Examining VH1 Dad Camp With Dr. Jeff – Reunion



At last, we conclude our episode-specific VH1 Dad Camp commentary with Dr. Jeff Gardere. Below, he discusses the show’s reunion and his thoughts on where the couples ended up, post-program.

Finding a central location that everyone could drive to must have been quite the maneuvering job, right?

It was actually the 3 Ball folks who figured it out. Not to take anything from Oklahoma City but I was hoping to get a trip back to L.A., but it’s not about Dr. Jeff. It’s about our cast and their families now and making it much more accessible and easy for them because some of them just could not fly because of the delicate ages of their newborns.

As a viewer, I was disappointed that Elliott couldn’t make it. It seems like if he couldn’t be pulled away from anger management and other counseling than he must really be in there doing the work.

He’s in there like swimwear and he’s doing a very good job. It just really was a situation of where I had to weigh whether it would be great to see him again for old times’ sake and take a look at what was going on and interrupt the care that he was giving versus him continuing with the care and the fact that he really just didn’t quite earn it yet. I really felt that even though he did just as good a job if not better than some of the others, I felt that it’s kind of like giving him the lollipop a little bit too soon and it might retard some of the progress he’s made.

Everyone brought family members so that they could watch over the kids. That must have been a huge mass of people.

It was a huge mass of people, but they were all wonderful. It was great to meet the siblings. It was wonderful to meet the aunties and I think there were a few parents that were there and to see the family resemblance. That was interesting.

You mentioned to the group this concept of “the fun of being a father.” Can you talk a little bit more about that?

The fun the guys were having before the show was a very selfish, immature fun and it was time to grow up because there’s a lot of fun in being a father. It’s fun not just to you the father but it’s fun for the partner, it’s fun for the child. Of course once you accomplish that, once you take priority, then you can have whatever selfish fun you want after that, your video games, hanging out with the boys, whatever the case may be. But for now instead of having to be a good father, wanting to be a good father and having fun doing that is the best strategy. Fun can even be not just playing with your baby and going on an outing as a family. Take a look at any guy who’s on a New York City subway platform with their baby and they look like — and I know this is not a great analogy — but they look like they just finished smoking a joint. They are content. They are complete. They are kind of bragging. They are being sexy for other women because they are holding their baby in their arms. It’s a good look. It feels good and that’s part of the fun of parenting.

Was it surprising how into parenting all these guys turned out to be? Donta changes diapers, Aaron says that his baby’s crying pulls him to her…

I was not surprised at all because once we cleared the path to better parenting by going through all the psychological and emotional baggage that they were holding onto and getting them to now clear their heads and be able to accept their responsibility and learning the techniques and building their self esteem and the respect that they have for their partners, it just became natural.

It seems like everybody is doing really well with the exception of Austin and Candace. Is that a fair assessment?

Yes, everyone is doing well. There still continues to be problems between Elliott and Tiffany, but they actually work out a lot of those issues and use a lot of the techniques. Elliott especially uses the techniques that I taught him to get through a lot of the crisis. Lets face it: Elliott is this charismatic, good-looking guy who could be a movie star given the proper circumstances. Tiffany is this gorgeous young woman who also comes from a lot of issues in her family so it’s like they love one another but it’s also like the perfect storm and there are going to storms in their relationship. With Austin and Candace, Candace is the saint, but she still needs to look at her co-dependency issues, enabling issues. Austin just has major, major issues in his life that he needs to continue working on and I’m just really concerned for him.

How did you feel about Austin and Candace announced that they were planning to break up?

I was very saddened by it, but I believe Austin is running. He’s not running from Candace. He’s not running from the baby. He’s running from life. He’s got deeper, deeper, deeper issues that he has to continue working with.

Do you feel like he is confronting those? He said, “I don’t think I have any emotional issues.”

No I don’t think he is confronting them. I think that he got close to confronting them in Dad Camp. He actually showed some good progress and it was just overwhelming for him and that’s why he needs to continue working on those issues.

Brian and Christina Skyped in and we only saw a second of them. What sense did you get of where they are right now?

I think they’re very happy. Obviously there are still going to be struggles. There are still going to be issues, individually and as a family, but I think they really have turned a corner. To me, out of all of them [they are] really one of the biggest success stories c coming out of Dad Camp.

It does seem like everybody besides Austin and Candace are on the right path.

Oh yeah, absolutely. You know in some ways, Candace is on the right path, but I think she also has to confront those enabling and co-dependency issues.

It must be gratifying for you to head this group that formerly seemed hopeless, but has made something for themselves as far as their families go.

Everybody said we couldn’t do it including the Daily News. They said it was going to be impossible and I knew it was not an impossible task because these are not bad guys. These are guys who are emotionally damaged and my job as a psychologist and throughout boot camp at Dad Camp was to help them in order to save the lives of these children.

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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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