Unreal checks in with St. Louis' own Dr. Phil and contemplates the concept of occupational licensing

Unreal has long been a fan of pop psychologists, the louder the better, and so we were pleased to discover that St. Louis has its very own Dr. Phil. But this Dr. Phil doesn't just make grown men cry: He is an agent of true love. His system, the True Personal World View, which he created with the aid of a mathematician and a testing expert, matches couples on the basis of personal compatibility.

Dr. Phil Dembo spent a year testing the True Personal World View on willing student guinea pigs and says it was wildly successful. Late last year he began exercising his matchmaking powers on the adults of St. Louis.

We scheduled a phone interview for 4:30 in the afternoon. Just as the digital clock switched from 4:29, the phone rang.

Unreal: Wow, you called when you said you would!

Dr. Phil Dembo: I'm a stickler for promptness.

Huh. [Here Unreal must confess that we are not.] How does the True Personal World View work?

If people aren't compatible, they spend their entire marriage trying to convince the other person that their world-view is effective. People who have a similar approach navigate life together more easily, like partners. But with people who don't have a similar approach, everything is a struggle, even things that are supposed to be joyous and celebratory.

What kind of questions do you ask to determine compatibility?

The questions aren't important; it's how you answer. We want to find out how you really operate. Most people just put down what they think someone wants to hear. Like sexual adventurousness. For you that might be leaving the lights on. For him that might be swinging from the chandelier at the Ritz-Carlton.

Have you ever had to throw anyone out for total incompatibility the way eHarmony does?

I have not found anyone to be truly incompatible. With online dating, people are constantly altering their answers because they don't like the results they're getting, and they become parodies of themselves. I want people to be confident and happy. I tell clients: "If you chew with your mouth open, chew with your mouth open on the first date." We want to make sure you're your authentic self.

What if you're an asshole?

If you're an asshole, you want to act like an asshole. Some people like assholes. I know assholes who've been compatible. They're still mean, but they're happy.

If you become famous, will you have to change your name to avoid offending the other Dr. Phil?

I like to say I'm the real Dr. Phil; he just plays one on TV. 

Fully Licensed
Hair braiders. Professional wrestlers. Interior designers. What do these occupations have in common? They're just a few of the 75 professions that require an occupational license in Missouri. And while that number may sound like a lot, a recent survey found that Missouri actually requires fewer occupational licenses than any other state in the nation.

That's good news for the laissez-faire think tank, the Show-Me Institute. It also leaves room for improvement. In a recent commentary, Show-Me policy analyst David Stokes called for even fewer professional licenses, arguing that the system limits competition and increases prices.

Unreal: You write that it is "abject lunacy" to require people to have a license for hair braiding in Missouri. But it seems to make sense — who wants to go into the salon for cornrows and come out wearing a French braid?

David Stokes: If those mistakes are made, those people will lose their customers. I bring up African hair braiding because people are being required to spend thousands of hours in cosmetology training that has nothing to do with their profession. The only reason those requirements are there is to protect existing cosmetologists from competition.

Are you saying we should do away with all license requirements — even for surgeons and pharmacists?

No. With doctors, for example, the benefits of licensing probably outweigh the costs. The harm of a poorly done surgery far outweighs a poorly done haircut or massage.

Have you ever heard of an interior designer losing his or her license for bad taste?

No. I've never seen that. But there again, that's another industry where trade groups have pushed for regulations in which only some of them can call themselves "certified."

If we don't license professional wrestlers, how do we ensure that their routines remain choreographed?

That is a tricky one. How do you know the fix is in if there is no licensing to guarantee that? You make a good counterintuitive point.

James Bond — as everyone knows — is "licensed to kill." Does Missouri have any similar license?

None that I'm aware of. But I wouldn't doubt for a second that some lobbying agency out there is trying to get one. Private investigators are now licensed in Missouri. Maybe that was one of their provisions that didn't make the final cut. 

 
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