Josh Jonas of The Village Institute of Psychotherapy: “Family Time”

Cold Showers-Some people think I’m crazy when I talk about this, but there are so many psychological as well physiological benefits to cold showers, Im a huge believer in this. I know it sounds painful but when we subject ourselves to voluntary suffering, involuntary suffering doesn’t hurt quite as much. As a part of my series […]

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Cold Showers-Some people think I’m crazy when I talk about this, but there are so many psychological as well physiological benefits to cold showers, Im a huge believer in this. I know it sounds painful but when we subject ourselves to voluntary suffering, involuntary suffering doesn’t hurt quite as much.

As a part of my series about “Mental Health Champions” helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Josh Jonas.

Josh Jonas is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in men’s mental health and is the Co-owner and Clinical Director of The Village Institute for Psychotherapy in Manhattan, NY. His work focuses on mental health, addiction, trauma and chronic pain as they relate to today’s modern men. Josh began his professional work with trauma and addiction at The Phoenix House in Queens, NY, where he worked with patients to deal with drug and alcohol addiction head on before joining The Village Institute in 2011 as a psychotherapist. Today he works extensively with male and female patients to impact their lives both physically and mentally with proven psychotherapy based solutions while continuing to prove the impact of mental stressors on physical ailments. Additionally, his courses, “The Therapeutic Search for Meaning” and “The Art of Fulfillment”, have been requirements as part of The Village Institute’s doctoral internship. Having been trained in Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT), Josh is also passionate about his work in couples therapy and is a sought after relationship expert that speaks directly to the relationship needs and concerns of the men he treats and their partners — providing them with structure and guidance based on their root problems making him a committed resource for many couples in need. His writings have been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post and Quartz Magazine, and he is also co-creator and host of the podcast “Session Lessons”; a platform whose mission is to show how powerful and effective therapy can be while helping men specifically embrace and grow the positive aspects of their masculinity.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Sure- that’s one of those simple, not so easy to answer questions. But I grew up on Long Island (for some reason we say “on” not “in”), the oldest of 3 kids. Growing up I loved baseball and theatre-in that order. The problem was I was much better at the latter than the former, so theatre became a big part of my life. I’m still a baseball junky, but acting I realized was my version of the “minor leagues” for what I’m doing now.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?

I co-run The Village Institute with my wife Jill — she runs the business side and I’m everything clinical. In a sense, we are working towards a re-branding of therapy. The term “psychotherapy,” often brings up this image of something that is old, antiquated, even boring and slow moving. Part of our mission is showing people that, when done well, it is anything but! Therapy can be life changing, collaborative, dynamic, something that goes deep while also very much alive. When it is understood in that context, then it doesn’t have to be this thing that’s for “sick people,” but for anyone that is not having the life they know they can have.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I’ve been in a lot of therapy over the course of my life and it is something that has helped me immensely. Growing up I always felt a bit like an outlier in that I was a guy who had a ton of feelings. My perception when I’d look around was that the other guys didn’t have all this stuff going on inside like I did, and so it definitely felt like an impediment to me. Then I started therapy in my late teens, and it’s not just that it helped, but it was also a place that almost immediately felt like home. It was a place that wanted this inner life of mine, that I wanted to get rid of. That was a game changer for me.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

If there was anything close to an “Aha Moment” for me, it came out of what I call “seeing the path,” which is a little woo-woo, but it’s the only way I know how to describe it. I struggled for a little while trying to figure out what I was going to do in terms of a career. So I spent a little time talking to any successful person I knew, and I was like “tell me what you do?” And each time I did this, when they would describe their work, a feeling of dread would come over me and in my head I would say to myself, “no, this isn’t going to work, I can’t see the path.” So when I got the idea of psychotherapy as a career, all of a sudden it just seemed so obvious, and I could see it, I could see the path so clearly. I could see the work, I could see the career, the writing, speaking, I could just see all of it- that was my trigger.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

That would have to be leading our company during COVID-19, because there was no play book for this. The moment it looked like the lockdown was actually going to happen, Jill transitioned the entire institute onto tele therapy and so that transition was actuality quite seamless. But the work for us both has been trying to successfully lead and care for patients as well as therapists during a time that is completely unprecedented. It has been an absolute challenge, to say the least. But it also has been incredibly meaningful for us to see our staff rise to this occasion and blossom during this completely unforeseen time.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I am such a huge believer in mentors, partially because I have had some great ones. Both of my parents have been major mentors to me in so many ways but to keep it to non-family, right away I think of two: Larry Moss, and Dr. Fred Woolverton. I owe so much to both of them. Larry is considered literally the best acting teacher in the world, as well as a phenomenal director. (Though not actually, he is also a brilliant therapist!) I wrote a play in my late-twenties that was produced off-broadway and Larry directed it. I have so many Larry stories but one of the first ones was after he and I had been rehearsing and getting to know each other for a while. I was talking to him about how nervous I was, and my doubts about whether or not I could pull off what we were attempting to do. He said to me very simply but very confidently “I will not let you look stupid, ever, I promise.” That was the first time I ever trusted someone professionally and creatively so completely, and I grew more during that process than I ever had because of the complete trust and safety that Larry is famous for creating. He also had the highest of standards, which were only possible to achieve through that environment that he created.

