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 seventh episode: Kari Ann’s dismissal, the pitfalls of porn, Kendra’s fears and the Selma incident (revisited).
There were some comments last week accusing you of lying to the group regarding the Kari Ann/Selma situation. I know you left a comment on this blog about it, but I wonder if you have any additional thoughts on it?
It was that one comment that everyone laid into me for, saying that I went and lied to everybody. And the thing is, I didn’t. I was telling them the truth based on what I had seen on the footage I was shown. And then, the other thing is, whether Kari Ann threw the vase or not wasn’t really the issue.
That’s why I didn’t press that point or anything, because it was like, “Duh, as an employee, you can’t do that!”
Kari Ann’s the sick one, and Selma’s supposed to be the one that’s protecting everybody and being the professional, and I don’t blame or fault Selma for doing what she did — she did something that most people I think wanted to do. But the unfortunate thing is, you can’t do that! You just can’t! And Selma knows that, she’s OK with the outcome. And what people really aren’t understanding is that Selma’s not a tech. Selma’s a personal trainer, she works at a gym, she was friends with one of the producers, she had some experience with recovery, and so she was brought in, and that’s the unfortunate part: lack of experience in this setting. The good news is that Selma’s getting tons of support. She was really worried that the world was going to see her as the monster for laying her hands on Kari Ann. But the good news for Selma is that everyone’s really got her back and kind of hates Drew and I right now. And I love Selma. I’ve seen her since the show. She and I are good.
Moving onto this week’s show, what do you think of Kari Ann being removed?
At that point, Drew and I were so frustrated. We were just like, “She’s derailing everybody else’s treatment, she’s disruptive to the process.” This level of care is not appropriate for someone like Kari Ann. She needs a much higher level of care with higher boundaries and more structure. I have a soft spot in my heart for her because she’s so wounded and she desperately needs help. I really wanted to help her. But a larger part of me knew that she would never be able to uphold the behavior contract. And you have it in writing, she signed it, she agreed to it, so when she broke the rules one more time, it wasn’t a surprise that the consequences were coming. Drew had arranged for her to go to Del Amo for a higher level of care. It’s not like we just booted her with nowhere to go, because we know that she’s a sick person that really needs help. We gave her options and she had my number so I’ve made myself available to her if she needs support and help. I have faith in human beings that no matter how wounded and sick, there’s possibility for recovery if you’re willing to do the work that’s necessary. Unfortunately, Kari Ann just wasn’t at that place.
How would the higher level of care with Dr. Sealy have been different from what she’d been receiving with you and Drew?
Del Amo is a psychiatric hospital. There’s a higher number of staff per patient ratio. She would be under very strict supervision with people who are not going to coddle, not going to take any condescending comments, and there are no cameras with pressure of TV. Someone like Kari Ann really needs very firm, strict boundaries and structure, and probably a really good psychiatric evaluation, with possibly some medications to deal with some of the mental health issues she has. More than anything, she needed to be detoxed from her drugs of choice. It’s no secret that she’s going to be on the next Celebrity Rehab to deal with her drug addiction that was not openly addressed when she was in sex rehab. And it wasn’t addressed not because Drew and I didn’t want to address it, but because she wouldn’t.
Was it hard to sit there as Drew was dismissing her?
I was just spent. I was at the end of my rope at that point, and it was a mixture of frustration and sadness. I was sad to see her go because I wanted to help her, and frustrated because she couldn’t see all of the support we tried to give her. I was also really scared. For someone like Kari Ann, I don’t know what’s going to happen when she walks out that door, and it could be bad. It could be really bad. It could be life-threatening, which is why we tried to get her to go to Del Amo. I mean, you can’t force anyone. She put a plastic bag over her head, and Drew took the steps necessary to address possibly suicidality, which legally he has to do. I guess they assessed that she wasn’t actually a threat to herself, but had they decided that she was, they would have put her on a 72-hour hold in a psych hospital. It was a few intense days. During those few days before her discharge we also had to do a whole shakedown of the unit, because we found out that somebody had a cell phone, and it turned out that three people had cell phones. And we literally turned the place upside-down. Every drawer, every mattress, every frame, every pillowcase, everything hanging on the mirror, everything was emptied out. It took almost an entire day, because they had snuck cell phones onto the unit, which they weren’t allowed to have. And it was all in the same period as the Selma situation.
Jennie talks seriously about leaving porn. So often, and via the Rehab series specifically, we’re shown the dangers and downside of porn. But I wonder if in your experience, you see people being OK in porn, and being able to maintain that as a career and coming out unscathed?
Not in my experience. I’m not saying it can’t happen. In my experience, every porn star I’ve known, and I’ve known a few, ends up horribly addicted to drugs or other toxic things. The health issues that arise are inevitable. They’re not good at self-care (physically maybe, but not emotionally, spiritually, etc.). Jenna Jameson is an example of somebody who got out of the business and she’s doing very well for herself, so she might be an exception to the rule. You really don’t get a lot of stories like Jenna Jameson. And truthfully, I don’t know Jenna Jameson. She could have things going on behind closed doors that are a result of her days in the porn industry that might not be very pretty. But she got out, and I guess that’s the point. People who stay for the long term don’t have thriving, big beautiful, healthy lives. I’ve just not seen it. I’m not saying it can’t happen. It’s just not my experience. Jennie is an amazing example of what can happen when you do leave. Because she’s left, she’s still out of the industry, she’s writing for the Huffington Post, she’s looking at maybe a book deal, or some more TV stuff. She’s dealing with the financial difficulties with leaving the business, which is probably the thing that makes it the hardest to leave: the money.
