Dr. Phil Defends Visit To Britney Spears As A Favor To Family

McGraw says he has had a 'running dialogue' with Lynne Spears about Brit's troubles for more than a year; episode focusing on pop star's latest woes nixed.

Television personality/ psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw’s visit to Britney Spears’ room at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles Saturday morning (reportedly without her prior knowledge or consent) has received considerable criticism since it was announced over the weekend. But according to the doctor, he was simply doing the Spears family a favor.

On Monday morning (January 7), McGraw appeared on CBS’ “Early Show” to refute widespread speculation of his motives. Some have accused McGraw of exploiting Spears’ situation for the purposes of self-promotion, considering the fact that he held a brief press conference following his 15-minute visit and had planned to air a special episode about Spears on his syndicated talk show Tuesday.

According to McGraw, he visited Britney “at the request of her family.” The psychologist claims he spoke with Brit’s mother, Lynne Spears; her pregnant 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn; and Brit’s brother, Bryan, before making the trip to Cedars-Sinai. The family was “very frustrated that she apparently wasn’t going to be held for a longer period of time,” he said.

McGraw said the Spears family called him Thursday night, just hours before Spears was transported by ambulance to the hospital , following a child-custody dispute with ex-husband Kevin Federline, who temporarily has sole legal and physical custody of the couple’s children.

“It was Lynne,” McGraw said of the phone call. “She has a very close relationship with my wife, Robin.” According to Dr. Phil, Lynne “was very upset, which you would expect — any parent would be.” He then revealed that the Spears first reached out to him “over a year ago, and I have maintained a running dialogue with them over the last year.”

Spears was reportedly already packing to leave Cedars-Sinai when McGraw arrived on Saturday. According to various reports, Spears responded coolly to McGraw’s visit, initially left the room when he showed up and said very little to him when she returned.

In a statement released to ETonline.com on Saturday, McGraw said that his “meeting with Britney and some of her family members this morning in her room at Cedars leaves me convinced more than ever that she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention. She was released moments before my arrival and was packing when I entered the room. We visited for about an hour before I walked with her to her car. I am very concerned for her.”

A representative for McGraw’s program had told MTV News over the weekend that the psychologist’s show on Tuesday would focus on Britney, but the rep wouldn’t say whether Spears or any members of her family would appear on the episode. But on Monday, McGraw issued a statement, saying the program would not be happening after all.

“As was widely reported this weekend, at the request of concerned family members, I visited Britney Spears in the hospital,” the statement reads. “The details of that visit will, of course, remain private. We had planned to tape a ’Dr. Phil Now’ show today, focusing not on the tabloid side of Britney’s latest problems, but instead on the very serious issues surrounding this case. Clearly, it is not just Britney’s family struggling to find a way to protect adult children who cannot be ordered or compelled to seek help. Because the Spears situation is too intense at this time, and out of consideration to the family, I have made the decision not to move forward with the taping at this particular time. Britney and her family are in our prayers, and we ask that they be in yours.”

On Monday, McGraw directed the following statement to Britney (posted on ETonline.com, from a segment airing on the show Monday night):

“You can make this OK. Your family loves you. You may not always agree with what they say, with what they do, but they’ve loved you when you weren’t lovable. Turn to the people that love you and listen. You have two children and you are the one in this world to protect them. There is no sacrifice that Lynne won’t make for you and there is no sacrifice that your father won’t make. They are the people that want nothing from you, and everything for you.”

Head here for an overview of the tumultuous past four years of Britney Spears’ life.

[This story was originally published at 12:11 pm E.T. on 1.7.08]