Malpractice on the Air

It was almost midnight and I was driving home after my usual shift. Yawning, I pushed the radio button hoping to catch a peppy song to keep me awake, but the station that usually plays pop music had one of those call-in counseling shows on.

“Hello Brooke, so you are 19 and pregnant?”

“Yes, unexpectedly so.”

“Wow, you’re going to be a mom.”

“Yeah, I’m excited, but nervous, because I don’t have a lot of support ya know?”


I fumbled with the dial, trying to change the channel before I got sucked in, but it was too late.


“Don’t you have family?” The host asked.

“Well, they don’t really want to be a part of my life.”

“Oh, that’s sad, why not?”

“Well, they think that the only way to be successful is to make lots of money and live in big houses and have rich friends, and I don’t think that way, so they don’t really like me or the people I hang out with.”

“Well, it sounds like they have a point, I mean look at where hanging out with those friends has gotten you, pregnant and alone.”


My jaw dropped. Brooke laughed uncomfortably.


“Where is the baby’s dad in all of this?” The counselor continued.

Well, we aren’t really together right now.”

“So he got you pregnant and left, this sounds like a sex and run.”

Um, it’s not really like that, we’ve been together off and on for 6 years.”

“But he’s not there now is he.”

“Um, no.”

I pulled into my driveway, ready to go inside and go to bed, but I found myself unable to turn off the car. I wished I could give Brooke a hug, and tell this “counselor” to shut up. “Sex and run” really? How could he claim to have any knowledge about this girl, her relationships, or the reasons she got pregnant?

But it was about to get even worse.

“Well, Brooke, I hate to sound like your parents, but you have gotten yourself in a real pickle cutting them out of your life.”

“Um, they are the ones who want nothing to do with me.”

He cut her off with, “I’m sure you’ve had something to do with it too.  It’s time for you to admit you were wrong and grow up, because you are going to be a mom now. I hope you are able to find support somewhere, because your days of fun and games are over, being a mom is serious business.”


I sat in my car fuming. The counselor took another call and I turned off the ignition and stormed into the house. I could hardly believe what I had just heard, this counselor had made assumptions, judgement calls and shamed this poor girl who had just been calling in for encouragement and a listening ear. Sleep was no longer on my radar screen.  I got online and looked up the name of the counselor, Dawson McAllister. I found the show’s Facebook page and left a comment about how disappointing the show had been. (This was deleted by the next morning, of course.) The page was covered in rave reviews from people who had apparently called in and found his advice helpful. I poked around the website some more and even though it was hidden pretty well, I eventually found the links to how to accept Jesus into your heart and how to locate your nearest church. What was this guy doing on a secular radio station? Was it because it was a Sunday night? And if this really was a Christian counseling show (which I had suspected the minute the guy made the assumption that this girl was going to keep this baby) where was the “pro-life” encouragement and accolades for seeing this pregnancy through? Instead Dawson McAllister seemed more worried about shaming her for getting pregnant in the first place.

It felt slimy to me. As someone who was in ministry alongside my spouse, I found myself wondering if this guy was an actual trained counselor. Without knowing anything about her upbringing or her parents, he seemed invested in the idea that this girl’s parents have her best interest in mind simply because they are well-to-do. We have no idea what this girl’s history with her parents is, or what abuse or situations may have contributed to their separation. How can he know that this boyfriend did a “sex and run?” (For that matter, what does that even mean?) And who knows why they are not together now, certainly not Dawson McAllister who had barely spoken to her for 5 minutes and hadn’t bothered to ask. Why the shaming comments about fun and games being over? Where had he gleaned this information about her lifestyle? Pregnancy is a biological fact of life, not something that results from “fun and games”. He offered no support, no helpful advice, no listening ear. He didn’t even give her contact information for local pregnancy centers or other support networks.

I found it disgusting, and frustrating. And since my critique got deleted over at his face book page, I decided to talk about it here. What do you think of this type of scenario? What gives a counselor the right to make assumptions and judgment calls about someone they know nothing about?

Also, be careful about listening to the radio late Sunday night, you might hear something that will upset you and keep you awake.


  • Kalipay

    i’ve heard parts of his show before, and a LOT of the time he is condescending and critical and jumps to conclusions. i’ve never looked it up, but i never listen to him.

  • Considerer

    “By their fruits shall you know them” Didn’t sound like a good attitude, did it. Pity, cos he could be doing some good. Glad you complained.

  • Calah

    Okay, I feel vindicated…I started reading your blog and thought to myself “I bet this is Dawson” and got to the middle of your post and said “I KNEW IT!!!” I used to listen to him in high school and I thought he was great then. But that was also when it was just this small show with limited funding. Ever since it became this huge, freaking thing it’s just gone down the drain (IMO). I tried to use their Hope Line in the past and just got fed up by the people I was talking to. I never felt like it was helpful at all. More judgment and canned responses. Ugh….

  • Calah

    Oh, and also, his show is on *a lot* of stations that wouldn’t be considered Christian stations. That was another thing that changed. During high school I think it was only on the local Christian station I listened to. He also would actually spend extensive time talking to the callers. Nowadays the callers basically just get passed off to the “Hope Line” like an assembly service.

