When it's coming from a place of love and concern, we're all about a straight shooter. We've been team Dr. V since we first saw her years ago on BRAVO's LA Shrinks, where we were introduced to this Clinical Psychiatrist that was never shy to tell you how it is and to call you on your crap! We continued to follow her as she appeared on a number of daytime, primetime and reality TV show spots, including as a host on WE TV's Marriage Bootcamp. We took some time to talk with Dr. V about her job as a Clinical Psychologist, the power and importance of communication, her new book Bad Advice and of course being on Marriage Bootcamp.
ATHLEISURE MAG: We fell in love with you on BRAVO’s LA Shrinks as well as on the The Real Housewives of NJ and on WE TV’s Millionaire Matchmaker and Marriage Bootcamp! Can you tell us how you came to Clinical Psychology as a career and then how you were able to parlay that into you being on Reality, Daytime and PrimeTime TV?
DR. V: You know I knew from a very young age that I was very equipped to solve problems. So I kind of went from the stoop to the screen. As I sit here talking with you, I think about how I used to sit on my neighborhood stoop and solve problems. It was a very working class neighborhood where all the houses were connected – row homes. So it was the kind of place where people would gather out front in front of people’s stoops.
I remember being super young like 4-5-6 and hearing people discuss their lives in very intimate ways! I mean a lot of shit goes down on the stoop for sure! So I would listen and it seemed like people would have this idea that somehow their problems were unsolvable. At a very young age, call it naivete or hopefulness, I never saw it that way. I always thought that the problems could be solved and I would go into my own head and solve the problem.
Like I’d be like, “wait let me tell you how shit goes – this is not a big problem.” I would go inside myself and be like, this is easy guys, it can’t be this hard. By the way, this is very different than giving advice. Because when you’re young, you’re able to use and even when you’re older – you use what’s called Executive Functioning in your brain. It’s when you’re able to re-engineer problems. I think that at the end of the day to get back to your first question, I had a very early development of that in my brain of Executive Functioning and being able to see problems and than rearrange them, which is different then giving advice. I don’t even like to give advice by the way – I stay away from it.
AM: We like that you make that distinction because hearing you say that – definitely is a difference and to do so at such a young age and to understand that is phenomenal.
DR. V: It’s the idea that solutions and advice are different. I think that when you come from it at that perspective, how can we work together to find a solution as opposed to “I’m the expert, I know better than you and you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Fuck that – we can work together and find solutions. I think that at the end of the day, that’s how I got started in Psychology and it was at that young age – I knew I was able to re-engineer my own problems and other people’s problems.
Taking that a step further, I sought after higher education. You had pointed out Clinical Psychology which is different the Counseling Psychology and other forms. Clinical Psychology just means that it’s research based and as a science lover, I love doing research. But at the end of the day, it’s really just that I was dumb enough to take the longer route – that’s really what’s happening! You tack on another couple of years for your dissertation, so a lot of doing the same things, just the degree of Clinical Psychology which is a PHD has more of a research focus where Counseling Psychology has more of a counseling focus – talk therapy. So that’s really the only difference there. I love research, I love doing it, collecting other people’s research. Anyone of those degrees, they can also share that same love of research – it’s just required as a PHD in Clinical Psychology to do the research for the degree.
So how I found myself, I was there on the stoop re-engineering everyone’s problems and I gained enough confidence to tell people what if you did this or what if you did that? And I think that coming from a very working class Italian neighborhood where there was a sense of community, the volume was turned up and we never had enough of anything but love and emotions – I think I developed a way of communicating that I had to be super clear. I had to make my point super clear and it has to land! Because for Uncle Rocky to take in my advice or my solutions – it has to land. Because of that, that was Prime TV talk as it has to land and it has to make an impact. If not, it’s not entertaining or there is no reveal or whatever entertainment words we use.
I think that is how I find myself in front of the screen and I battle on a regular basis – my own shyness. I know it doesn’t come off that way, but I am a very shy person.
AM: We would have never guessed that!
DR. V: Oh yeah! I am incredibly shy and I have had to really talk myself through my own levels of courage. Obviously as I have gotten older, it’s gotten easier as I will be 47 and I am sitting in this bath of “I don’t give a fuck” – but I battle this on a daily basis in front of the camera. I battle this by getting so into the process that I forget that the camera is there. I immerse myself into the person that we are talking to or the project that we are dealing with and I really have to forget that the cameras are there and I am able to cope better with my shyness and I can hone in on the person I am talking to?
AM: How important is communication with the person that you are talking to whether it’s a significant other, a friend etc?