Working for VH1, I talk to a lot of strippers, and they say that it’s the money that hooks them. So many hate the work, but love the money.
It’s the money that’s addicting. They get addicted to the lifestyle, and there comes a point where they start the feel the remorse and the grief of a life that they didn’t have. The people who have left the business, stripping or porn, they have to come to terms with living within their means, which might mean a small little studio apartment [and] getting a regular job to start. A lot of them are afraid that, because that’s what they did for a living, they won’t get hired, but that’s not true. Everyone I know who’s left has been able through faith and willingness and determination to find a way to support themselves that is not degrading, not demeaning, and they start to feel empowered and they start to have integrity, and they start to feel like they are women of grace. So it is not easy, not in a million years would I say that it’s an easy process, but it’s very possible. My god-sister was a porn star, and she’s currently in prison. The drugs got to her, she started doing illegal things, and when she started getting a little too old it got harder and harder to get work and she’s a mess. It breaks my heart. I’ve seen it wreck lives for the people who stay in the business. I have s0 much compassion, because as we’ve discussed, I don’t believe that you can be in the adult entertainment industry without having some major or minor trauma: having endured a childhood that wasn’t happy and pretty with a white picket fence and no issues. I really, really feel for the women.
Any thoughts on the session with Amber and her mom?
Amber is a really good example of the love addiction, and how someone ends up with this kind of addiction or disorder. With Amber, her love addiction really stems from that abandonment from her father, so she keeps trying to recreate situations with people who look like her father so she can try and heal that. Also, her mother and her are really enmeshed, and enmeshment creates what we call “love avoidance.” She had to always take care of her mother, which taught her that her value and worth in this life is to take care of and rescue and save other people. So she’s learned that she’s OK, as long as she has someone to take care of and rescue, which isn’t healthy either. She can also do the thing where she finds people to save and rescue, but because that feels so smothering, she needs it, but she doesn’t want it. If someone gets too close, she pushes them away. She did talk about in relationships, she had a couple people who were just boring, or she felt smothered, and so she left them, which contradicts the need to want to be in a relationship and makes her feel confused. The work we started doing, and continue to try to do, is to help her not get into the cycle and pattern. That’s how you really stop it is you don’t start it. The fact that she’s having all the feelings, and having more insight and awareness is really good. This whole process is not about becoming perfect, and the ideal picture of health. It’s about figuring out what your patterns are, figuring out any of the trauma, figuring out any of the enmeshment and abandonment that happened as a child, looking at your specific situations now how you repeat them, and then figuring out how to do it differently.
And then, finally, it seems like Kendra is starting to kind of break down. This episode ends with her in the bathroom crying.
Oh, she started having panic attacks towards the end. And this happens all the time in the world of treatment. It’s kind of interesting, you could almost script it. People enter treatment resistant — they don’t want to be there, they can’t stand the people around them, they replicate relationship dynamics that they have in their life with the people they’re in treatment with, they feel suffocated. Midway through treatment, they start to really see some of the issues, and start realizing that there’s work to be done, and that there’s healing to be done and that those of us who are there to help really do care about them. And towards the end, they don’t want to leave. At this point, rehab has become a safe place because they’re surrounded by their peers, they’re surrounded by people who get it, aren’t going to shame them, aren’t going to judge them, people who accept them for who they are, flaws and wounding and all. The idea of then going back out into the real world, where all the triggers are, where all the stimuli are, is really scary, especially if they’re really committed to their recovery. What you’re seeing with Kendra is she was actually really committed to be in recovery and deal with her stuff. The fact that she even started questioning her drinking is a good sign, and then realizing that she’s not going to be in a structured environment when she leave. In the real world, the best kind of treatment is a slow step-down process where you titrate down. You don’t go from residential [to] home. In the most ideal scenario, you would have residential treatment, and then you would have day treatment with sober living, then outpatient. The best recovery in the world is when you can devote at least nine months to a treatment process when you’re stepping down from residential all the way down to outpatient. You slowly ease yourself out of this structure and treatment process, as you slowly integrate back into your world with all your new tools, your recovery and your support. In reality, that doesn’t happen all the time. A lot of people don’t have the time, or the resources or the lifestyle to be able to do that. And unfortunately the success level is less when they go from residential straight home. The good news is we did offer the patients support and further treatment after the show with myself and with Dr. Reef Karim at the Control Center, which I was really happy about. I have to say, I wasn’t sure how they did that, I wasn’t sure how they’ve done it on the past shows. But the fact that Drew let me offer my services, and Dr. Karim’s, to them beyond the show made me really happy, because I was really worried about some of them. Kendra’s world is pretty chaotic. She runs a rescue out of her home, so she has 20 dogs and 30 cats running around. She manages her husband, and she and her husband are really enmeshed, so they still have a lot of work to do on that, and I’m still trying to work with them and help them on that. I just think that rehab is sometimes a great break from reality, and realizing that you have to go back to it is sometimes really scary. But the weird thing is, when they’re scared or having that kind of reaction, it tells me that they really want recovery. “Oh, I’m cured now, I’m going to go home and everything’s going to be fine!” is not reality, that’s not a realistic way to approach it. When they actually realize the gravity of the situation that they’re going to be facing when they go home, and they’re nervous about it, that tells me that something is working.
Check out screen shots from this episode in the gallery below: