Relationship expert Dr Trisha Stratford joined the Australian version of hit reality show Married at First Sight when it launched in 2015. As a neuropsychologist and former war correspondent, she certainly had the experience to help contestants on the show. However, the Wellington-born counsellor decided to step back from the show in 2018.
"After seven seasons of Married At First Sight I have decided to step back from the television series to focus on my writing, research and neuro-psychotherapy," she said at the time.
In an exclusive interview with Newstalk ZB's Simon Barnett and Phil Gifford in 2020, Dr Stratford said she still believed in the social experiment, but the show had taken a different path since she signed up. "It became really clear to me over the last two seasons, but particularly the last season, that the type of people applying for the show were just becoming more and more outrageous," she said.
"And it became very difficult to match people who were on the show for the wrong reasons. I'm in my integrity and it's just not working for me anymore. I don't feel I have enough involvement in the matching, cause it kind of moved from matching to casting.
"I understand the network and the production company need to make a show that's going to rate. There has to be a happy medium in there, and for me, it just swung too much the other way," she added.
Trisha was then replaced on the show by sexpert Alessandra Rampolla. In 2021, Trisha elaborated on why she felt she couldn't stay on the show. "By the end, I couldn't compromise my professional and personal standards because there were participants on the show who I felt shouldn't have been there," Trisha told Woman's Day New Zealand in an interview last year.
"At a couple of dinner parties I felt sick. I felt in my guts that this wasn't what I'd want to be watching at home on TV. The participants we got in season six and seven were so outrageous and outside the norm that it wasn't what I signed up for."
According to the show's makers though, the experts are there primarily for on-air commentary. They do offer a little relationship advice on-air, but "the show's experts, although highly qualified, only have an on-air role," said MAFS production company Endemol Shine Australia.
Since leaving the show Trisha has found her own happily ever after. She met New Zealand businessman Roger through friends who thought they'd be a good match. For their first date in Feb 2018, Roger flew to Australia to meet Trisha.
"So Roger picked up the phone and invited me out for coffee. He jumped on a plane to Sydney, we had the coffee and the rest, as they say, is history!" the psychotherapist told Woman's Day NZ. "When we met, it was so natural, we had to give each other a hug – we had such energy."
Once the lockdowns were lifted in 2020, Trisha decided to move back to New Zealand to be close to Roger. They now live in Auckland and Trisha is focusing on writing and running her private practice online.
"I've been a daily meditator since I was 22, so it's part of my life, and I've run lots of workshops on wellbeing, and particularly bringing the brain perspective into it, the things we need to do to be able to keep our body in good shape for longevity. So I've been practising what I preach," she said.
And the mum and grandmother has no regrets about her change of pace, saying, "Lockdown was a nice time to reflect and it reinforced that I'd made the right choices in my life with leaving MAFS and coming back home."
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