Mental health needs to adapt to modern minds, and if Dr. Venus Nicolino has to engage in that evolution via reality TV and stylish Instagram influence, she is fine with that. Mental health issues are skyrocketing while pompous solutions appear too arrogant to even notice their demise. We cannot depend on unproven self-help books, outdated therapy, and feel-good nonsense to save our collective minds from new challenges to our well-being.
Nicolino, better known as Dr. V, evolved from her blue-collar childhood in a poor part of Philadelphia to enter the field of psychology. Earning a Master’s in Counseling Psychology in addition to a Master’s and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology put her in a position to help heal people hurting from various mental ailments and societal pressures. Her fresh philosophies on mental well-being garnered major attention, as her expert opinion is sought by television, podcasts, and radio. Dr. V has dished advice to celebs on Access Hollywood, provided epic takes on Steve TV, and captured hearts and minds on The Dr. Oz Show. She has racked up over 100 episodes of television, hosted Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars for eight seasons, and graced the stage of the hit TV show L.A. Shrinks.
“The days are numbered for therapy involving jotting down notes with a timer set on how long your patient has to tell you about their darkest struggles,” Nicolino says. “This world looks nothing like the late 1800s when Freud was getting warmed up and this archaic method was being invented. Humans are not getting the human touch we need. We’re hooked up to technology that even high-level techies don’t fully understand, with AI being an obvious example. There was a recent report from a group of biologists and ecologists who think social media is a risk to humanity. Not some ridiculous clickbait post, but solid research on these unknown dangers.
Dr. V considers adaptation one of the best ways to manage mental well-being. What worked last year to relieve stress may become ineffective at some point. Relationships with our partners, family, and friends inherently hit highs and lows, too. The ability to first notice a need to adapt to these fluid situations then the confidence to enact new tactics is crucial. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, even if it worked like a charm before.
“This is where self-help leaves people stuck and going back for book after book on “fixing” themselves. If there was a cure for being a screwed-up human, book stores would have one book on the topic instead of 82,000,” Nicolino points out. Her best-selling book, Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of B.S., took aim at gurus with cure-all duct tape solutions for the human mind. That’s tough to imagine with a species tasked with lugging around the most complex thing we know of: our brains.
Her book also points out how feel-good quotes and false happiness aren’t going to do any good when life kicks someone in the crotch with depression, family disasters, or infidelity. Opting out of their emotions is not possible no matter how many people say they can’t be hurt without giving others permission to hurt them. Erasing millions of years of human biology can’t be done with a Pinterest board reeking of rainbows and unicorns.
Nicolino advises opting into life instead of avoiding all the messiness of it; she advises paying attention to emotions instead of wishing them away or burying them under ice cream and Netflix comas. “We possess what we need to grab life by the balls. But our entire lives we’ve been told by both well-meaning people, quacks, and charlatans that we need to follow this plan or some strategy. Cover our shame. Feel this way or that because if you don’t you’re a bad person. Lots of instructions from people who don’t have access to our individual owner’s manual or insights into how we were shaped.”
Nicolino’s new podcast, The Tea With Dr. V, showcases how her celebrity guests struggle with these same issues. Listeners hear from successful people whose fame has not shielded them from anxiety, heartache, and screw-ups. Dr. V is not only an entertaining host who draws out the best in guests; she also provides much-needed professional mental health advice for the podcasting space. She sees her show as one more touchstone for those seeking flexible solutions to the daily puzzle of being human.
To trust our mental health destiny to one path for our entire lives leaves us disillusioned and open to unchecked stress. By using tools encased in our DNA and the ability to engage our minds in adaptive measures, we can flow with life’s challenges. When those measures don’t seem picture perfect then consider them an ideal fit for an imperfect world. And if our tactics fail, Dr. V reminds us that forgiving ourselves is one of our most adaptable skills because, like forgiving others, science shows forgiveness boosts our physical, mental, and emotional health.