Over the years, we have heard a lot of conversation about whether Teen Mom is exploiting kids.
That’s no surprise. Exploiting the real-world drama and suffering of kids — particularly, pregnant teens and then teen parents — is the whole premise of the franchise.
Has that exploitation passed on to their kids? Well, in some cases, certainly. But some cases are better than others.
Life coach Dr. Cheyenne Bryant (you know, Coach B) is directly addressing fans’ concerns.
The title of this franchise is a total misnomer. The parents haven’t been teens for a long time. And the show also spends time on the Teen Mom cast’s partners and parents and exes. There’s plenty of talk about the kids.
Sometimes we see Leah Shirley, daughter of Amber Portwood.
Often, we see Maci Bookout’s son, Bentley. These aren’t little kids anymore. They’re old enough to have real discussions, and even on-screen therapy sessions, about their lives and their respective families.
Fans have worried for years that these on-screen moments are exploiting the cast’s children for TV ratings.
And, in particular, many fel that it’s straight-up inappropriate to even touch the children’s therapy sessions.
Therapy sessions are private by nature. Children’s therapy sessions even more so.
With that in mind, the good folks over at The Ashley spoke to Dr. Cheyenne “Coach B” Bryant about the on-screen therapy and more.
“I think that if it’s not done in a very protective, safe space way, it can [be exploitive] to film on-camera,” Dr. Bryant acknowledged.
However, she added: “As long as the environment is safe… If not, it could be something that could cause damage.”
Dr. Bryant then emphasized: “It just has to be done right and be done very delicately.”
Part of doing it the right way, she says, includes a lot of off-camera steps to protect the children.
“I make sure Bentley always has a safe space,” Dr. Bryant shared.
“Bentley and I always pre-brief before we film, and we de-brief after,” she detailed.
“We have a full session on what filming will be like,” Dr. Bryant noted.
“What he’s comfortable speaking about,” she detailed. “What is he uncomfortable speaking about.”
“We also have a non-verbal cue that he is allowed to give me when he’s in a space where he’s feeling unsafe or uncomfortable,” Dr. Bryant revealed.
“Or,” she continued, “he doesn’t want to go down that route while we’re filming.”
Coach B added: “So I have gone above and behind to make sure Bentley — and whoever I am filming with who’s a minor… is very protected.”
“And,” Dr. Bryant went on, “that they trust me and that I’m advocating and showing up for them within their comfort zone.”
She also explained why Bentley is so willing to appear on camera to discuss these issues.
“Bentley is such a young man with a big heart that he usually says yes [to filming],” Dr. Bryant described.
“… But he also is mature enough to know where he needs to be reserved,” she observed.
“And,” Dr. Bryant added, “what he does not want to talk about or what the viewers are not privy to.”
“Maci and I make sure we have this conversation with Bentley,” she noted.
“And,” Dr. Bryant then announced, “we totally leave it up to Bentley to say if he wants to or not to film.”
“Maci checks in with me before Bentley films ever, and Maci and I have a full session just discussing what that looks like,” she dished.
“We both — her first as the mother — ask Bentley if he’s OK with filming and is comfortable with filming?” Dr. Bryant added. “And if he is, we do. If he’s not, we don’t. There have been times that Bentley has said no and we did not film.”
She added that this applies to other kids as well. Additionally, she is always making sure that things are okay.
“I have to make sure I’m very aware of the non-verbal cues. I check in a lot, [asking them], ‘Are you OK? Is this OK with you? Do you feel comfortable talking about this? If not, I’ve got your back. We can stop,’” Dr. Bryant explained.
“That is not for the cameras and that’s why they don’t show that part on the show,” she shared. “That is for Bentley or whatever adolescent is filming on-camera.”