Dr. Charles Sophy is one of the new additions to the staff of Celebrity Rehab this season, brought on to examine and treat the mental-health of the celebrity patients. He comes on board with a resume to give Drew a run for his money (he maintains a private practice, serves as the Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, is a clinical instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles Neuro-Psychiatric Institute and lectures regularly). Below, we talk rehab, controversy and Gary with the man Dr. Drew calls “a blessing to our team.”
How long have you known Dr. Drew? How did this collaboration come about?
I was invited to be on his radio show about a year ago and we got to know each other and saw that we had a lot of common interests, that our strengths complemented each other. We both have good pieces of a puzzle, so it works well.
Did you follow the first season of Celebrity Rehab?
I did, very closely. I enjoyed it very much. That’s what started the connection. I was on his radio show to talk about child welfare in Los Angeles, which is my other job, and we started talking about the show and ways to support him and how to make it a notch better. I figured that there was a whole component of mental health underlying all these substance-abuse disorders that we could handle in a more direct way, and get a message out to the world to know that oftentimes, there’s a co-occurring disorder with addiction.
There are still people who are skeptical as to whether addicts can receive truly comprehensive treatment in front of cameras. What are your thoughts on that?
I understand why people think that, but you have to go a little deeper and realize that due to the many layers that the celebrities we treat have, from a narcissistic standpoint, from a mental-health standpoint, from a substance-abuse standpoint, they sometimes need that in-your-face reality shock to really get to the root of dealing with the problem. Sometimes it takes getting in front of all these people while baring your soul to be treated.
In your experience, can Celebrity Rehab be just as effective as a non-filmed rehab program?
Absolutely. And I wouldn’t expect a viewer to always believe that. But being on the set and watching the transformations of a lot of these people was wonderful. They really embraced their treatment. They took it very seriously. Some fought it more than others, but in the end, they came full circle to at least know that sobriety is a possible way of life and the steps and tools to maintain it.
Did participating in the show make you more of a believer?
Totally. Being able to treat people, watching them go through it, was very impactful for me. You have to strip these people down. That’s what the show does: it strips them down, both from the drugs or alcohol and from the emotional standpoint. They’re raw, and you get to watch them rebuild.
Dr. Drew says if given the choice, he’d rather treat a normal civilian than a celebrity. What do you think about that?
I understand what he’s saying. There are many layers to a celebrity, both from an external standpoint and an internal standpoint. Their persona that the world sees is often different from the persona inside or the one that comes out when they’re alone or with their families. So you have to treat both of those components and bring it together effectively. That’s what Drew’s referring to. It’s very difficult to get all that moving forward in one piece.
In your treating of celebrities, was there any sort of awe or appreciation of your patients that you had to get over before treating them?
No. I’ve been in the public eye and was shot in the middle of it last year. Once you’ve been in that sort of limelight and under that kind of scrutiny, you’re just there to treat the person and help them understand that they’re a human being who needs help. Having that perspective enabled me to be able to meet with them and treat them like any other person.
I guess you’re referring to the Paris Hilton controversy of last year. How was it going through that?
It’s nothing that I can really say anything about other than it was another experience in my life.
We saw you treating Gary in this week’s episode. What were your impressions of him? He seems awfully combative.
He’s combative. He’s a little bit on the paranoid side, not really wanting to believe he’s there for help. His perception is skewed, so the way I got to him was to make it real for him. I also helped him understand that the problems he’s had through his life are treatable. There’s something wrong inside his brain that we can help him fix. This isn’t all about addiction, it’s also about what drives you to addiction and finding your triggers. Teaching him that we could help him with medicine made him greatly relieved, and you’ll see that.
For more on Dr. Charles Sophy, check out his official site.