Podcasts in which professional therapists hold sessions with patients hit the air about two years ago, and they're proving extremely popular, Rachel Dodes reports for the Wall Street Journal.
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The rise of therapy podcasts
According to Dodes, the rise of therapy-oriented podcasts started in 2017 with the show "Where Should We Begin?"
The podcast was produced by Audible and features Esther Perel, a Belgian psychotherapist, talking to real couples using aliases about topics such as impotence, infidelity, and addiction. The show was almost immediately popular, ranking in the top five of both iTunes' and Audible's podcast charts. The podcast reached No. 5 on the Apple and iTunes charts, Dodes reports.
The success of "Where Should We Begin" gave rise to a wave of therapy-oriented podcasts, including "Other People's Problems." The podcast, which is produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, features therapist Hillary McBride talking to clients about feelings of shame and fear, as well as suicidal thoughts. The show made the No. 1 podcast slot on iTunes in Canada, Dodes reports.
Another podcast, "Karamo," stars Karamo Brown, a social worker and Netflix star, who talks to callers about specific themes, like "Are you in a toxic relationship with yourself?"
Similarly, Janet Lansbury, a former actress and an author, recently debuted "Sessions," in which people can listen in on six recorded conversations with parents discussing various dilemmas for a $19.95 fee, Dodes writes.
For listeners, these podcasts provide a level of honesty not seen on television or other platforms, Dodes writes. Nazanin Rafsanjani, head of show development at Gimlet Media, a podcasting company, said, "There's nothing performative about these conversations. It's just people talking, being as honest as they can possibly be."
How a therapy podcast comes together
Recently, Alexandra Sacks, a psychiatrist in New York, became the star of a therapy podcast of her own, Dodes reports. The podcast, called "Motherhood Sessions," is produced by Gimlet Media and features Sacks talking to anonymous clients about issues related to motherhood.
The show solicited volunteers to be featured on the podcast under pseudonyms, and according to Gimlet the number of mothers wanting to participate was "in the low hundreds."
For each show, Sacks records a session that lasts about three hours and is edited down to about a 30-minute episode. For the first season, Sacks spoke to 22 women, and 10 of those women made it to air. The participants knew their stories might not make it onto the show, Dodes reports.
Peter Bresnan, the producer of the show, said he was looking for "stories that were very personal but also touched on universal themes." One woman on the show talked about whether she should finish her Ph.D. dissertation, while another spoke about struggling with whether to have a second child.
The show has become very popular, reaching the top of Apple's "Kids & Family" category in iTunes by the end of the first season. The show is now in discussions for a second season.
In at least one case, the show has prompted people to seek out regular therapy. For instance, one woman, referred to on the show as "Julia," said that before appearing on "Motherhood Sessions" it'd been a while since she was in therapy, but now she's started seeing a psychotherapist on a regular basis.
"I remember being a new mom and feeling really isolated," she said. "I would have loved to have had a podcast like this" (Dodes, Wall Street Journal, 7/24).