Talking Sex Rehab With Jill Vermeire – Episode 5

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Licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Vermeire was on hand during the filming of Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew, bringing her clinical expertise to the world of reality TV. She’s agreed to lend us her perspective on the show’s shoot, as well as the rehabilitation of the cast. Below, Jill talks about the show’s fifth episode: Kari Ann’s new-found interest in sharing, Duncan’s thing for straight guys and James’ rape comment to Jennie.

Any thoughts on Kendra shutting down during the visit to Children of the Night?

She was really struggling, and again, it was still during her withdrawals. During the withdrawal phase, the patients are feeling really raw and really vulnerable. It’s almost like all of their nerve endings are exposed. Any little, tiny thing that touches a nerve for them can send them into a spiral. Kendra was really missing her husband, she really had been doing some great work, and she was looking at some issues from her past that she’s never looked at before. You have to understand that some of these people have never in their lives talked about or gone back to look at their past. They’ve just survived it, kind of white-knuckled it, moved past it, and ended up where they’re at now. Kendra has a pretty painful past. We kept pushing her and pushing her, and she showed up, she did the work, but every once in a while that defense mechanism just wants to show up and shut down because it’s too much. I always tell patients that it’s fine if they need to breathe, if they need a little space, a little time, if they want to just chill out.

On the other hand, Kari Ann, out of nowhere, ends up revealing so much about herself in this episode. Why was she so open to sharing all of a sudden?

Kari Ann is a great example of how alternative therapies can really help. She does not do well with talk therapy. As we’ve seen in several of the episodes, she gets very combative, she starts to feel that everything is an attack, she interprets everything as confrontational. With the art therapy, she’s able to really just put what’s on the inside and get it out on paper, or a T-shirt in this case. For some reason, it’s safer to put it on the paper than to say it out loud, which speaks to that more primitive part of the brain. It goes earlier than the trauma, so she’s able to really express and get it out without having to say it, because her verbal skills shut down when she feels confronted. The artistic skills come out and help that. And not only is it a great from a therapy for Kari Ann, but she’s extremely talented, artistically. She and Jennie both are amazingly talented artists. Kendra, too.

As Kari Ann is sharing, you repeatedly tell her not to smile.

Smiling is her defense mechanism. She’s learned to make everything OK and take care of everybody else by smiling. Other people won’t worry, other people won’t feel upset, or they won’t be disturbed by what she’s saying if she says it with a smile. It’s a defense mechanism. And there are people who will smile when something really upsetting happens — somebody dies and when they talk about it they’re smiling. It’s a nervous, unconscious defense, and I will literally have people hold their mouths down, because when you force yourself to not smile, it helps you access the feelings that you’re trying to avoid. It looks really ridiculous to hold your mouth down and not smile when you’re talking, but I’ve had patients do that, and they’re able to really access the feelings and then they have this amazing cathartic experience where they get to really cry and let it out and really get behind the smile. The smile is just a wall, it’s another one of her walls that she puts up to keep you out.

Here’s a bit of irony or…something, I noticed: Duncan says he feels alienated because he’s left with two straight guys when the girls are out of the facility. But then he goes on to talk to Dr. Sealy about his life-long entanglement with straight men. So, he feels alienated, yet only attracted to, straight men.

