Married at First Sight Australia is cursed, rigged and psychologically damaging for many contestants, so naturally, you would think that newlyweds would be hooked up with some good counselling, right?
Well, it’s not exactly that straightforward.
The world of reality TV is an increasingly cruel landscape and with many stars subject to bullying from fans — and at times, their castmates — it is imperative that they are provided with adequate support to navigate their new life in the public eye.
However executives behind Married at First Sight — arguably one of the most scrutinised shows in Australia — have fallen short.
MAFS Counselling Sessions Aren’t Exactly Confidential
The Australian Psychological Society’s Code of Ethics declares that information disclosed between client and psychologist should be kept confidential. The only exception is if the patient or public is at risk of harm.
According to the accounts of several past Married at First Sight participants, the show’s resident psychologist breached this code of conduct.
In episode 71 of the So Dramatic! podcast, host Megan Pustetto spoke to MAFS 2021 contestant Beck Zemek, who shed light on the quality of counselling and support given to participants.
The 28-year-old alleged that whilst the show provides counselling sessions for the participants, everything that they disclose is reported back to MAFS producers.
“They have an on-site psychologist, however, she was deaf ears. Everything you say to her just goes back to the producers,” she revealed. “Nothing is confidential.”
Appearing again in episode 170 of So Dramatic!’s AFTERMAFS series, Beck expanded on how the MAFS counselling sessions work.
“I would spend an hour with [the psychologist],” the reality star explained. “She would write everything down that I said and at the very end, she would say ‘none of that sounds very good. Let’s hope next week you’re feeling a bit better.'”
“I knew it was getting back to the producers because when things would happen they would be like ‘oh no, we know this,’ and they could only know that based on what I said to the psychologist”
She added: “The [psychologists] on the show are absolutely ridiculous. They are there so that if you are in a position where your mental health is going the wrong way for it to be flagged — but they want to keep you there.”
“They give you unlimited access to [a counsellor or psychologist] but you don’t want it.”
What Support and Counselling Do Contestants Get After Leaving Married at First Sight?
In episode 68 of the So Dramatic! podcast, Beck’s co-star Jaimie Gardner bolstered claims that the counselling services on MAFS were lacking, confessing that after leaving the show she had to seek support on her own.
The 36-year-old also had to be medicated and have a brain scan after filming.
“Going home I had to go to the doctors and go on medication… basically, I had to have my brain assessed. They thought it was paralysed” Jaimie explained.
Further, producers typically take over contestants’ social media as a part of their duty of care. They turn off commenting and delete all messages before giving the account back to the individual.
Jaimie claims she was the only contestant from the 2021 cast who did not have her inbox wiped.
“I’ve had the general [trolls] that are carrying on about the trivial things and those types of comments… threats of being bashed, of people wanting to find you,” Jaimie stated. “‘Go kill yourself’ was written a few times.”
Additionally, MAFS alum Sarah Roza told Now To Love that while she and her co-stars shared a psychologist during the experience, she believes that “support was not actually provided” after filming ended.
This is exactly when contestants need it most — particularly when they are under the force of public scrutiny during the series’ broadcast.
What Kind Of Psychological Toll Does MAFS Take On Participants?
For Jaimie, who received the show’s infamous villain edit in 2021, the show took a significant toll on her mental health. She was scared to walk down the street and feared someone would attack her because of her portrayal on TV.
“I probably don’t acknowledge the impact that [the show] had on me,” Jaimie said at the time. “It’s impacted me so much.”
“It impacted my friends, it impacted my family… I had to leave work last week because I was having a breakdown.”
In episode 170 of the So Dramatic! podcast, Beck lamented that MAFS producers did not prepare the cast for the potential backlash they could receive.
“They do not give you anything remotely big enough to control or help you understand what is going to happen or what you are going to go through,” she said.
“If there is someone out there who doesn’t like the way you look, or you reminded them of their PTSD, they are going to come and attack you.”
MAFS Producers Did Not Respect the Wishes Of Cast Members
During her chat with So Dramatic!, Beck also opened up about how it feels to have control and autonomy over your own life taken away over the course of the experiment. This included having MAFS producers barring her from leaving the experiment, even when she wanted to.
She confessed that she and “husband” Jake Edwards had agreed to leave the experiment. However, when producers caught wind of this they manipulated the couple into staying.
“I don’t think the show gives credibility to leaving a relationship — I actually think it promotes domestic violence,” Beck confessed.
“I didn’t realise until I left the show how defeated I was. I’d given up on my freedom of speech… I remember going back to the apartments and feeling like I was in jail… I was trapped”.
We can’t help but wonder just how common this is. It seems every season we see toxic couples staying in the experiment for longer than they should be!
What About the MAFS Experts?
Whilst the MAFS experts, John Aiken, Mel Schilling and Alesandra Rampolla, may be presented in a way that makes them appear authoritative and credible, the reality is they provide little actual support for contestants during the experiment.
Most recently, Beck addressed the experts’ role in the experiment during So Dramatic!‘s AFTERMAFS series.
Noting that the experts wear earpieces during Commitment Ceremonies, the former bride revealed producers will tell them to “cut [contestants] off” to feed into particular storylines.
Put simply: “The experts are actors in the entire production.”
Want even more goss about what counselling MAFS Australia contestants receive? Listen to episode 170 of the So Dramatic! podcast with Megan Pustetto below!
Know something about Married at First Sight Australia that we don’t? Spill the tea here!
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