Examining VH1 Dad Camp With Dr. Jeff – Episode 8

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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 8, our finale of sorts (until, of course, next week’s reunion), throwing Elliott out of the program and where the couples ended up…

In the beginning of the finale, we saw a really positive meeting with you, Tiffany and Elliott. He was grateful and willing to work out problems without bickering.

Oh yes, absolutely. I of course expected that there are going to be a lot more conflicts in that relationship. At least now they have had several opportunities to work through some conflict and work through some very difficult moments and hopefully they’ll be able to continue to rely on those strategies. They’re not going to be perfect, but rely on those strategies in the future when they do have those sorts of conflicts.

Then flash forward to 10 minutes later in the episode, after Elliott explodes and disrupts the entire house. It seems that he was doing so particularly well, only to return to square one.

I think it’s to be expected. I know it’s to be expected. When you are learning new ways to behave, to process, to interpret, and to feel, it’s always easy in the heat of the moment to fall back, in his particular case, your explosive angry and frustrated ways, but then once you do that, it doesn’t mean you’ve fallen to square one, it just means that you recover more quickly.

You didn’t let him finish the program. Tell me about the rationale behind that.

I felt that his behavior was so outrageous that I just could not in any good conscience allow him to be able to get away with that and not face the consequences. On a therapeutic level more than anything else, I needed him to understand that when you act out in a particular way that can be so intense, I can not continue to forgive you. I need for you to understand what the consequences of your actions are. In this case, it’s for you to leave the program. I was also concerned about the stability of the house and these women who are carrying these children. The other part of that, which I thought was important, was that he really needed to get intense help that I could not give him, because I was split up in six different ways. I just could not give him the undivided attention that would propel him at this point. Therefore, I needed him to get help, more specific help outside of the program and to get it right away.

I figured that some of your first point factored into it because obviously he’s come all this way — just one day short of completing the program. So there had to be a degree of symbolism there.

The other thing that people need to understand is that I gave these guys the promise that I would always be available to them. To my misfortune — LOL — they have held me to that. It sort of abated now since the babies have come, but they must’ve called me several times a day, almost each and every one of them, especially Elliott and Tiffany. So I was doing a lot of crisis intervention by telephone.

We see you tell Tiffany that you were letting Elliott go, but we don’t see you actually tell him to his face that you’re letting him go. What was that conversation like? Was that tough?

It was extremely tough and it was done behind the scenes and I can just tell you this: not only did he cry, not only did I cry, not only did Tiffany cry, but people in the production, from behind the cameras were crying. It was tough.

Your compassion comes through in a very overt way when you tell everybody after the last group that you love them all.

I do love them all and I still am in contact with them and I’ll always love them because we went through something very special together. It wasn’t just that it was a therapeutic 30-day program. This was the first time something like this has been done on television and we all went through that together, putting the laundry out there. As you know, I revealed several things too and so it was a very, very emotional experience for all of us.

When you had the guys make the videos for their unborn children, I had a feeling that in addition to being for the children, that exercise was kind of for the guys too.

It was almost like a living will, a testimony, a video document that they would have to live up to everything they said because if they don’t, let’s go to the videotape!

Of the four remaining couples by the end, all of the women allow their men to be involved in their children’s lives. It seems like the program worked.

The program did work. Even the couples who weren’t there, it worked for them to some extent, but I think as you’ll see in the reunion if one of the couples had stayed it probably would not have worked.

Obviously, the fact that Brian decided to move to Tennessee is huge.

That is huge and I cannot believe the courage of this guy who initially stated he did not love Christina, but was willing to give them a chance to fall in love for the sake of baby, but secondarily for themselves and it did work. It think that was huge, really, really huge.

Aaron proposed. We knew he was going to, but it was still nice to watch.

It was a great moment. The purpose of the show was never to get the couples married. More than anything else, in addition to a transformation and being a better person and of course a better father, whichever order you want to put it in, the most important thing was to have more respect for their partners and that we definitely saw.

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Related content
VH1 Dad Camp show page
VH1 Dad Camp video and extras
The VH1 Dad Camp Discussion Guide

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