10 Questions with ... Dr. Jenn Berman
October 26, 2010
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
-"The Love and Sex Show with Dr. Jenn" on Sirius XM
-Author of SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years and The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy Confident Kids
-First children's book Rockin' Babies to be released May 2011
-Television work includes shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Early Show, The Today Show, The Talk, and hundreds of others
-"Dr. Jenn" column printed in five magazines
-Therapist in private practice
-Owner of Retail Therapy (www.ShopRetailTherapy.net), an eco friendly clothing line for adults and children
1. How did you make the move into being a media figure? You get your degree and credentials, build your practice, and... how did you add being an expert on TV and radio shows?
I started out my career as a psychotherapist working for the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women as a rape and battering hotline counselor. I was inspired by a story I did for my college newspaper about rape on campus. As soon as I started counseling people I knew I had found my calling as a therapist. I wasn't really thinking about media work at the time.
Then one of my grad school teachers gave me an opportunity. I was very outspoken in one of my classes and my teacher, who was going to be on television, asked me to speak on camera. When I did the segment I realized that working in the media has the potential to help thousands or even millions of people, unlike when I do therapy in my office one on one. This really excited me but I didn't take it seriously until years later when I met Harvey Levin and Lisa Gregorish while working on a television project together. They really encouraged me to "go for it" and to get representation.
I did a lot of work on television and was guest on many different radio shows. I did the pilot for "Breaking Bonaduce," during which I counseled Danny and Gretchen on camera. When they decided to use a male therapist, Gretchen and Danny told me that they would keep me in mind if they heard about anything that I would be right for. As luck would have it, shortly after that, Star 98.7 started looking for a radio shrink to do the show "On the Couch" with Bradley Wright. They recommended me to the program director Angela Perelli, who auditioned me, and I got the job. Bradley and I did that show for about a year. I loved it!
2. You're back on radio with a show on Sirius XM's Cosmo Radio. What's your goal with this show? What does the radio show offer to listeners? What do you like most about doing a radio show?
My new show is called "The Love and Sex Show with Dr. Jenn" and is all call-in advice. My goal with this show is to help both the callers and the listeners at home learn new ways to resolve issues in their lives. While the show does answer tons of calls about dating, romantic relationships and sex, it also answers questions about so many other types of issues. I have gotten calls about cancer, in-laws, parenting, friendships, parents, death, break ups, depression, and so many other life issues. I love to challenge people to think differently and change their behaviors. The other night I got a call from a woman who was frustrated with her jealous boyfriend. It turned out that she was very flirtatious with men and had almost no women friends. When I probed further, it came out that she is so insecure with who she is that she pushes women away before they can reject her and flirts with men because she doesn't know what else she has to offer, other than her sexuality. It was one of those "ah ha!" moments that I live for as a therapist.
3. Of all the questions you're asked, what's the most common? What area of life generates the most requests for advice?
I get a lot of calls from women asking how they can get their boyfriend or spouse to treat them better and a ton of calls from men who want to know how to get their wives back "in the mood." I get the most questions about relationships, even a lot of the sex questions are ultimately really about the relationship.
4. You were a gymnast who improved your performance using psychology techniques on yourself. You're now a wife and mother; do you find yourself still applying your psychology training to your own life? Does your training make you a better, or at least better-equipped, person in your daily life?
Yes, I still use a lot of the deep breathing exercises before going on for a particularly nerve-wracking show. I have even used some of the same techniques to help my own kids relax. I was on the national team in rhythmic gymnastics for about five years and had a really hard core Russian coach. That training made me very competitive, driven, focused, and gave me the ability to work past pain and exhaustion. My experience in sports also taught me how to fail and fight my way back as well as how to win graciously; all qualities that have helped me working in the entertainment industry.
5. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
I grew up listening to Dr. Toni Grant in the car on my way home from school. As a kid I also remember listening to David Viscott quite a bit. I admire Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew tremendously. They all brought therapy into the mainstream and paved the way for other therapists, like myself, in the media.
6. How are you using social media in conjunction with your radio show and your career? What do things like Twitter and Facebook bring to the table for you?
I was very hesitant to get on Twitter and Facebook because of the time commitment but I think it has really helped me reach out to my audience and get my message out. It has been a great way to let people know about my book signings, events, tell people about my show and even share bits and pieces about my life.
7. About what are you most passionate these days?
I am very passionate about my new book SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years. It has been my obsession for the last 18 months, and I am thrilled to report that it has been on the LA Times best seller list for two weeks.
I wrote SuperBaby because I wasn't able to find all the information I needed in one book. There are a lot of great books out there about infant development but there wasn't one that covered all the aspects: the psychology of parenting, brain development, reducing toxins, nutrition, language development, sign language, baby massage, kangaroo care, scheduling, sleep, responding to cues, foreign language, television, child care, and picking a preschool, so I felt I had to write it myself. I looked at all the questions that my clients, readers, listeners and viewers have been asking me over the years. I also looked to address the questions I encountered as a mom and tried to answer all of them in this book. You don't have to be "Type A" to want your child to have a head start in life. Let's face it, we all want that.
I love doing research. I am an obsessive at heart. For me, reading about the latest study about language development or talking to an expert in toxic chemicals, is fascinating. I also shared my own experience and struggles as a mom.
8. Of what are you most proud?
Aside from my amazing children, I am most proud of my work ethic. I am a really hard worker and I have worked my tush off for every success I have had.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without_______________.
...touching each of my children. There is nothing like the feel of your own child in your arms.
10. Let's turn the advice thing around on you: What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
The best advice I ever got was from my parents, who told me to follow my passion. But the best radio advice I ever got was from Dr. Drew Pinsky who early on in my career told me to pay my dues by being a guest on lots of people's shows and be willing to work on anything until I became more established. I was at an event he was doing for therapists and asked him for advice. He didn't know anything about me other than that I wanted to break into radio and pulled me aside and talked to me even though there were a lot of other people waiting in line to talk to him. He was so gracious and so thoughtful about his advice.
The worst radio advice I got was from a very established radio personality who told me not to bother going into radio because it was such a difficult business. She really tried to discourage me but that only made me want to do it more.