd be the expert on the subject.