There are core beliefs of a sex addict, and one of them is: sex is my only value. Another one is: if a person really knew me, they wouldn’t like me. Duncan’s sexual acting out is pretty common. He chooses unavailable people, and for him unavailable people are straight men. He’s not going to end up in a relationship with a straight man because that man is not gay, which just further deepens the belief of: “Everybody leaves. I’m not good enough. If somebody really knew me, he would leave.” It has to do with this intimacy and attachment disorder that they all struggle with, as well as Duncan’s identity. He’s a very sweet man, and he’s also extremely smart and extremely talented. His wall really is words — he keeps people away with words. He has a very sharp tongue, and if he wants to cut you, he can cut you with his words deeply. He desperately wants to connected with people, and he desperately wants to feel needed and valued, but because his only value that he sees in himself is sexual, it’s hard for him to believe that straight men would want to be friends with him and not want to sleep with him. It’s hard for him to believe that they would actually want to be around him just because they like him. He unconsciously believes that James and Phil don’t really like him, they don’t want to really be around him, especially because he’s not trying to seduce them or sleep with them. What he was really uncomfortable with, without realizing it, is that he was starting to experience intimacy with men in a healthy way. He did start to build relationships with them, and it was really chipping away and challenging that very deep and old belief that his only value is what he has to offer, sexually. Because Phil and James didn’t want him sexually, but they wanted to be around him, it contradicted these beliefs he’s held from a very young age. And it’s really uncomfortable to have old beliefs and core values challenged like that. But I see it as a really positive thing because he didn’t act out with them. They didn’t need anything from him other than friendship, and that’s real, and that’s healthy. And as strange as it sounds, when you encounter something healthy and real and genuine, and you’ve never had it before, it’s painful.

The final major event of the episode is that James tells Jennie, “I’m going to rape the s*** out of you.” What were your thoughts on that? At least one person is mad that it’s handled so calmly.

When we were walking into group, Jennie told me that this statement had caused her to not be able to sleep, she’s been having anxiety. And we were all pretty sure he didn’t really mean that explicitly. It was just James acting in his adolescent way because developmentally, he’s delayed. Regardless, it’s an inappropriate statement. Even in a joking manner, in this kind of a setting, with this kind of a population, something like that should never ever be said. The intention was not to make James out to be the bad guy. When somebody violates your boundaries, or your internal makeup gets shaken up by something somebody said, it’s important to be able to say it out loud and start to have a dialogue about it. State the need and have a boundary. This is a really good opportunity, although somewhat extreme, to have the group watch a process, and then have the other person be able to hear it, so that the person saying it feels heard, the person who made the comment (in this case, James) can hear it, and he can also respond and show that he understands it. And he can make amends if he wants to, he can make a promise to honor the boundary in the future. I think the people in the group had such an extreme reaction because of the actual statement. You know, the word “rape” is such a loaded word because so many people in the room had been raped that it opened a can of worms for everybody. They were really doing the work, so they were just open and nerves were exposed, so you say the word and it’s going to bring up feelings. I thought it was really important for Jennie to have the opportunity to start standing up for herself in a safe place in a healing corrective way, and to have everybody see that happen. She just wanted to brush it under the rug like she always does. She really needed the opportunity to feel empowered, to take care of herself. And this was a really good opportunity, as difficult as it was. Believe me, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. It was intense. But it ended up correcting itself and becoming a really healing experience in the end. It didn’t happen right away, it took some time, because everybody needed to process and digest and go through their feelings. After a day or two, it ended up being a positive experience in the big picture. They all ended up re-connecting and becoming a much more cohesive group because of that experience. You know that a group feels safe with each other, and has a rapport and an affinity with each other when they are able to confront each other. So in my view as a therapist, it was all positive, even though it was hard, even though it was intense. If we had ignored it and avoided the whole entire experience because it was too hard to talk about, that would just be ignoring an elephant in the room, and repeating an old family dynamic. It would be reinforcing unhealthy relationships and unhealthy behaviors that they’ve been experiencing their whole lives. That’s what they learned to do. “Oh, I’m feeling violated, I’m feeling hurt, I’m feeling upset, but it’s not OK to talk about it. So I’m just going to bury it.” If we don’t give them a place to start talking about this, we’re just repeating the same dysfunctional family that they grew up with. So this is a really corrective and productive experience.

Learn more about Jill and sex addiction at her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Related content
Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew show page
Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew videos and extras

  1. Joe says:

    To Jill and Dr D.
    The ongoing battle between Kari and Kendra is normal and may well be unknowingly derived from primordial relationships between females of a small clan. They both compete equally for attention, i.e., selection by dominant males as mates, while being rather uncaring towards one another. This is not so uncommon since girls developing into women do the same thing. It is how Mother Nature actually works. If all females got along, how else would the dominant males be selective in their mates other than just standing them up in a line and impregnating them? There has to be some ongoing estrangement among females for the selective process to solidify.