  • Christine

    One of the things I DESPISE about zealots of any stripe (be they religious, atheist, conspiracy theorist, alternative medicine only types) is the way they so frequently shut down any voices that dissent from theirs. Well done for speaking out against this.

  • Michelle

    Well, I’m sure you know that people who have these shows are in it for the money and often the way he treated her and the way that call went is what “sells” in radio. I used to attempt to listen to Dave Ramsey’s show. While I have found some of his advice helpful in my life (that I’ve read in his books) I could not stand the way he treated some of the people who called in that may have sincerely been in a pickle not necessarily of their own making. He thinks it’s “tough love” I think it’s being a jerk.

    I will be thinking about this woman and also this encounter you describe. How sad. And I really hate how these people perpetuate the stereotype of this kind of “Christian” behavior. It just pisses me off. It’s not Christian. It’s self-righteous bull crap.

  • Lady Heather

    This so angers me. I am a marriage and family therapist intern. 1st rule of therapy – do no harm. When you are just starting out and unsure of how to be a therapist they tell us – listen. A huge amount of healing comes from just letting the client be heard. If you sit and really listen to a client, they feel like they matter and if they matter they feel a bit more sure of themselves and can start to think about taking care of themselves and making better choices. That simple. Once you learn more about different things you can do in therapy and how to help the number one thing is to listen and understand because if you cannot understand how they got where they are you certainly cannot understand them well enough to teach them tools to get themselves out of the situation. For example if someone is homeless, if you do not listen and understand how you got that way you cannot help them learn the tools to get out of the situation. Losing a job and becoming homeless requires different tools than an alcohol problem would.
    I have friends that are Social Workers and Counselors and Psychiatrists and while they are all taught within different frames they tell me that the first part is to do no harm – the 2nd is to listen and the 3rd is not to judge. Many of our classes are to teach us how to identify our biases so they do not affect our work. Freud would call it counter-transference – when you transfer your thoughts, views or beliefs onto the client (you feel your alcoholic mom didn’t love you so you assume the alcoholic mom in your office doesn’t love her child even if she came to you so she could get better to keep her child.)

    When idiots like these on talk shows act like this it seriously offends me. I went to school and have to do 3000 hours under supervision before I get my license – to have some talk show host go against everything we are taught makes me ill. I too wish I could give that girl a hug and say lets get you connected with other mothers in your situation so you can get support. Let’s make sure you know what assistance, options and support you have and help bring this child into the world in the best possible way.

  • Maya

    I’d have the same sort of sick fascination listening to that as I think you did- except that I’m not sure that I’d be able to keep listening without running away in disgust. I’ve never understood why people call in to such programs, but there’s something really disturbing about it.

  • Rosa

    Call the station and complain.

    Hell, tell me what station and I will call and complain. I HATE it when stealth-Christianists get that kind of airtime.

    Though someone in the business told me the Christian shows are so widely distributed because a lot of them pay the station for the placement. So that may be why.

    • Melissa

      It was 101.3 KDWB

      • Rosa

        Now I’m going to listen so I can write to them and complain for myself.

  • Lana

    That’s awful, Melissa. Her parents probably didn’t want anything to do with her before she got pregnant. If her parents are that shallow, then they were shallow before. Its not that complicated, and then they shame the girl. Also, she is 19 years old and deserves to be treated as a young adult. I assume she finished high school already, so the counselor is just acting stupid.

  • gaayathri

    I guess he doesn’t subscribe to the notion of “unconditional positive regard” I hate this crap. The world doesn’t need more ‘tough love’ BS.

  • africaturtle

    reading the script, it all sounded very “familiar” to me, without being able to immediately identify “why”. Then i saw the NAME!!! I used to listen to his show on Christian radio on Sunday nights when i was in high school. He kinda prides himself in a “tell-it-like-is” style. You know i am working on getting out of a “black and white” /judgemental mentality…and highlighting conversations like this shows me another little bit of the “why” from my “formative” years. As far as your complaint (since they didn’t even leave it up (!) on their site…i would definitely contact the station (maybe even a petition!)

  • Brent Metzler

    Dawson’s still around? With the same playbook? I had no idea, I haven’t heard his name for 15 years. Uncomfortable flashbacks there.

  • Laura

    All throughout my teen years (in the 90s) I was a HUGE Dawson follower. He used to travel around filling arenas of teens and making us cry because we recommitted ourselves to being pure of heart. I also listened to his radio show every week. It makes me sad that there are still teens being taught this level of self-hatred. I just want to reach out and hug them all.

  • saraquill

    I hope Brooke finds a good social worker and decent people who will support her.

  • Just Me

    He sounds like a turd. And how does he know she didn’t end up with that boyfriend BECAUSE her parents want nothing to do with her? Ugh.

  • Daniel Wall

    On air bully-counselors always justify crap like this by calling it tough love. The real reason they do it is because their audience loves it. The people they claim to be helping are just grist for the mill, no more, no less.