Who are the MAFSA experts (and what are their qualifications)?

Jennifer Savin
·4-min read
Photo credit: Nigel Wright - Channel 4
Photo credit: Nigel Wright - Channel 4

From Cosmopolitan

If you're not hooked on season 6 of Married At First Sight Australia, are you even really stuck in lockdown? Thousands have been gripped by the relationship drama provided by the likes of Jessika, Cyclone Cyrell and Dan. There's also been a bit of chatter surrounding the experts and whether or not their advice really holds up (see: this piece on how one writer feels they're gaslighting contestants for more details).

But who are the show's three experts John Aiken, Melanie Schilling and Dr Trisha Stratford? What are their qualifications? And why has Trisha since quit the programme? We did a bit of digging to find out. You're welcome!

Who are the Married At First Sight Australia Experts?

John Aiken

Photo credit: Chris Hyde
Photo credit: Chris Hyde

Former cricketer John is probably the most well known of the three (with 33,000 Instagram followers and an advice column with 9Honey, an Australian female-orientated news site). According to John's LinkedIn page, he studied clinical psychology for seven years at Victoria University of Wellington, graduating in 1995. Throughout his studies, he also played cricket for Auckland and Wellington.

He is now positioned as a 'relationship expert' on the show (as opposed to a 'psychologist', after a former contestant complained to the Psychology Council of New South Wales that participants were put in "dangerous situations"). This is the job descriptor he uses on his personal website and social media accounts too.

The unnamed contestant's complaints about the programme prompted a review from the PCNSW board. In a letter obtained by Daily Mail Australia, the board wrote: "Please note that Mr Aiken is still able to participate in the show, however, he is no longer able refer to himself as a psychologist or undertake psychological practice [on the show]."

It also said, "This means that so long as all reference to him being a psychologist has been removed from the show, Mr Aiken can continue to work on it. In relation to his website, Mr Aiken is still a registered psychologist, and his website can reflect this."

Alongside having his own private practice, John's website states that he also offers a three day 'rescue your relationship' retreat, for the small sum of $15,000 (£8,397). His website adds that he has written three books about relationships.

Mel Schilling

Photo credit: Chris Hyde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Hyde - Getty Images

Mel's LinkedIn page says she graduated from the University of Melbourne with a psychology diploma in 1996, following four years of studying psychology at Deakin University. She then started her career off as a consulting psychologist within a recruitment and HR service, Morgan & Banks. In 2013, she notes that she was the first Australian to be accredited as a dating coach by the International Dating Coaching Association.

On her website, Mel says she enjoys the limelight and calling out 'bad behaviour' on MAFSA: "The (not so) glamorous life in the media spotlight gives me a real buzz; I love the excitement of creating a show that challenges people’s beliefs and assumptions about relationships, and I really treasure the moments when I get to show the ‘real me’ as I confront bad behaviour or get caught on camera pulling faces."

She also says, "I especially enjoy the privilege of being one of the first therapists on Australian TV, a responsibility that I take very seriously. And, who can argue with a red carpet walking, champagne-sipping evening at The Logies [an Australian awards ceremony] each year?"

Dr Trisha Stratford

Photo credit: Chris Hyde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Hyde - Getty Images

At the end of MAFSA's seventh season, Trisha decided to step away from the show, saying, "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 neuropsychotherapy." She added, "I've been involved right from the beginning in the challenge of bringing this social experiment to television." She has since been replaced by sexologist and marriage therapist, Alessandra Rampolla.

But! Back to Trisha: on the 9Now website, her biography states, "Dr Stratford works with couples and individuals in her clinical practice. She also specialises in corporate learning and development in the field of leadership, relationship and communication, using her post-doctoral research in the neuroscience of intuition."

It also shines a light on her background in developmental psychology, corporate training, neuropsychotherapy and executive coaching, and adds, "[Trisha] has produced and directed more than 20 prime-time TV documentaries through her own production company and has published two books," it notes. Trisha's credentials are also listed on therapist databases, such as Good Therapy Australia.

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