Dr. Jenn Berman On The Season Finale Of Couples Therapy: A Transformative Experience


Dr. Jenn Berman Couples Therapy
Couples Therapy seeks to repair the relationships of couples who have spent significant time in the spotlight, and season two is going to bring the drama in ways that season one never dreamed. Dr. Jenn Berman will be speaking to us each week to help us make sense of the couples’ issues and shed light on why they need her help. This week marked the season finale and for Nik and Shayne, the end meant a fairytale wedding and a new begining, while for others, like JoJo and Tiny, it just meant a lot of hard work on the road ahead. Dr. Jenn spoke to us to shed some light and let us know what’s going on with some of the couples now that the show is over.

Let’s discuss Tiny and JoJo this week. I thought it was huge of him to go to an AA meeting, finally, but I think I was more surprised by his admission that his telling her to leave him was just a tough guy act for the cameras. Was that something that was obvious to you, that it was just an act?

It was obvious to me that his ego was involved and that’s really typical when it comes to addiction, and that part was obvious to me whether it was for the cameras or not, that was less significant and less of a factor, the truth is, I don’t really know how much of that was for the cameras, I think it was more about his ego and I think he was embarrassed.

His journey and his realization that he should get help had two parts for me, one was his actual step toward sobriety, and the other was the realization, I hope, of the way he’s been treating Tiny for so long, that he’s been kind of mean to her and hard to be with.

When a person is caught up in an addiction, they often don’t realize how their words affect others and how they come off, they’re just caught up in their own resistance to treatment and their own stuff, I think this was THAT. I don’t think he was thinking about how he was treating his wife, he was thinking about how he looked and wanting to stay in control and a lot of it was the addiction talking.

Krista returned this week, and I know you’ve discussed the fact that she and Courtney and Doug’s lives are all enmeshed, more so than a traditional mother-in-law might be in a marriage, but what stood out to me was her saying “the three of us make a great team.” In the business sense, I get it, but it felt like there was something else to that, it’s that thing that fuels everyone’s discomfort with them in the first place.

I think what you’re picking up on is how enmeshed the relationship is, and that Doug and Krista are very close, Courtney and Krista are very close, it’s a very enmeshed relationship and like I said in the session, they are all in the business of Courtney Stodden, and that creates a different dynamic in any relationship, it adds a whole other layer of complications to those relationships.

One thing I’ve noticed all season long is Courtney’s habit of fluttering her eyes or pouting out her mouth which, aside from the rest of her flirtatious body language, just seems like it’s a reflex when shes asked a direct question. She seems like she gets this aversion to eye contact and starts to launch into those habits a lot.

Which, by the way, is no different than her mom. I don’t know if you noticed that. We all have our things we do when we’re uncomfortable when it comes to habits and body language when we’re uncomfortable, and those are hers.

Was there any resolution with her mom? They weren’t really on the same page about nudity, for one thing.

They were not on the same page with the nudity, and in the end Courtney’s will always wins out in her family.

Is that something her mom now realizes?

I’d like to hope so. I certainly talked about it quite a bit in all our sessions. I think that she realized she didn’t have control over Courtney, I don’t think she realized that it wasn’t necessarily a healthy mother-daughter dynamic. They are so close, that I think she hadn’t questioned it at all.

It was really surprising that Doug’s phone call with his own mother seemed to end on a positive note, did that surprise you?

I was really thrilled to hear it. I was even thrilled that she just answered the phone because she didn’t return any of my phone calls. I had really wanted her to come in for a session with him and I think it would have been really productive and really helpful for everyone, but unfortunately she wasn’t willing to do that, so I was happy that he was able to make some contact with her and that she was not dismissive and seemed open to meeting with them.

I admit I actually got a little teary at the end of the episode, I was really shocked at Nik’s openness and lack of self-consciousness—

And guardedness, yup. He was amazing. Nik’s ability to express himself at the end of this process and be present for his wife blew my mind. I feel like I witnessed the evolution of someone going from by to man to husband and father and it was incredibly impressive. He had wanted to give her a wedding for a really long time, and when he had the opportunity he jumped at it. He was very involved, he wrote everything that he said, it was all him.

Shayne’s been really critical of what Nik does all season, even when he’s trying to be nice, so I’m curious what her real reaction to this was, was she on-board the whole time?

There was no questioning it, she was totally on-board and totally game.

In the final group, everyone was effusive in their thanks to you and the team for helping them, were you expecting that?

You know, I was thrilled, I was honored, it’s an amazing experience to get to take people from such a dark place to a better place that it was really an honor. You do this work and you work really hard and you give of yourself and you try to reach people and help them and sometimes people absorb it and sometimes they don’t, and this was a group that really absorbed it and that was really meaningful to me and to all of us.

Looking back throughout the season, did you ever have an idea that one couple would be the most difficult to work with or have a moment where you didn’t think you could do any more for someone?
When I came in from the beginning, I was unsure of how deep this group would be willing to go, but I was wowed by how much depth and courage they all had. I was most concerned about JoJo because he resisted me until the bitter end and my first session with him, I was really hard on him, to be honest, because I didn’t think he was going to stay and I just figured this may be my only hour or two with him, so I’m going to just be really tough. He did not respond well to it! He was really resistant and really pissed off, but I gave it my best shot.

Courtney and Doug stirred up more drama than any other couple, which is good for a television standpoint, but from a therapy standpoint, do you wish things could have gone differently with them?

I wish that Courtney had decided on her own to dress differently, I wish that she had been more open to the process sooner, I wish that the viewers got to see the great work Doug was doing earlier on, he really did throw himself into the therapy process and unfortunately a lot of that wasn’t shown, but I hope I was able to make a difference for them. I think there’s a misconception that what Courtney wears now is determinant of whether or not she got something out of therapy, I don’t see it that way. My goal was never to get Courtney to dress differently in her personal or professional life, it was to get her to dress differently for twenty one days while she lived in that house. Anyone watching can tell that there was a huge shift in her behavior, in her body language, in how attentive she was in that house, and to me that was significant, to me that was huge progress.

Any closing thoughts on the season?

I just want to say how grateful I am to these five couples who were so brave and willing to share their experiences and their strength and I think it’s such a beautiful thing, because not only did they have a transformative experience, but the viewers did too.

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