DR V: Well communication defines the relationship. It is the key to every aspect of our lives. Communication, if we were to think of it as our form of expression and creativity, it leaves us room to be able to take in feedback about our communication. Your sense of self expression isn’t my way of self expression. The way that you communicate is not the way that I would creatively do so. The words that you choose, the metaphors that you give and how you choose to communicate with someone else is really quite magical. Communication and how we communicate in the world defines who we are, defines the relationship, defines our friendships and really is the most important ingredient in life!
I don’t like when people say, “that person can’t communicate effectively.” It just means that you can’t hear their message. Communication is co-created. We don’t realize that as humans we help each other feel things. As we sit on the phone with one another, we help each other feel things and this is what sets us a part. We’re almost contagious to each other. Communication seems like it’s such a simple word, but to me it’s more then just that word and it embodies so much more! It embodies the self expression, how you perceive yourself and others – it’s creative. It’s a creative endeavor.
AM: It’s a great point as for years we use to say, “this person isn’t an effective communicator.” One day we thought, we should try to figure out what this person is saying as they are making a point, they seem to believe it, perhaps we’re just not getting it. So we started re-engineering. Hearing that this person said x and then trying to get the meaning behind it really makes us understand what you just shared as they had a different method and that it is a creative process to understand what is being said.
DR. V: Right and then from that place, you’re able to go to where I excel with solutions! You’re able to find the solution. If someone isn’t communicating effectively if we use that word, you’re immediately put on your heels, you’re set off, you’re turned off – when you categorize it in that way. We need to be more curious and ask more questions instead of having this knee jerk judgement. There is nothing more that makes things go wrong then taking a cruise on the SS Judgmental! Once people begin judging each other, things go wrong. When we get curious and ask questions, you’re better able to understand the person you’re talking to. If you’re curious in a genuine and relaxed way – I have been in situations where I was curious but being a bitch and I was asking questions only to hide my annoyance and that wasn’t good! But when you do it genuinely, that person gets curious too and then they relax too!
So when we talk about communication, it’s obviously one of my favorite topics – I see it differently. Usually when people are bringing it up, they mean it in a, “we just don’t communicate well” kind of way. That’s when I say, “we have to ask more questions.” We’re allowed to help each and other. My husband and I have been together for 22 years and I think it was about 5 years in where I would create narratives for him. I would write him in an email, which is a little condescending haha – I’m not going to lie. This would take place during an argument where he would go to his respective work and I would go to my respective work and I would say let me help you. In quotes I would write what I wanted to hear and he would write back, “wow I didn’t know it was that easy as I would have said that to you. I just couldn’t find those words and didn’t know the words you wanted to hear.” This would go on for 3-4 years about what I needed to hear. A lot of people would say, “that’s not genuine – he should know what you need to hear.” But no, not at all. Sometimes it’s ok to help people figure out how to love you. Because that is a creative endeavor. Many people say that men and women have different language styles, but I don’t believe that. I think everyone wants the same thing. Both men and women want to be loved and to love – everyone wants it. How people get there is very different and men aren’t pushed or taught to be emotional leaders, “boys don’t cry” – this sort of toxic masculinity has infiltrated our society to a point where it has stopped men’s growth to express how they’re feeling. Men get this bad wrap for not expressing how they are feeling and women feel like they have to consistently be the emotional leaders or that we’re all emotional brains and we’re crazy – no it’s just that you don’t understand her – she’s not crazy.
AM: We were going to ask about the difference in love languages between men and women. But we like hearing how you were able to articulate what you said and what you wanted to hear reminds us that when we're talking to our significant other, we’ll say that we know you said x, but what I actually here is y. This makes the conversation a lot longer to break down the components of what’s said vs felt vs what we should do.
DR V: Right it becomes a creative endeavor. When you’re saying what you heard and what was felt it actually entails a vulnerability. So not only are you attempting to have better communication, but your partner is learning about you, who you are, what makes you tick and your deepest vulnerabilities which invites them to do the same. When we talk about men and women and their differences, men are not able to show their vulnerabilities as a society. They are uninvited to that party usually. So when they get with someone who is an emotional and has a creative expression of how they use language and are able to communicate what you feel, these men are like, what the fuck?
I have so much empathy for that struggle and form of expression and I don’t believe that we’re talking in different languages. Everyone knows what it’s like to be sad, hurt or to feel vulnerable and both men and women feel that. It’s how we express those emotions that matter.
AM: With us being firmly in the New Year, a lot of people are looking at their resolutions, being their best selves etc. What is the best way for people to optimize their lives without feeling the pressures of changes that may not have taken place or come out the way that they had hoped?
DR. V: Wow well patience is it’s own kind of confidence. It takes patience with other people and ourselves to attain goals. It’s a trust in your self and in the process. If you have fallen off of the wagon or have fucked up, it’s never wrong to start again. It’s always right to start again!
