Talking Couples Therapy Episode 5 With Dr. Jenn Berman

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Dr. Jenn Berman has been counseling people and offering advice to people in need for some twenty years now, but on VH1′s Couples Therapy, this marks her first time working with a group of ten celebrities whose relationships are in desperate need of repair. We’ll be checking in with Dr. Jenn each week to chat about the progress of her patients on the show, and what she really thinks of their behavior. This week on the show was the most emotional one yet. Dr. Jenn discusses DMX‘s situation with his mother and how important Tashera has been to him, and we also get into the root of childhood trauma.

Episode five is really affecting, with DMX’s breakdown and Jonah coming in to show his video to the group.

It’s very emotional, very emotional. I had tweeted about the episode, saying “If you don’t shed a tear, you probably don’t have a heart.” It’s pretty intense, even after having been there and seen it, I cried while I was watching it.

What’s the difference between actually having lived through the experience and watching it back?

Wow, hmm…The experience of being in the bubble of intensive in-patient work keeps you so focused and entrenched in the experience and the emotions and the clinical aspect of it, it’s like having blinders on. And to see it again, it kind of brings you right back there, emotionally, viscerally. Doing this show was such a powerful, meaningful experience, and seeing it again is just further validation of that. I’ve had a lot of people ask me, this seems really real, was it real? And this was SO real, there was nothing scripted about this, it was so authentic and raw.

One of the things that happened in episode five — there was so much going on — was Reichen saying that when he came out after being bullied through his childhood, admitting he was gay was like validating his bullies and admitting that they were right. Is that a common sentiment in therapy or when you deal with people who have come out or had a similar experience?

I think that was, sort of, his own struggle with being a gay man in a pretty homophobic society, and I think that’s a normal, natural experience and feeling, and I wish we lived in a different kind of world, but I think it’s something a lot of gay youths can identify with.

You also talked to this group about not letting childhood run their lives anymore, is that common advice for people in any kind of therapy?

For the vast majority of people, the first pain stems from childhood. It may not necessarily be mom or dad, sometimes it can be another message they got. And it doesn’t have to be trauma or abuse, that can be a common misconception about therapy, that unless you’ve been abused that you can’t benefit from therapy, but we all have experiences that shape who we are so we can have insight and make different choices.

Chris’ manager Nicole sent him a card in this episode which brings up the issue of whether or not they have some kind of history together. Is Nicole’s presence in his life impeding his relationship with Angelina, or do you think he’s aware of whatever her feelings for him are?

Yes, I think Chris was aware of Nicole’s feelings toward him but I think he needed to downplay her feelings to himself in order to continue their professional relationship. And I think he felt a sense of loyalty to her because she’s been his manager and he felt conflicted like, wow, she’s done so much for me, and he felt very grateful for that, and it caused him a lot of conflict.

Now that we know DMX’s situation with his mother, would you say that his relationship with Tashera endured for so long and was so important to him because she was more like a mother to him than a wife?

I think their relationship has endured because she has incredible tenderness, kindness, and patience with X. There is a certain nurturing component to it, but the truth is in all romantic relationships, there is a kind of re-parenting that takes place and certainly in the relationship between Tashera and X that’s present. I think when he broke down in his room it was really significant to me when he was saying he was saying he just wanted to hear his mommy and have her say “I love you,” and I’m so proud of him for saying that. He broke the man code when he shared that, it was so brave and courageous. He spoke the words that so many men feel but they’re afraid to say. To me that showed such strength, I hope it will inspire a lot of other men. I’ve gotten a lot of emails and tweets about Kasey’s episode from men saying “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve seen a guy break down and be stronger for it. He’s a role model to me now.” I really hope other men with see X expose his pain so that they can do the same and have some healing as well.

How did X handle his own vulnerability, since he has such a tough public persona? This was such a revealing moment.

I think he struggled with it too, as I think all men do. I think our society doesn’t teach men how to handle those emotions well enough, but he knew this was his opportunity, he was in a room with a therapist he could trust and this was his chance to heal this wound. I applaud him, I have such admiration for him to be able to do that.

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