Exclusive: Dr. Ish Major talks about helping Mama June and Alana on Mama June: From Not to Hot

Dr. Ish Major on Mama June: From Not to Hot.
Dr. Ish has helped Mama June’s family on Mama June: From Not to Hot. Pic credit: WEtv

Dr. Ish Major is a staple on WEtv. From his work on Marriage Bootcamp to his help with Mama June: From Not to Hot, he shows up to help when needed.

Two weeks ago, Pumpkin called Dr. Ish for help with Alana. He showed up for the family, giving them advice as they navigate life as it is for them now.

Monsters & Critics had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Ish Major and ask him about how things went down with Mama June Shannon and Alana, what his thoughts are now, and find out if he is keeping in touch with them as they continue to move forward with their lives.

Here is what he had to say.

Monsters & Critics: Which “intervention” was harder to prepare for, June or Alana?

Dr. Ish Major: Both were hard because the stakes were so high with each. Adults struggling with emotional and substance abuse problems have patterns. Those patterns make them predictable so from that standpoint preparing for June was easier. I knew what she was going to do before she did.

To me, the stakes are higher when children are involved because they’re actively shaping their life beliefs with each new interaction. And what I’ve learned over the years from working with children and adolescents is that, as the ‘Dr.’ there to help them, they’ll give you one chance and one chance only. Blow that chance and you lose them.

Add to that Alana, while expressive as she in on camera, in reality, she’s just like most other high school kids you know, quietly internalizing conditions while keeping her emotions, fears, and insecurities hidden.

And if those two reasons weren’t enough, by the time we realized Alana needed an intervention, I realized the entire family was an emotional mess and really needed a safe space to heal. So for those reasons, Alana’s intervention was absolutely much tougher because the stakes were sky-high.

M&C: Was it surprising to find out that June left rehab with Geno after she was checked in?

Dr. Ish: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Addiction is tough because it’s the only medical problem where I actually have to work to convince you that you have it. Unfortunately, June is a perfect example of this.

Most people fail rehab at least 3 – 6 times before they commit; because they’re not ready to change. There are 5 stages of recovery and at the time of her intervention she was in Stage 1; pre-contemplation. She had yet to admit to herself that she actually needed help.

No matter how much time, attention, worry, and resources family and friends pour into you; if you don’t honestly think you need help; you won’t reach for it. There’s a fine line between being supportive and being enabling.

Not only was June addicted to drugs but she also had a strong secondary gain to not change because she felt like drug use helped her maintain a relationship with Geno. That was largely motivating her not to stop.

M&C: Had you been following the news about June and Geno prior to being called by Pumpkin to come and help Alana?

Dr. Ish: I’d been watching June and Geno’s progress, or lack thereof, like a hawk. The reason being I know that June also has significant health issues and had been having recent new health challenges. She also had zero insight and that’s a deadly combination.

I was afraid she might die before she realized she needed help. By following the family closely I’m able to get to a fuller picture of everything that needs to happen in an intervention and an individual session because I know the urgency of the consequences that are just around the corner if we don’t get this right.

M&C: Are you keeping in contact with the family?

Dr. Ish: Rome wasn’t built in a day and family certainly doesn’t heal in a day. I’ve been in close contact with the family because there’s so much fallout from the one problem.

As a result of June’s poor self-worth, she’s making decisions to feel better in the moment regardless of how it affects her children down the road. Because of her inability to heal her own emotional trauma, she’s allowing the generational cycle of unhealed emotional trauma with the women of her family to continue.

Pumpkin has emotional stress of her own and her and Josh’s new marriage is under pressure. Alana has self-worth and identity stress in addition to the unimaginable pressure of being a freshman in high school all the while being famous.

Doe Doe is being re-traumatized because she’s lived this exact cycle with her and June’s mom and she also cared for June just like Pumpkin is now caring for Alana. It’s a domino effect so I will keep a close watch and remain on call for them until the dust settles.

M&C: What advice can you give to someone who is in a similar situation as Pumpkin, raising their sibling, while their parent is actively making poor decisions/allegedly using drugs?

Dr. Ish: None of us are responsible for the lessons our loved ones are here to learn. In no dynamic is that more true than when it comes to a daughter or son feeling like they have to be responsible for the decisions their parent is choosing to make.

The biggest challenge will be to erect and maintain appropriate boundaries with a parent or family member who has been highly inappropriate. The message has to be clear, “If you cannot behave appropriately, make better decisions for yourself and us and NOT be a destructive force in our lives, then you don’t get to be a part of our lives.”

It is the cold, hard truth that every substance abuser’s family has to confront. Family’s get burnt out once they realize they can’t save you. Rock bottom is a real thing and unfortunately, 90 percent of substance abusers have to hit rock bottom before they’re ready to get help on their own.

Also, understand that everything you’re feeling along the way is appropriate. Fear of losing them. The frustration of constantly rescuing them. The apprehension of enabling them. Anger over having your life taken over because of the added responsibility you are having to assume in their absence.

It’s all ok. Take care of them, but never forget to take care of yourself first. And never be afraid to call someone when you need help.

M&C: What is your favorite part about being on reality television? Least favorite?

Dr. Ish: The most fulfilling thing about being on reality television to me is the impact I’m able to make in such a short period of time. And not only with the reality stars in the room but also with the people across the country who watch the show.

So many fans email me saying how they felt like they were just in a therapy session after watching the show. And most of our reality stars have never seen someone like me, an African American board-certified psychiatrist who actually gets them; that’s huge when it comes to them knowing that I can help them.

I’m also a TV and pop culture junkie so it’s really cool to get to meet some of the people I’ve followed and watched over the years; it’s nice to be able to put a personality to a face. And the relationship doesn’t end when the show goes off the air. They still call and check-in and give me updates.

The text usually reads, “Doc, I need a session.” The least favorite part for me is that I don’t get to do it more often. My favorite place to be is in a room helping someone who needs it; I’d love to do that 365 days a year.

Be sure to tune into Mama June: From Not to Hot to find out what happens with Mama June and her daughters. Doe Doe is waiting for her to show up for court, and this week’s episode will pick up right there.

Mama June: From Not to Hot airs Friday nights at 9/8c on WEtv.

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4 years ago

Addiction is not the only disease where you have to convince the patient they have it. Lack of insight is a common symptom of serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Any doctor should know that and it was a bit offensive to make such a general statement that discounts other people’s struggles and challenges.