September 2015 archive

Leaning on the Experts

talk radio expertTalk radio has been a valued service for years because it gives people access to expert opinions they would otherwise not have access to. Programs about sports or the arts serve the purpose of enlightening, informing or entertaining their audience, but programs hosted by mental health experts can serve a more critical role to people. The audience of a talk radio program about psychology is typically in need of mental health advice as a matter of personal wellness. This is a service that everyone should have access to, but there are very few mediums offering it publicly.

Talk radio hosts are always experts in their fields, be it sports, the arts, literature or psychology. They also fill the role they do because they have an amenable celebrity persona, but first and foremost, they are experts. A mental health professional, making their expertise available to the public through talk radio, is a resource that many come to rely on. Personal counseling services are very expensive and are not available to every demographic. Many people have to be creative when seeking counseling or mental health advice. A talk radio mental health expert can become an important figure in the lives of those who are in need of their input.

Talk radio hosts who invite callers in offer them an opportunity to engage, dialogue, share opinions and receive advice. An important part of processing life events is engaging in discussion about them, and an important part of recovering from adversity is receiving credible advice. Many people are forced to forego these ways of coping because they do not have a credible person to take these matters to. A talk radio host, although never as close as a personal relationship, can be one way that people have access to these services. For some people, particularly those in need of counsel, this is an invaluable service that guides them in their pursuit of good mental health.

The Human Need to Make Our Issues Public

radio airing personal mattersThere are some critics of talk radio and talk shows who feel that the cultural practice of airing personal problems in a public forum is narcissistic. They claim that putting personal problems on display in such a manner is vulgar and nothing more than a means of seeking celebrity status. However, there are others who would defend this type of catharsis, arguing that the need to make personal matters public comes from an innate human need to consider the opinion of the group. Its origins lie in our nature as a collective, social species.

Our media has a long history of talk radio and public television being presented in the format of a host in the role of judge and an audience in the role of jury. On television shows, the audience is present at the filming location, where as in radio programs, the audience is typically not present at the broadcast location. Regardless, the people who appear on or call into these programs are subjecting audience members to their personal matters. This practice seems to be logical to some and offensive to others.

It is certainly true that this media format can be abused, as in the case of the Jerry Springer show and other trash talk programs, but when used correctly, the format serves as a valuable public asset and discussion forum. People who serve as talk show subjects are essentially volunteering themselves for critique by the expert talk show host, as well as for second hand judgment from the show’s audience. This gives the subject of the program valuable insight into their own problems, and it gives the listening audience insight into the general problems being discussed.

Psychologist talk radio programs that invite callers to purge their personal matters on air are inviting them into a discussion forum that they trust for direction, and feel secure in. This is a valuable public service, not vulgarity or celebrity obsession.