Josh Shipp should have grown up a thug. Abandoned at birth and shuttled from one abusive foster home to the next, he was suicidal and addicted by the time he hit adolescence. Instead, thanks to the intercession of the foster parents who took him in at age 14 and allowed him to be jailed for forging checks, Shipp defied his demons and became a leading interventionist for families and teens in crisis.
In Lifetime’s sobering new reality show, “Teen Trouble,” premiering Friday, Dec. 28, the now 30-year-old father of two travels to the homes of kids on the brink to help them and their parents confront the root of their issues, provide an unvarnished look at the future if they cling to destructive habits, and offer all a chance at a happier outcome.
And while he’s grateful for the space to bring his message and methods to a larger audience, Shipp cautions that his focus remains on the kids — and demonstrating that the rehabilitation process is a series of baby steps that begins with one critical moment.
“I never make any promises, nor would I want to be perceived as, ‘I’m here and doing all these crazy things and in a week I’m going to change your life,'” Shipp tells Zap2it. “That’s completely unrealistic. For me, the goal is to really give them that wake-up call — which is why I fast-forward their choices and bring them face-to-face with where they’re heading.”
That includes subjecting his charges to makeup that simulates the horrific facial deterioration brought on by chronic meth abuse, and frightening nights spent on the streets — and even in the morgue.
“For me, it’s not enough to just sit down and have a chitchat about, ‘Do you realize that if you keep using drugs, that this is going to happen to you?’ but to really bring them face-to-face with what’s going to happen. And also bring them face-to-face with the good side of it — with what could happen if they do change. And then ultimately the choice is up to them.”