Couples Therapy ended with a seriously intense meltdown this week thanks to Taylor Armstrong. After a night of bowling and socializing, the cast returned — peacefully — back to their house and went to bed, but in the middle of the night, Taylor woke up alarmed that the heat in her room was on. This led to a full scale freakout complete with threats to leave the show, including the classic “get that camera outta my face” move. It was clear Taylor had been drinking, so when we spoke to Dr. Jenn Berman about Taylor’s behavior, she explained why alcohol was allowed this season, unlike in past seasons, and how this situation affected the group. We got to the bottom of everyone else’s issues, too, so read on for Dr. Jenn’s take on episode two.
I need to ask you about Taylor’s behavior at the end of the episode first by asking what the rule is in the house regarding alcohol, because on past seasons I know it hasn’t been allowed in the house. It seems like it was a contributing factor to her behavior this week.
When the show was originally conceived, the idea was that people would do intensive therapy but it would be more retreat-style. They would be able to have a glass of wine with dinner or have some beer while bowling, as long as it didn’t impede on their therapy, it was fine. Before everyone comes to the house they go through a psych eval and in the first two seasons, it was determined that a couple of people had substance abuse issues and as a result we were not allowed to have alcohol in the house. During season three we did allow it in the house and it wasn’t a problem. Nobody drank excessively and it was not a problem. This season we did the same thing. It was allowed because everyone passed their evaluations. When they went bowling, unfortunately things got a little out of control, which was unexpected and hasn’t happened before. In a certain way it was unfortunate but it ended up giving me really important material to work with in therapy because I got to see a side of Taylor in particular that was really important for me to see and to address. You’ll see the therapy that resulted out of this in episode three and it was really a huge breakthrough.
What did you think when you saw how she was behaving and treating your staff and everyone around her?
You will see me address it in episode three, but I got a call from Gabrielle Moore, who is my counselor and who is, besides being a great therapist, one of the sweetest people you could ever hope to meet. She is so kind and thoughtful and Taylor treated her very poorly, she was doing the best she could. There was a skeleton staff at the house, and I ended up getting a call from Gabby and later got on the phone with Taylor, which you’ll see in the next episode.
Did that situation affect how the group perceived Taylor after that?
I think everybody was shocked by it. It was a very dark side of Taylor that affected the way they felt until the next therapy session where I got to the bottom of what was really going on.
At the beginning of this week’s episode, Taylor says Farrah is the most self-absorbed person she’s ever met. Was their relationship contentious in therapy right away? It seemed to start off supportive, but obviously this week things unraveled quickly between them.
Exactly. I think that Taylor saw a lot of herself in Farrah and she talked about that a couple times in group, in that Farrah talked in the group about her relationship with men and being mistreated and I think Taylor really identified with her and there were times where Taylor, over the course of our work together, said “I really identify with you and I remember what it’s like to be 22 and I’m afraid of you having some of the same patterns that I have and I hope that doesn’t happen for you.” I think that kind of pushed Farrah’s buttons. And I think Farrah pushed a lot of Taylor’s buttons and it created a lot of tension.
At the end of the episode, what was it about Farrah’s behavior at the bowling alley, ordering her food before everyone else, that so annoyed Taylor?
To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t understand why Farrah being hungry and wanting to order her food before everyone got their drinks was such a button-pusher for everyone. I think that in general Farrah pushes people’s buttons and it’s how Farrah can come across, kind of bristly and kind of defended, and sometimes she doesn’t realize how she comes off when she’s talking about her accomplishments and it can be very off-putting, so I think that during those initial few days when the couples were getting to know each other it created a lot of tension.
Farrah reminds me of Courtney Stodden as far as how she pushes buttons and gets people riled up and becomes the main focal point — is it that they’re young and products of a new kind of reality/internet fame or do they just happen to share a personality type?
There are always people that just kind of rub people the wrong way, and it’s my job as a therapist when people come into the house to see what they’re putting out there to others that is so off-putting and ends up making them the center of controversy or conflict or problems. The experiences at Couples Therapy are a microcosm of how all of these celebrities function in the world and with Farrah, she is not someone with a circle of close, trusted friends and I think that we’re seeing why. What it is with her dynamic with people that keeps her from having close, connected relationships.
Moving on to Ghostface and Kelsey, has he never been to a strip club, or does he just have a double standard that he can’t associate personally with a woman who worked at one?
I can’t speak to how often he’s been to strip clubs, but what I know is that for him, he did not want to be associated with someone who did that kind of dancing. When he found that out he was very shocked and upset.
His reaction to finding out Kelsey was a dancer completely overshadowed the rest of her story which was so much more impactful and relevant to the therapy.
Yes, here is this woman who’s talking about her boyfriend attempting to kill her and throw her over a balcony in front of her own child and she has shown herself to be incredibly string, incredibly brave and a real survivor, and what he focuses on is that she was a stripper and how it will reflect on him rather that wow, you’ve been through so much, I had no idea. He made it about him and he felt humiliated by this information about her past. But I think as you learn more about his history, you’ll understand him better.
Whitney and Sada talked about how intense their relationship can get, which led to Whitney admitting they had a fight that could have landed Sada in the hospital. Luckily they were able to contain it, but is the rest of their journey in therapy about how to control their emotions?
Yes, it’s about how to contain their emotions and contain their behavior so it doesn’t reach that level ever again. They are a very intense, volatile couple. They love hard and have conflict that is intense, they have a lot of work to do. In any couple, the problems are 50/50 and I think that it’s easy to point the finger at the one who’s more dramatic like Sada than to look at how the other person contributes but it’s typically a dance with your partner.