Britney Spears might look happy on the cover of the next issue of OK! Magazine — on which she poses for a portrait with her two young sons for the first time — but that was before the singer's custody battle put her in crisis mode and landed her in the hospital, only to have Dr. Phil McGraw later claim she was in "dire need" of an intervention. His statement riled the Spears family, who fought back Wednesday with some choice words of their own.
Spears family business manager Lou Taylor, who appeared via satellite on NBC's "Today," called the television psychologist's statement "inappropriate" and his effort to get the Spears family on his program "self-serving."
"Here you have Britney, who needs to have some security somewhere that every single thing she does and every single person she has a relationship with doesn't become an opportunity to be exploited," Taylor said. "I mean, when do you ever rest if you're in constant fear of being exploited, of being taken advantage of?"
McGraw (a.k.a. Dr. Phil) had visited the singer in the hospital as she was packing to leave, at the behest of her family members. But even though he wasn't technically her doctor, Taylor said, he should have kept his observations and their conversation confidential. "The family extended an invitation of trust for him to come in as a resource to support them, not to go out and make public statements," she said. "Any statement he made publicly, because he was brought in under this cloak of trust, is inappropriate."
The Spears family decided it would be "detrimental" to appear on Dr. Phil's show, because it would "not be a vector to get Britney help," Taylor said. "Dr. Phil did broach this issue, and I thought that was inappropriate for him to even be self-serving and bring something like that up."
McGraw defends himself in the next issue of People magazine, out Friday, saying that he'd been brought into the Spears family drama "over a year ago," when he first started discussing the situation with them to find options to help Britney. "Our goal — her parents and mine — was to try to start a very relaxed dialogue that might enable me, when the time was right, to guide her to some top-level medical, psychiatric and psychological professionals," he told the magazine. "I only intended to help them."
The challenges the Spears family faces, McGraw said, is that they have "no leverage" to force Britney to seek help, since she's no longer a minor. "As a result," he told the magazine, "you have to take a softer approach." And the challenge Britney faces, he said, is that it's hard for her to "keep a clear view of who really cares" about her. "If I could say anything to Britney," he told the magazine, "it would be this: You've got to put the boys' interests above your own, which means taking care of yourself even if it's sometimes easier not to. And you may not always feel it's so, but your family has been there for you since the moment you were born. They've loved you when you were unlovable and they love you now."
Also speaking out — whether the Spears family likes it or not — is photographer Dani Brubaker, who spoke in lieu of the singer for OK!'s cover story this week. Brubaker shot the portrait of Spears with Sean Preston and Jayden James in the backyard of the singer's Beverly Hills home. "She was very loving," Brubaker told the magazine. "She told me that she loved her children and that they are her life. She was very attentive to their needs. You can see a connection between parents and their kids, and you can get a feeling if a child is well-loved by the mother. That's exactly what I experienced."
Brubaker observed Spears with her children for just under an hour but didn't witness anything that indicated Spears was troubled. "She was an extremely sweet and kind person. She said, 'Yes, ma'am,' every time she responded to me." But once the photos were developed, Spears was in a different place emotionally. "I'm told that when she saw the photographs, she literally cried for over an hour and stared at them all night long," Brubaker told the magazine.
There's no telling whether Spears realized she was about to lose the right to visit her children (at least temporarily) — and if she were to attempt to see them, she could be arrested. During her custody standoff with the Los Angeles Police Department on January 3, as a matter of procedure, the LAPD sought and received an emergency protection order to prevent the singer from seeking out Kevin Federline. The order, which expires Thursday (January 10), says Spears must not attempt to contact Federline by telephone or send any messages to him. She also must not "molest, harass, attack, strike, threaten, sexually assault, batter, follow, stalk, destroy any personal property of, or disturb the peace of" her ex-husband, who temporarily has sole custody of their children.
Federline can seek a more permanent solution — by getting an extended restraining order — but he'd have to do that on his own, an LAPD officer told MTV News. No such paperwork has been filed or processed yet, according to a court clerk, and Federline's lawyers said that if they do seek something, "It will be sealed."
Spears and Federline are due back in court Monday.
[This story was originally published at 4:15 pm E.T. on 1.9.2008]