A recent episode of daytime talk show Dr. Phil has gone viral after a Black guest, Treasure Richards, 16, claimed to believe she was a White woman while spewing hate speech against African-Americans. The show has not only raised questions about the truth of this young woman’s story but also about the state of mental health within the Black community.
A woman claiming to be Treasure’s sister, Nina Richards, recently told Essence that her sister, mother, Monique Richards, and brother Kendal Richards all appeared on the show for notoriety and a free trip to Los Angeles. During their segment, the family was introduced to psychotherapist Spirit, who offered the teen keen insight into what could possibly be the root of Treasure’s problem—self-hatred.
Viewers will recall the moment the Atlanta-based therapist offered her services to the teen, only to be met with disrespect, something Spirit would never allow in her own practice.
“I have never in my adult life ever been talked to like that by anybody, much less a child. She is not someone that I would see in treatment because she’s not motivated for treatment. She doesn’t believe that he needs help, she’s not interested in help and she’s not interested in changing at this point in time,” Spirit said.
While the board-certified counselor isn’t one to accept nonsense, she understands Treasure’s issues are far greater than the exaggerated insults and ignorant speech she displayed on-camera. In fact, Nina’s claims that the family fabricated the story only speak to an increased chance of there being serious mental health problems within their household.
“If she is the sister, what she’s alleging does not change the fact that there is a mental health diagnosis there, it only changes what the mental health diagnosis is,” shares the clinician. “If you get caught up in the outrageous things she says, then you miss the actual story. I never believed for a second that she actually believed she was transracial and I never believed that she hated Black people. As I said on the show, I believe she hates herself, and I believe there’s some hatred and some frustration with her mother as well. This is more about humiliation, embarrassment, control, manipulation and all these other things.”
Nina has accused her mother of exploiting her siblings and the death of their step-father for 15 minutes of fame, which if true, speaks volumes about not only mother Monique, but the entire family.
“If what the sister is asserting actually is the case, that the mother is behind this alleged scam, there’s a diagnosis of Malingering Factitious Disorder that could be possible,” Spirit infers. “I think it’s important that we use the proper terminology, especially in communities of color, because it seems like we utilize the right terms for other people and have sympathy for them, but not for ourselves. We’re just “crazy.” There are mental health reasons that lead people to do this kind of thing, and that very well may be what’s happening with Treasure’s mother. What would it take for a woman to exploit her children in such a way? If mom is sick and she’s the head of the family, then all of her children are sick as a result.”
It has yet to be confirmed that the Richards’ actually pulled a fast one on Dr. Phil and his staff. Still, the television host was immediately met with accusations of exploiting the family after allowing Treasure to speak so outrageously throughout the show. Many believe producers knew the family could possibly be lying, but chose to have them on anyway. According to Spirit, this was not the case.
“The producer who reached out to me, I’m more than familiar with her. We have worked together on previous shows together, so I had no reason to believe, and still have no reason to believe, that she was not 100% genuine in her wanting to follow this story and wanting to help,” Spirit claims. “We spent so much time before the show even aired trying to figure out how to help the family, so I have no reason at all to believe it was a stunt, if you will.”
She continues, “When she brought me the story, the production team was concerned with Dr. Phil looking like the stuffy, old White man, beating up on this young Black girl, and they didn’t want that. He is very serious about the level of production they do. The pre-production file that they sent me on this family was probably the biggest file that I’ve ever gotten from a production team. It wasn’t the kind of thing where producers are telling the family, ‘hey, come out here just to tell this story,’ and that’s it. They did their homework, backstory on the brother, backstory on the mother, backstory on Treasure, pre-production quotes, interview pieces, it was a lot. It wasn’t a fly-by-night circumstance.”
Despite chances the family wasn’t 100% truthful, Spirit sees the value in “meeting people where they are.”
“Even if they’re not being factual, everything means something in therapy.”