    That is how females learn to survive to procreate their families and pass on their genes to the next generation. They make intimate bonds with some females while indiscriminately discouraging others. It is simply in their gene makeup and therefore makes their addiction diagnoses a little more complicated and lengthy to treat.

    These battles for supremacy add another perplexing element that can easily be recognized and treated by qualified people such as Jill and Dr Drew. In any case, I have full confidence they will work things out whether they agree with this or not.

    Both of these patients deserve and will likely get additional attention by the therapist and doctor to effectively treat their disease. I truly admire what these doctors are capable of.

  2. adam says:

    gosh i want ilm4 cast already

  3. Future_0bsession says:

    “Adam,” GTFO. The @)_+$)!$%!&*%() le clearly says “Sex Rehab,” not “ILM.”

  4. Jae Farkas says:

    Hi Jill, I’m Jae Farkas, the counselor who conducted the tee shirt art therapy workshop for the women on episode 5. I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to have worked with the Sex Rehab clients, and say that I was extremely impressed with the candor with each one of them disclosed personal experiences of sexual abuse.

    Opening up and sharing the shame and pain takes a great deal of courage. Your clients were able to do that amid the glare of public disclosure. I don’t know if they fully realize the gift of healing they may have provided others through their ability to work on these old wounds. They have encouraged other survivors to take the first step toward their own recovery.

    One small correction; while the program was filmed at Children of the Night, which is an amazing organization working with young sex workers, I provided my workshop through Valley Trauma Counseling Center. Valley Trauma Counseling Center (VTCC) is a non-profit, multicultural organization dedicated to the elimination of sexual and interpersonal violence through healing, empowerment, and increased public awareness of prevention strategies. We work with communities to provide quality crisis intervention and counseling services, trainings, and prevention education to promote social change.

    VTCC is affiliated with the Educational Psychology Department of California State University, Northridge.

    I am responding to your blog because it is very common for survivors of sexual abuse to become triggered by programs about these issues, and I want to make sure that anyone who is inspired to seek help know that there are many organizations nationwide providing recovery services, many of them free of charge or at extremely low fees. To find a local sexual abuse hotline or treatment center, a great national resource is http://www.rainn.org, which will put anyone in touch with their local SA organization.

    As someone who has worked with trauma and abuse survivors for many years, I know that the prospect of opening up that Pandora’s Box of pain is a daunting perspective, but I also know that healing is possible. The first step begins by reaching out for help. Help is one phone call away.

    Thank you again for the opportunity to share this powerful workshop with the residents of your program. You are remarkable and inspirational. Your gentle style will certainly give hope to survivors who may finally seek healing they had not realized was possible.

    Sincerely,

    Jae Farkas, M.S.
    Prevention Education Specialist
    Valley Trauma Counseling Center

  5. Mariselda says:

    This interview further helps me to understand what’s going on in the patients’ minds as well as their emotions.Watching their progress and their withdrawls also helps me to understand and come to terms with my own relationships and experiance with sexual abuse.Watching “Sex Rehab with Dr.Drew” has helped alot,its like being right there in therapy with them.I’m truly thankful for being able to experiance something so powerful.May God bless everyone going through this and for the patients on this show for having the courage to be able to express their process so openly.

  6. Ashley says:

    This whole show has helped me so much.
    Id love to know what the song was when they were finishing up their shirts. it was beautiful and inspiring.

  7. AnnaAnastasia says:

    Oh noes, we wouldn’t want James to look like the bad guy, would we? You see, Jill has the ability to read his mind and know that he’s not really going to rape anyone, even though he says he will. She also has to mention his maturity level in discussing this event, even though she says it has no bearing here. Anyway, it’s the setting and the other patients who make this such a sensitive subject. If James was out in the “real world,” his remark would be hi-larious!

    I’m glad this ended up being a “healing” experience for the group. For the rape victims in the group, I’m sure being told by their therapists to spend a few more days with a person who’s recently threatened to rape a member of the group feels nothing like “brushing it under the rug.”

  8. Flewellyn says:

    Ms Vermeire, I would not classify James’ actions as “adolescent”. They were the actions of a predator. That you fail to recognize this calls your professional credentials into question.