Fred is the founder and original director of The Village Institute. He is a brilliant clinician, and the man who taught me how to be a therapist from the ground up. Speaking of high standards, Fred had the highest! He has a little of J.K Simmons from Whiplash in him. It didn’t work for everyone, it drove some people crazy, but for some reason it worked for me. In our very first supervision, he told me “Josh, I expect nothing less from you as a therapist than you being able to read peoples’ minds.” And he was serious-that was the bar. Unlike the teacher in Whiplash though, there is a deep kindness that runs through everything that Fred does. I wouldn’t be answering these questions right now if it wasn’t for him.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I actually don’t worry too much about the stigma there may be towards mental illness, because it makes sense to me in terms of our human wiring. I think there will always be some stigma towards mental health because it’s invisible. A broken ankle we can see. Cancer we can see. But mental health has to do with our feelings, which are impossible to show and also very real. So there will probably always be some kind of stigma towards something that seems subjective like feelings versus something that seems objective like physical and/or structural abnormalities.

Another reason I believe stigma exists is that at our most basic level we have an enormous need to stay safe, which means avoiding vulnerability. This translates to all of us walking around all of the time projecting an image of “I’m fine,” because to show something else can feel way to vulnerable. We then actually believe that everyone is doing great, and there’s something wrong with me because I feel effed up. So a large part of the stigma against mental health I believe is people projecting their own disgust at themselves for struggling, onto other people.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

We could all be more supportive of mental health issues in general if we just tried to always keep in mind that everyone is fighting their own private battle that we know nothing about. That reminder alone can be enough to remind us that everyone’s having a tough time at different times, mental illness or not. Tolstoy said everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves. If our society honored the battling of ourselves more than the battling of a free society, it would go a long way towards supporting mental health.

In terms of the government, and I may be an outlier in this regard, but I don’t really want the government trying to help in terms of mental health or mental illness. If a politician every once in a while wants to talk about seeking counsel with their therapist and how helpful it is, I’m all for it. But other than that, I don’t want the government involved in mental wellness. In many other places around the world, when the government gets involved with mental health, they are then allowed to dictate the form and duration of treatment, and to me that would be a disaster.

What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I talked earlier about my own therapy which I did for years, that was instrumental in terms of my wellbeing. A few other things I do:

Cold Showers-Some people think I’m crazy when I talk about this, but there are so many psychological as well physiological benefits to cold showers, Im a huge believer in this. I know it sounds painful but when we subject ourselves to voluntary suffering, involuntary suffering doesn’t hurt quite as much.

Exercise -Exercise is a major part of my life, and is maybe THE primary way I stay balanced. I often say that therapy is the gym for our insides, well the gym is therapy for our outsides.

Work- I feel very fortunate that the work I do has a major effect on my mental wellness. I think the two major ingredients to something feeling incredibly fulfilling is if it offers us a chance to grow and be of service- I’m very grateful that my work delivers both of those.

Meditation/Breath Work- Whenever I am able to find the time for some kind of breath work, it automatically has a positive effect on my well being.

Family Time- We are all born biologically needing to connect, and so connecting with the people we love the most can be incredibly medicinal. One of the silver linings of quarantine for me has been that when I’m done working I open the door and my wife and son are right there and that is the best.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Mans Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl is such an important book that has had a huge impact on me.

Way of the Superior Man by David Deida is major. To me Deida may be the modern day Freud. He has illuminated something so deep about the Masculine and the Feminine that we will be mining it for its wisdom for a long time.

Hope and Dread in psychoanalysis by Stephen Mitchell. This book is quite “shrinky” but it rocks. I read this book when I first started practicing and it really helped chill me out in terms of allowing me to be the therapist I could be, instead of trying to be the therapist I thought I should be.

The Dr. Drew Podcast is awesome. He’s interviewed people like Dr. Sue Johnson, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Alan Schorr, all of who have been doing amazing work in the field for decades.

John Wineland — his stuff is mainly online and I learn every time this guy opens his mouth.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

There’s a thing I call “divine selfishness” which is basically when we give, and that act of giving fills us up tremendously. Some people have a natural connection to this idea, and for others it makes no sense and feels completely counterintuitive. So in terms of making a positive impact on our society I think of it like this. Whenever possible, figure out what lights you up and do it like Hercules. It may be your work, it may be your family, but if you can find it people will gravitate towards you because we all want people who are lit up. Giving that version of yourself to people is a huge gift to society and that giving will feel better than anything you could “get.”

How can our readers follow you online?

The best place would probably be our website You could also look for The Village Institute on Instagram, or just google me, and I’m sure stuff will come up.

Josh Jonas

The Village Institute 

Psychotherapist/Men’s Mental Health Expert
The Village Institute for Psychotherapy

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