Dr. Jef Gardere is a nationally renowned psychologist who has made appearances on Love & Hip Hop Atlanta (with Stevie J, Mimi, and Joseline) and with NeNe Leakes on Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Last week, the mental health professional had a session with expectant mom Tara Wallace on Love & Hip Hop and we just had to know how is this man connected to the reality world and what did he really think of Tara’s admission that she was pregnant, yet again, with Peter Gunz’s child?
How familiar with Tara Wallace’s situation with Peter were you, prior to filming Love & Hip Hop?
Dr. Jeff Gardere: I was not very aware of what the specific situation was but I heard about her and I heard about Peter Gunz. I work about 14 hours a day, and I teach medical school, and I see patients so it’s not like I have the time to watch television or even watch myself on TV. I went in there pretty raw, and I am glad that I did because I don’t like going in with preconceived notions or a plan. [The session is] about the person and letting them be able to reveal themselves in a way that allows them to have that catharsis and work through a lot of that pain.
Do you feel like you were able to get to the root of anything with Tara?
I think the most important thing that we were able to come to an understanding that in relationships, it’s not about the other person being such a bad person or taking advantage of them and so on. We also have to take a look at where we make particular choices and how we can find ourselves in a very destructive cycle based on those choices.
Was there any part of you that was in that session and thinking, this is bad?
I never use that term, and I did not feel that way with Tara either, that it was bad or [that] she was stupid because I give unconditional positive regards. What I do see when I see that pattern and that behavior is repeated over and over again, I will say stop the presses; take a look at what’s going on. You’ve become too entrenched or too much in the habit that you don’t even realize that you are putting yourself at risk for very troubling sorts of issues in relationships.
Are you aware of the significant moments you have been a part of on VH1’s Love & Hip Hop and other reality shows?
It’s afterwards that I see that they have been tense, very interesting, life changing moments, but not at the specific time that it is happening. Except if it’s something [like] with NeNe, for example where she had that breakdown and breakthrough at the reunion show and that is what I feel is being significant. I am so glad you asked the question, because it’s not about, wow, look what I did, but more of, wow, how many people will be watching this and it can open the door to addressing their own particular pain. It’s going beyond just, “I’m better than you are” or “Lemme tell you this gossip.” These are heart-wrenching, painful, but breakthrough moments for these individuals that can help the people who watch.
I can’t tell you the number of emails that I have gotten when I worked with NeNe and the work I did with Tara. People whose hearts have been broken, who have been in very similar relationships and the emotional pain and for years they have been holding on to it. They watch those moments and now they feel that they can open up their hearts and deal with that pain, that’s what I’m really proud of.
You’ve appeared on Love & Hip Hop NY, Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, and Real Housewives of Atlanta, what is your connection to the reality television world, or maybe African-American reality TV shows?
I think it’s all in the divine order that a lot of people do criticize that reality shows, especially with African Americans, that it portrays them in a very negative light and I really consider it to be a privilege to be able to come in and say well, what is going on here? How can we help individuals and how can we lift this above something that may be very common to something that can be extraordinary and that can actually reach a lot of people and help them change their lives? I think it begins to change the argument as to the significance of reality shows where some people say, it’s a waste and others feel that it is an accurate portrayal of others. Some say it’s an inaccurate portrayal, but if nothing else I can honestly say that the work I have been able to do really does open up, you know pull back the curtains on the pain that people walk and carry with, even though they may seem like they’re functioning to the best of their abilities.
Have you ever continued any or your relationships with the personalities from these shows? Have you spoken to Tara since filming?
I always remain in contact with people that I work with.