    That you then $*)#^_)~$_`~)$` ert that it was Jennifer who was, as Duncan said, “sweeping it under the rug”, calls your credentials as an empathetic human being into question.

    The person who was sweeping things under the rug, in this situation, was you. You were denying or minimizing the impact James’ words had, as you continue to do in the above. And you then made the absurd statement that “you can’t cross a boundary if one hasn’t been set”, as though the boundary he had crossed was not universal.

    Good people who want to bring each other joy do not make rape threats. It’s shocking that you refuse to recognize this, and terrifying that you are nevertheless considered competent to take a leadership role in a clinical setting.

  9. Rach says:

    No kidding, Anna. Excusing someone for saying what James did to a woman that he knows has been traumatized by rape is nothing short of malpractice. I don’t care if in the end everyone made peace with it or not, it follows your pattern of allowing people to refuse responsibility for the harm they cause others.

    Dr. Drew may not be the expert on sex addiction, but at least he knows how to properly deal with people whose behavior is inappropriate for a treatment setting. James should have been booted and transferred to another facility.

    Consider yourself lucky that you get to deal with rape trauma by proxy and not firsthand, because were your experience from the later you would be disgusted with your choices as a counselor.

  10. Ally says:

    I question the producers judgment in bringing in trainer Rebecca Cardon from Bravo TV’s show Workout. On that show she talks about sex all of the time & flirts with everyone. It seems that the producers are more interested in stirring up trouble by bringing this type of person into a sex rehab environment, than in caring about the well being of the patients.

  11. anne says:

    Just who does this Kari Ann think she is? I have never heard of her, yet she acts like a spoiled rotten priss. She is supposed to want to help herself, but does not seem to follow the program. This is a disrespectful little (@)%^$%+@__$%^&#+ who needs to be slapped. Why is she there? Selma did not need to be fired. Kari Ann was so disrespectful to her from day one, and she should have pulled her hair sooner. Kick this no name ugly (@)%^$%+@__$%^&#+ off the show!

  12. anne says:

    Just who does this Kari Ann think she is? I have never heard of her, yet she acts like a spoiled rotten priss. She is supposed to want to help herself, but does not seem to follow the program. This is a disrespectful little &+~~_!)`!)@!__%*& who needs to be slapped. Why is she there? Selma did not need to be fired. Kari Ann was so disrespectful to her from day one, and she should have pulled her hair sooner. Kick this no name ugly &+~~_!)`!)@!__%*& off the show!

  13. anne says:

    Just who does this Kari Ann think she is? I have never heard of her, yet she acts like a spoiled rotten priss. She is supposed to want to help herself, but does not seem to follow the program. This is a disrespectful little #`_(@*&)*#++($^@` who needs to be slapped. Why is she there? Selma did not need to be fired. Kari Ann was so disrespectful to her from day one, and she should have pulled her hair sooner. Kick this no name ugly #`_(@*&)*#++($^@` off the show!

  14. anne says:

    Just who does this Kari Ann think she is? I have never heard of her, yet she acts like a spoiled rotten priss. She is supposed to want to help herself, but does not seem to follow the program. This is a disrespectful little %%(@*~!~)^^!!)#~& who needs to be slapped. Why is she there? Selma did not need to be fired. Kari Ann was so disrespectful to her from day one, and she should have pulled her hair sooner. Kick this no name ugly %%(@*~!~)^^!!)#~& off the show!

  15. Genna says:

    Jill and Dr. Drew I’ve been watching the show and it’s definetly given me insite to my own issues. I’m not addicted to anything but one thing I constantly need in my life is TV. I know that may sound ridiculous to some of you. but I feel it’s very close to an addiction. I have some physical disabilites and I’ve never had any friends. And I would always get teased alot growing up and still do. I have just resorted to the tv it’s the only friend I have ever had.I think in a certain way Kari Ann reminds of myself. I alawys have a smile on all the time. Anyway I just wanted to say that eventhough I don’t have a real addiction this show has really made me think about myself and the people around me. And if i should do something to get help before this obbession with tv gets worse. thank you