AM: So you released Bad Advice last fall. What led you to writing this and tell us more about this book!
DR. V: Look, I was just tired of hearing things repeated back to me – bad advice. Theories are very important! How we walk through the world and how we define our world is through theories and words. If those theories aren’t correct and are in fact, scientifically wrong – where does that leave us? I was inspired to write this as I’m just irreverent in general and I love to punch holes in things. I just got tired of hearing these one liners that seemed to have blown up even more so on the Internet like: “Just be yourself”, “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself”, “Expectations lead to disappointment” or “Follow your bliss” – it’s like birds flying! Because we’re passing around this bullshit more and more, I got curious about it. Is it really true that you can’t love anyone until you love yourself? Is that true? In the event that you need to hear, just be yourself – does that help? Is it helpful? Do expectations lead to disappointment – is that true – I got really curious! I found these statements and of course, I have my own hypothesis. I collected pieces of Bad Advice that enjoy the shit out of me and I debunked them in the book with heart and humor and it’s a super fun read. It’s one of those books where my hope is you get done reading it and you say, “you’ve never thought of it that way.” Then I have done my job as an author. My favorite books were always those that I would close them and be like, “Oh my God I never thought of it that way – that is so interesting.” You’re able to affect how people view the world.
AM: How long did it take for you to put that together?
DR. V: I would say that while the writing process was 2 years, it’s a lifelong project for me. There were so many pieces of Bad Advice that I didn’t include that I am still collecting them.
AM: Will there be a part two?
DR. V: Yes! I feel that I have been doing this my whole life. I am a very curious person and I always ask myself, how do I know this to be true and forget about bad advice – I’m just curious about the world. What we know – how do we know this to be true and forget about bad advice. Who is the messenger – who is saying it, why are we saying it and who is coming from? I ask myself things like this all the time.
AM: How can someone identify when bad advice is being given to them?
DR V: When it denies your humanity. When it denies what you feel. For example, “Nobody can make you feel bad without your permission” – that’s a chapter in the book. That is like the worse advice that I have ever heard. I get it. My mom used to say it to me when people would make fun of my name. We say it because we want to help people but what it does – I mean when was the last time you gave someone permission to hurt your feelings?
AM: Um never!
DR. V: EXACTLY! Like I will give you permission to hurt me? It doesn’t make sense. So when it denies your humanity and how you’re feeling then you know it’s bad advice!
AM: You’re so right. I mean I can see why we say it because we’ve all heard it from other people who meant it from a good place. But when you think about it, it’s kind of taking a knock at you and you’re internalizing it!
DR. V: You’re right and so for a split second, you’re put in a an area of denial and those emotions come back double fold because you’re trying to hold back from what you really feel. When it comes to relationships, “you can’t really love anyone until you love yourself.” Look, we are meant to love people that is what humans do. So you’re going to love people and your self doesn’t give a fuck about what you think of you. It also creates a “series of events” first I love me, then I love you it implies that love is linear and it’s not – it’s co-created. But we hear love yourself and we’re all the while being conditioned to self hate! Self hate is very real, but the concept of self love – no one tells you how to love yourself. Do you know why? It’s because it’s impossible to love yourself the way that you would love someone else because it’s not supported by brain circuitry. You’re going to love other people and that’s just what will happen – it’s what we do. It denies your humanity – you will love people regardless – you may not love them well, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
AM: How do you prepare for your work on WE TV’s Marriage Bootcamp, especially with all of the different personalities that are involved? How do you ultimately get them to the relationships that they desire?
DR. V: Well bigger personalities require bigger jolts. They require different methods. So, the goal of Marriage Bootcamp is to provide a cellular experience which jolts the system. What I love about the show is that my goal isn’t to keep the couple together. It’s my hope, but it’s about choice. Is this the person that you should be with? It’s about re-engineering that problem – is this the person for you? With all the evidence given to you over the last 10 days, do you want to be with this person? It’s about giving the couples the information they need about themselves and the relationship and asking them to make a choice.
My hope is that they do, but then again staying together is not always the right choice. It may be that they need to live a part. This is what I love about the show – our stakes aren’t in whether the couples stay together, but that the right choice is being made for the person and the couple.
How I prepare for the show, well before those 10 days, I get a lot of sleep. I don’t sleep for 10 days!
AM: We’ve been a fan of the show for years, but we can only imagine how it must be to be there in your position. With such big personalities how do you take the space you need so that you can do the best work for them?
