As we welcome 2014 into our lives, we also welcome a new season of VH1’s Couples Therapy, with five new couples whose goal is to figure out if the love in their lives is worth fighting for, or whether or not they should let go of it. On tonight’s season premiere, we met Taylor Armstrong and John Bluher, Ghostface Killah and Kelsey Nykole, Whitney Mixter and Sada Bettencourt, and Farrah Abraham and…no one. The big topic of the night was the fact that Farrah found herself abandoned by her boyfriend of five months and left to go through the therapy process alone. Fortunately she found a support system in the other couples, as well as with the show’s star and therapist, Dr. Jenn Berman. We spoke to Dr. Jenn about the episode and her first impression of all her new patients.
Well…you’ll see what happens. I think this is a really interesting group and everyone really embraced the therapy on a deep and meaningful level, but there was, as time goes on, some tension that develops in the house. Not like season three, no punches, but definitely some tension.
Now, I think a lot of people come in because they’ve seen the show and they realize we do real therapy and it’s very authentic, and they’re on board and ready to do therapy. Taylor Armstrong is a great example of that. She came in ready to get in the trenches. Ghostface was skeptical about therapy and unsure what it would mean and what it would be like. A lot of times when I work with rappers they’re less experienced in therapy, they’re not a group that grows up with a lot of therapy and they don’t know what to expect.
Does the fact that, for example, DMX had been on and worked with you give the show some credibility to him in that respect?
Yes, I think it does, Ghost knew that DMX and Too Short and Flavor Flav had been on, but I don’t think he had seen all the previous seasons.
Kelsey describes their relationship as having “magic,” but as she says that, his body language almost says the opposite, he’s not feeling that. What was your first impression of their relationship?
There were things that were red flags and showed that they were not in the same place at the same time regarding this relationship. That was something that needed to be looked into…and it is, very much so, you saw it in the super trailer.
My sense was that John was there to support Taylor. Like “Here’s Taylor, let’s fix her! But I don’t need therapy, I’m fine.” I think it was very challenging for John, who is so successful in the business world to come on a reality show and open up. But as you know, I eventually wear everyone down! John ultimately did great work.
Whitney and Sada seemed to have the biggest power struggle of any couple so far. Plus they also mentioned they have a mother-daughter issue. Are these all part of the same big issue, or do they have a lot of little issues or things in their past that create the conflict?
Whitney and Sada have such an intense, emotional, volatile relationship, it is so filled with love and conflict. They go, especially Sada, from zero to a hundred in like 3.2 seconds. They have a lot of issues, all of which ultimately get addressed, and some of it intertwines. When you have a couple with years of history as they do, a lot of things go unresolved or their issues are not really about what’s happening in the moment, they’re about the history within the relationship or from their childhood as you’ll see with Sada this season.
You talked about how Farrah has lived out her life on TV from a young age. How does she compare to some of the other young people you’ve treated like Catelynn and Tyler, or Courtney Stodden?
Her life totally unfolded on television. I think in Farrah’s case, it’s very easy to forget that this is a 22-year-old young woman, and I think that’s because of the sex tape which is a hot button for people. I watch the cruel things that people tweet at her and it amazes me. She’s someone who has had a total lack of guidance and has experienced so much trauma in her life. I think the public is very quick to criticize her, but as a therapist, I have to look at what’s going on that this person makes these choices about men and relationships and career.
I know you had to make the decision about whether it was appropriate for her to stay on the show once you saw that her boyfriend hadn’t arrived, can you elaborate on how that played out?
What happened was that Farrah’s boyfriend signed on to do the show, he did interviews and pre-interviews with our producers and had a plane ticket, he checked in, and then he didn’t show up. Farrah was shocked and she was hurt and surprised and I was surprised. I was hoping to be able to connect with him, I was hoping to find out what was really going on. My producers also reached out to him and tried to give him the opportunity to figure this out in therapy and get some closure with her, so we could find out the truth of what was going on.
Just the act of him not showing up seemed to be more fuel for her therapy.
When I went in her room and met with her, I saw how distraught she was and I was hoping I could get him to come on so they could talk through what was going on, but what struck me when I sat with her was her willingness to take responsibility. She said, look, I keep getting hurt over and over and I have to look at the fact that I’m the common denominator. I thought, that’s a good place to start and there’s certainly a lot of therapy work to do. I thought that was a very mature thing, very insightful that she was able to look at that.
Was there anyone you worried about that would give you the hardest time or the most pushback this season?
Every member of this cast has their own pushback, that’s part of the therapy process, but I was most concerned about John and Ghostface and whether they would be willing to turn themselves over to the process. That was my biggest concern.