Psychologist, author and regularly televised expert Dr. Jeff Gardere‘s latest venture is VH1 Dad Camp, in which he takes on the challenge of preparing six young men headed down the road to deadbeat fatherhood, for a responsible, involved approach to parenting. Dr. Jeff will be checking in with us every week to comment on each episode of Dad Camp. Below are his thoughts on Episode 7, which was all about the couples’ dream futures…
There were six days left at the start of the episode. Were you happy with everybody’s progress at this point? Was there any concern?
There’s always concern. I was always concerned about Candace and Austin, and certainly concerned about Brian and Christina. I’m always concerned for those four. The other thing I was concerned about was that I didn’t want them to be in a situation where they were in a flight into wellness. That’s a therapeutic term that means as soon as something goes really well the person says, “You know what? I’m feeling great now and I don’t need anymore help.”
You were concerned about that, but did you see that actually happening?
I didn’t see that happening because I wasn’t in their heads at that point 24 hours a day, but it is something that commonly happens.
You had them make to-do lists and then attack them. Was that to give them a tangible sense of accomplishment versus the more abstract one that arises as a result of therapy?
Yes, absolutely. It’s almost like when you try to memorize something: it’s good when you write it down but it’s even better when you put it into action. So for them, you can write about anything you want. It can be all this pie in the sky, but the bottom line is you must do at least one thing to get the plan rolling to say, Yes I have actually started on my plan.” You can plan everything but unless you do at least one damn thing, you really haven’t done anything.
When you presented the idea of writing things out and then accomplishing them, everyone seems game. We aren’t seeing the resistance we saw in previous episodes.
For them, it’s not only part of their maturing through this situation. More than anything else, and as difficult as it might have been for them to actually latch on to these dreams and start putting them into action, it’s still a lot less painful than being into group therapy or one-on-one or one-on-two therapy.
Elliott has this dream of working on vintage cars, and you encouraged him to pursue it, even though he seems uncertain as to how much money he could make from such work.
At the end of the day, isn’t it about living out the dream? Being able to do something in life that perhaps you never thought you could pursue? A lot of us, when we wake up, we think about all the people we’d like to talk to, get together with, the jobs we’d like to have and by the time we shower and get out the door, reality sets in and those dreams are put to the side. So for me with him, it’s like: don’t put your dreams to the side! Follow them through. Do what you have to do. Live your life. Go for the ultimate, which is to work with these antique cars.
Did you have a sense that would pay well enough to support his kid, though?
I didn’t think so at first, but then it ended up that he was offered an internship there. I thought at this point nothing gained, nothing lost. He wasn’t making an extreme amount of money, anyway, to really make a difference so why not try for this and see where it went? I do know as an owner of an antique car, a 30-year-old Benz, that those people can make a s***load of money.
What did you think of Cheryl’s outburst at Wes, over the way he looks (or doesn’t look) into her eyes? Was she just being hormonal, or did you think her complaint was justified?
I think that was her being emotional and hormonal, but for Cheryl, who is more mature than all of them, she realizes the importance of having that connection, having it physically, having it emotionally, looking into the eyes which are the windows of the soul. Unless you’re able to make that commitment in that way for her, then you’re not making a commitment all the way.
We didn’t really see the women when the men were out. Were they doing anything in particular?
I can’t remember what the women were doing. I think they were reveling in their own glory and just trying to relax more than anything else because they’re getting more and more pregnant at this point.
This meant that Wes had to pick out the apartment he and Cheryl would move into without her having any idea of it. It didn’t, but it could have ended in disaster.
It could’ve gone wrong if he had picked the wrong kind of apartment, but at this point, because it is Dad Camp, I felt that it was breaking through that dependency that these guys have on their women almost by default, leaving major decisions to them. This is something where I needed them to step up and be men, not have the crutch of their girlfriends as their enablers to let them get away with talking themselves out of it, or what have you. Or even the girlfriend saying, “I don’t like this place, I don’t like that place.” I just wanted them to get it done. Where you lay your hat is your home, whatever they picked would’ve worked. These guys have enough presence of mind to do the right things at this point.
After Brian’s visit to Tennessee his mind hadn’t changed about moving there. What did you think about that?
After he met his mother-in-law and she mentioned that her sons go hunting with rifles, it was clear that this is a guy who wants so much more than to be in the country. He has all these issues at home, wanting to escape, wanting to see the world. I think this is something that is really scary to him that he is going to be regulated back to being in a place that is almost phobic to him. Walls are closing in, he can’t run.
Donta found a job and enrolled in school. He seemed entirely more agreeable and proactive than what we saw before from him.
Yes, but I will tell you and you will see that every once in a while, a lot of those old ghosts come back. So yes, God bless him. He is doing all of the right things and making some real interventions towards self and so on, but he still has a long, long way to go.
Finally, there was Aaron who hired a financial planner and bought a ring.
Yes, which is amazing. I was so proud of him. You’ll find out soon enough, Aaron is very business-minded. Matter of fact, he is going to use this whole Dad Camp thing as a vehicle for him to know become an advocate for fatherhood.