DR. V: Well I’ll tell you. I have been in the field for – I started volunteering at Mt Sinai at 20 – I’ve been doing it a long time, 25 years. You really do learn how to separate yourself and it came naturally over time for me. I know when I need to restore myself and when I begin to become a judgey asshole. I’ll say wow, “I really need to take a break because this person is really getting on my fucking nerves!” Because you can’t help people if you can’t find something to love about them. That is the truth. You have to find something about them that you love and that you like. If you don’t like them – you can’t help them. It’s an incredibly professional and profound thing to admit that this person is tapping into something in me that I don’t like. I need to take a step back and to restore myself and grow from that. That’s what I love about the work because I am consistently growing and being pushed to my own limits season after season after season. I love that – whatever field can I grow and learn in a fun and chaotic way haha!
AM: Everytime we see that you’re back for another season we’re like she’s still hanging in there!
DR. V: Haha Dr. V is still alive! It’s funny because when people are put in a therapeutic environment when they may attack me or say something to me – I feel their pain. They are really talking to pieces of themselves. I feel like I have a deep empathy for that.
As a side note. You know what’s funny about Marriage Bootcamp? That show is so fucking crazy and YET when I watch it on TV – they actually make the drama LESS! They don’t even need to make it more dramatic like a lot of reality shows do. They don’t edit it a certain way to make it more dramatic. I was there – I know that that was way more intense than what they are showing. I think that is what has made the show last for 13 seasons, because the drama is already there. So they don’t have to do much!
You get to see some of your favorite personalities in a different light. Like Brandi Glanville on Marriage Bootcamp was not the same Brandi Glanville on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. People who follow her and love her got to see her in a different way and that’s amazing to me.
AM: You’re based in LA – where do you love grabbing a meal/cocktail, working out and going out for a little shopping?
DR. V: Let me tell you – I love a good diner! I’m from Philly – I did my education in NYC and there is nothing to me that beats a good diner. Kitchen 24 in Hollywood is open 24 hours. I can go there and get egg whites and feta. If I am working late and I need to wind down, I can get a margarita at 3am in the morning – it’s the best place on earth – it’s like my mother’s kitchen! There is nothing like a good diner.
I love to cycle and I feel that at my age it’s so great because you’re not compounding your joints. I’m a big SoulCycler and I do that 2 times a week. For shopping, I love style but I’m not much of a shopper. I’m not one of those women that get up and say, “I’m going to go shopping.” I can’t handle that, but I do love shopping online. I don’t have to shop, they just send shit to me, “we think you’ll like this.”
AM: Are you a beauty girl and do you have 3 must have products that you enjoy using?
DR. V: Ok I want to tell you that I recently decided to go from a rose kind of color to more of a peachier color for my face, lips and eyes. I’m completely obsessed with Stila Cosmetics that has these Liquid Eyeshadows that are glitter! The Bronzed Belle for brown eyes and a little olive skin is so gorgeous! Girl, I got the small one - the travel one and I keep it in my purse – that’s how much I love it! That’s my shadow and I like that it is so glittery and pretty. I’m obsessed with MAC’s Spring Sheen Shimmer Blush and it’s the most beautiful, peachy shiny and luxurious look!
AM: We love a peach moment!
DR. V: I know! Peachiness adds a beautiful alive and awake color. The right peach shades just are natural but then you’re wearing makeup. Then I just recently changed from Chanel’s Foundation to Santees – no. 280 and it’s beautiful! I know you said 3 but the 4th one popped into my brain – so you know it’s the winter months and you want a little color on your face. I am in love with La Luxe The Face and it is an illuminating and self tanning drops. It can be placed in any moisturizer or even an exfoliant that you put on your face at night – you can control the color with the amount of drops you put in. I love that you can just have it in your moisturizer. I use it as night and I get up and I love that I wake up with color on my face! It’s beautiful and one of my favorite products!
AM: We believe that your vibe is your tribe from a #TRIBEGOALS perspective. Who are 3 people that you look to for inspiration?
DR. V: I find that people in my immediate environment are inspiring. When I am feeling unlovable and I can think of nothing good about myself, I turn to my husband. There is so much unconditional love I can turn to him and he is able to help me see me through his eyes. That is a really beautiful thing when you can count on someone to recenter you. Then, the hopefulness of children. I have a 10 and 12 year old boys and a 2.5 year old daughter. The hopefulness of kids is just so inspiring me and when I am feeling a little cynical, I hang out with them! That spark of hopefulness is boom right there! I am also 1 of 5 so I have a few sisters and one brother and there is nothing like the love that a sibling has! No one can get under your skin or build you up like a sibling. I feel that as I have gotten older, I have relied on my immediate relationships to bring a sense of purpose, meaning and fulfillment and I’m really happy about that. I value these relationships with my life!