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HGTV—Addicting or Therapeutic?

Confessions of an HGTV addict and how it mirrors psychotherapy.

I admit it. Although most of my waking hours are spent focused on my work, family, and hobbies, my Saturday morning guilty pleasure is watching an episode of Property Brothers, House Hunters, or Love It or List It on HGTV. They’re utterly decadent in this fast paced New York City race to the finish line—which inevitably keeps moving away the closer we get to it!

It’s been a few years since this HGTV affliction began—and with the passing of time it doesn’t seem to dissipate. To better understand the fascination and sheer pleasure experienced, I decided to take a closer look at the dynamic layers of content in each show.

To begin, all are about homes. Who doesn’t love home? It’s where the heart is. We rest, raise our families, build our dreams and futures, and bond with friends there. It requires constant maintenance and attention. It’s personal. It reflects what we value and is our sanctuary.

HGTV specializes in home improvement—whether through a renovation project, or buying and selling homes to upgrade one’s lifestyle. Regardless of the focus, there is a subtle educational piece about architecture, interior design, construction, decorating, geography, and home sale comparables and statistics.

Sometimes, you even get to go shopping with the homeowner or designer to pick out cabinets, furniture, flooring, and pillows! What more could a girl ask for? It’s an adventure in home improvement, and more importantly quality-of-life improvement.... and the latter is my business.

In my therapy and coaching work, the goal is self-improvement, creating an overall sense of well being, and developing healthy relationships. After all, relationships impact everything we do—at home, work, our children’s school, out on the street, and in the mall. The simple process of decision making for each individual and couple fascinates me, as they arrive at their new and improved life.

Typically, the process begins with what doesn’t work for them—i.e. they diagnose the problems. Then they consider their options, budget, and “must haves”—i.e. the treatment plan. They follow a process of generating ideas, active communication (speaking and listening), understanding the other’s statements, empathizing with their partner’s perspective, advocating for their own wants, holding clear boundaries, and conceding on things that that are less important to them (choosing their battles). There are ups and downs, disagreements, hopes and disappointments, and eventually harmony.

It’s a roller coaster ride! Take the Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathon Scott who are the perfect yin and yang brother team. Drew is the handsome realtor and designer. Jonathon is the hunky construction worker. They show a couple their dream home, which fulfills their every want, and just when they’re ready to sign the papers and move in, Drew smacks ‘em down with the harsh reality that they cannot afford it. The disappointment and defeat is evidenced on the couple's facial expressions, limped body language, and the tone of voice in which they attempt to save face by accepting the bad news.

Reluctantly, the deflated couple succumbs to the idea of a fixer upper. Drew and Jonathon come through by the end of the show delivering their dream home better than the couple had ever imagined. Happy endings are all around! It's Disney for adults.

This process mirrors the therapy process—in a very condensed form. Often, people don't know what to expect from therapy or coaching. In a nutshell, we do what Drew and Jonathon do. We diagnose a problem, develop a treatment plan, design steps to resolve the problem or achieve the dream goal, and ultimately terminate treatment when it’s achieved and a better quality of life emerges.

Good therapy doesn’t happen in 30 minutes. It could take 30 sessions, or more. It requires a lot of patience, dedication, and a few roller coaster rides. So, will you hold tight to the safety bar, or throw your hands in the air and enjoy the ride?


This piece was a contribution by guest blogger, Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC, who is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:

Psychotherapist & Life Coach

19 West 34th Street, Penthouse

New York, NY 10001


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