A Family in Crisis: Will Dr. Phil Fire This Family: Brianne, Chris

"Chris Puts on an Act"
Chris and Brianne face off and try to close the gap between them.
One of the family's biggest challenges is 14-year-old Brianne's relationship with her stepfather Chris.

As Brianne watches footage of Chris getting choked up during a previous show, she mocks Chris when he says, "I'm not holding it all together," and says, "It makes me want to vomit."

Brianne is also upset because she says Chris favors his biological son Chandler over her. "He is so choosing favorites," she protests. "Does he feel that same passion and love for me, Michael and Braeden? No, he doesn't."


Chris doesn't think he favors Chandler, and admits that he's having trouble closing the gap with his stepchildren. "The children always know that I am not their dad. I am their mom's husband," he says.

Brianne doesn't buy Chris' excuses. "He tries to say, 'You guys are like my children.' Bullcrap. I feel like he puts on this act, and I hate it. I'm so mad at him."

"Tell me what you want and what you expect from Chris that you're not getting," Dr. Phil asks Brianne.

"I want to feel the father-daughter relationship," she replies. "I want to have that feeling instead of just a guy who lives there that tells me what to do."

"Stacy, you've talked to Chris about this in the past, and told him what the situation is. What's his response been?" Dr. Phil asks.

"He feels like there is no difference in the way he treats the kids," she answers.

Dr. Phil is skeptical. "Do you really think there's no difference between your connection to Chandler and your connection to Brianne?" he asks Chris.

Chris tries to explain that there is some difference because Chandler is his biological son, and also an age difference because Brianne is much older than 4-year-old Chandler.

"She's saying there's something she wants that she's not getting," Dr. Phil tells Chris. "What's your ownership in that?"

Chris explains, "I've tried to interact with her. I've checked in with her, knocked on her door, looked in her room. She's either reading or writing in her journal. There really has been a lack of engagement."

"If you could just write your wish list and write a script for how you want Chris to be in your life, what would it be?" Dr. Phil asks Brianne.

"He would spend a lot of time with me. He would comfort me, and give me advice, and we'd be able to talk openly," she says. "We would have good times together, but also he would be an authority figure and have just as much say as my mom would."

Dr. Phil comments that it sounds strange for a teenager to want more authority from her parents. "You want that leadership. You want that protection," he confirms.

Brianne says, "I feel like he's just another kid that my mom has to take care of; he's not like a parent."

Brianne says she hopes their relationship will change, but she's not optimistic. Dr. Phil asks Chris what he thinks about Brianne's assessment.

"I'm kind of in a quandary," Chris says.

Dr. Phil is surprised by Chris' reaction when Brianne is essentially saying, "I need you in my life. I need that leadership. I even want you as an authority figure." He points out that Chris should be responding, "Here is this wonderful child saying she wants me to be involved in her life." He tells Chris, "I would think that you would just walk through fire and say, 'I'm going to figure out whatever I have to do to close that gap.'"

Chris defends his reaction. "I feel like there have been a lot of times that I've tried to do that. I love Brianne to death ... I disagree with quite a bit of what she's saying."

"I do not believe for one minute, for one second, that he does not care about you," Dr. Phil tells Brianne. Taking her hand, he leads her offstage, and seats her in front of Chris.

To Chris, Dr. Phil says, "If one of my children said to me, 'I don't believe you love me or care about me,' the entire world would stop until that perception was corrected."

Chris points out that this is the first time Brianne is revealing her feelings to him. "I have tried to hang out with you, to interact," Chris tells Brianne. "I've tried to be a friend probably more than a father, because I've felt like you needed a friend or somebody on your side."

"I want you to tell him how it makes you feel at night when you're scared about what's going to happen, and know and believe in your heart that you are not on his list," Dr. Phil tells Brianne.

Making eye contact with Chris, she says, "It hurts to think of that. I want to be one of the girls at the top of your list. I really, really do, because I love you."

Dr. Phil instructs Brianne to tell Chris what she wants from him.

"I want to know that you're in it, and that you love and care about me the same way you do for Chandler. It's a beautiful thing how much you love Chandler, and I want to feel that, too ... It would mean a lot to know that you felt that way about me."

Overcome with emotion, Chris closes his eyes at Brianne's words. "Brianne, I do love you, like you are my daughter," he says. "I care a great deal about you, about what happens to you, about the choices you make, and the things that are going on in your life ... I am plugged in to this marriage. I care what happens to us as a family ... We've shared some really good times. We've sat and talked for hours at one point. We've hung out and we've laughed."

"If we do all that, then why am I feeling this way?" Brianne challenges.

"That's what I'm trying to figure out," Chris responds.

"What are you willing to do to change it?" Dr. Phil asks Chris.

"I'm willing to do anything," he replies. To Brianne, he says, "I want to do what it takes. You and I probably need to spend, at a minimum, just 10 or 15 minutes a day just one on one. We've done some father-daughter activities, and we need to do more of those."

Dr. Phil tells Chris that he has to be willing to set aside time for his stepdaughter, and invest on a "heart level," not just a "head level." To Brianne, he says, "And you've got to be willing to invest in it. You've got to be willing to say, 'I will make the effort.' You can't say, 'I don't like what you're doing,' and then wall him off. You've got to be willing to reach through the wall as well."