Dr. Jenn On Couples Therapy Episode 5: Childhood Trauma And Therapy Curses

Last week during our chat, Couples Therapy star Dr. Jenn Berman mentioned that this season on the show, almost everyone in the cast has seriously traumatic parental or childhood trauma. This week, we got to see exactly what she was talking about. In our weekly chat, Dr. Jenn reveals how such trauma has affected these patients, how Chingy and Temple’s date turned on a dime, and Catelynn’s concern over the “Couples Therapy curse.”

There were two moments this week that made me wonder if you ever take anything your patients say personally. The first was when Liz said she never wanted to do Couples Therapy. The second one was Catelynn’s reference to the “Couples Therapy curse.” Were you offended or upset by either of those comments?

First of all, with regard to Liz, it is really common in the beginning stages of therapy for people to resist. I expect people to resist me in their own way. There’s not a person in the house who doesn’t resist me at some point. I expect it every season, I expect it in my private practice office, I expect it anywhere I do therapy. That doesn’t bother me. Most of the time with each couple, there’s one person who wants to do this experience more than the other. A lot of the time, the person who we call the more obvious patient, the identified patient, the person that the viewers watch and go “She’s so messed up!” usually that’s the person who’s not as into doing this. It’s a normal part of the therapy process to be met with resistance and question if this is a process they want to take part in.

Regarding the curse, it came from Radar Online, they did a story about some couples from other seasons on the show breaking up. I don’t believe it’s my job as a therapist to keep couples together. It is my job to help them have the healthiest relationship possible and also often times, to determine if this is a viable relationship. A lot of times, and it will happen this season, I won’t say with who, my job is to help people come to the conclusion that we are not meant to be together. How do we part ways amicably? The curse of Couples Therapy makes me smile a little bit because it makes me think I’m doing my job.

Did the fact that Catelynn and Tyler’s parents got married to each other take a toll on their relationship? It feels like it may have been a factor in their issues, turning them from a normal teenage couple to, basically step-siblings with some extra baggage.

Honestly, they’re not a normal teenage couple. They did their show, they gave their child up for adoption, they are survivors who are so mature beyond their years. To me, their parents marrying was kind of like the least of their problems. There is so much addiction and abuse in their histories that it’s just one more thing that ties the two of them together.

Chingy and Temple went through a lot in this episode. They were supposed to go on a date that you tried to orchestrate but things fell apart.

Yes, they did. Again, this is one of those things where I say to people, you may think the show is scripted but it’s so not. Here I am going “I have this perfect therapeutic intervention! She’ll challenge herself and he’ll get a sense if this is someone he can live with,” and they get so derailed.

And their issue, that he wasn’t paying attention to her and was on one of his many electronic devices, seems so common for a lot of couples nowadays.

In this day and age I think it’s very easy to neglect your relationship to social media and to computers and to Kindles and all that stuff. That’s really easy to do, so this is an example of that. There’s an issue of being neglected that is relatable to a lot of viewers and their spouses. And then there’s their specific issue that they’re here to work on their relationship. She’s trying to be closer to him and he’s putting a wall up. In their relationship there are a lot of instances where he puts walls up, whether he’s on tour and not answering his phone or is he’s on his Kindle, it’s not that much different.

Flav’s story of childhood abuse seemed very similar to DMX’s from season one. What it is about someone who suffers so greatly like that but then puts out this public persona and becomes a really charismatic performer?

I think when you have that kind of trauma, you learn to adapt, whether it’s trying to make friends in class, trying to cheer up your parents, trying to make it so you don’t get hit or beaten, a lot of kids learn to do that by entertaining those around them. It’s a defense mechanism and it can be really great in some ways and really terrible in others because it keeps that person away from their feelings and then those feelings don’t get dealt with.

Related: Couples Therapy Sneak Peek: Snakes In The Grass
[Photo: VH1]