Esther Perel found a way to make intimate therapy sessions help more people than just the two. In her podcast, Where Should We Begin?, couples of diverse backgrounds let others listen in on their stories and struggles. This unique project is already trending at number 3 on the iTunes chart. At this is just the beginning.  

All about Her

If you still somehow don’t know her name, than go and immediately check out this and this ted-talk by Esther Perel. And then, after you’ve been completely charmed by this lady, get this book. You won’t regret it, I guarantee. Esther Perel is indeed a sex therapist everyone loves. Her endearing accent, that is impossible to pin down (Esther is from Belgium) and an incredible sense of humour will get you hopping from one ted-talk to another, trying to absorb as much knowledge as you can. And she has a lot of it to share.

Esther Perel is recognized as one of the world’s most original and insightful voices on couples and sexuality across cultures. The New York Times, in a cover story, named her the most important game changer on sexuality and relationships since Dr. Ruth.

Her critically acclaimed viral TED talk reached more than 4 million viewers in just a few months.

Esther is the author of the international best-seller Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, translated into 25 languages. Fluent in nine of them, the Belgian native is a celebrated speaker, therapist and teacher invited around the globe for her expertise in emotional and erotic intelligence, work-life balance, cross-cultural relations and identity of modern marriage and family.

Her clients and platforms include the Open Society Institute, Tony Robbins Productions, Summit Series, Founder’s Forum, PopTech, Young Presidents Organization, The Wexner Foundation and the Bronfman Foundation. As articulated by Vogue, if there is such thing as a celebrity therapist, Esther is one.

Where should we begin?

That’s right, Where Should We Begin?, is the name of Esther’s new project. There certainly is a huge amount of podcasts dedicated to helping people suffering from the “intolerable neural itch“, or, to put it simply – love – and related issues. Relationship advice is always on demand, feeding armies of psychologists around the world. And it seems Esther has all the answers and can solve any issue. She, however, is much more humble about it:

I never think of myself as an expert on relationships. I think of myself as a student of relationships.

I don’t think that anybody today, in the complex world that we live in, can actually claim to be an expert on this. I sometimes sound very confident, and I’m sure of nothing.

But let’s turn back to the therapy. The typical scenario, as portrayed by the movie industry, is a distressed woman bringing her delinquent man to a couples’ therapy session. Those sessions are of course highly intimate. (not to mention extremely expensive) They are something people would shy away from discussing with their friends. You know, maybe only after a few drinks.

And this is why Esther’s podcast is such a novelty. She is the first one to bring those discussions to light, to expose them to the whole world, for the purpose of helping more people, than they otherwise would. She breaks the 4th wall of private, intimate therapy sessions. Now, everyone is invited to listen in on the counselling, that is in no way scripted and very much real.

It might start off as a voyeuristic experience but 10 minutes in, you’re thinking ‘Esther is talking to me. I do that, my partner does that, my relationship with my mom is just like that.’”

Each week, the relationship guru shares a 45-minute segment of a 3-hour therapy session, featuring a wide range of couples—some are wealthy, some are poor, some young, others grandparents. Such inclusivity is a way to reach out to all types of audiences, all types of people with similar problems. Through various voices, Perel hopes to offer up a “mirror” to those suffering the same issues at home:

We look for diversity of story, of issues, of class, of background, of nationality, of language—to cover a broad spectrum of human experience.

Talking about her podcast, Esther explains: “Too often couples live like isolated islands. We think what we’re experiencing in our own relationship is unique to us, and we don’t know that our neighbors and friends are experiencing the same longings, laments, deprivations, and disillusionments in their own lives.

Where Should We Begin? is a way for me to create meaningful, deep, and open conversations. As you listen to these intimate, unscripted sessions between real-life couples, I think you will find the language you’ve been looking for to have conversations with the people in your own life.”

What to expect 

In one of the interviews, Esther opened up about the nature of Where Should We Begin?. The psychologist mentioned that the people on the podcast are those she’s never met: “I do not mix the metaphors; whoever is in therapy, we meet in therapy. This is a very different project. It’s a very public project. We sent out one email to a portion of my mailing list and we put it out on social and we got about 450 applicants.”

There are 10 unscripted, real, anonymous couples in season one. Three episodes are around the theme of infidelity. Esther says she could’ve easily done 12 of those, but cheating partners is not the only thing on the unhappy marriage menu. Seven others cover themes of loss, infertility, unemployment, betrayal, sexlessness, communication, sexual abuse, trauma, and all kinds of other issues that people experience in life.

It’s very, very powerful. It’s compulsive listening; it’s moving; it’s true; it’s real; it’s humble.

It’s important to note that those sessions are not therapy, they are counseling sessions—onetime sessions:  “I can’t address everything, but I meet with them for three hours, which is often equivalent to four or five sessions. They come to me because they want to discuss something in particular that plagues them, that haunts them, that they would like to change and have a deeper understanding of. They really are coming for a conversation with me; you could call it a therapeutic conversation.”

No doubt, this podcast is one of those things with great potential for the ever-lasting task: to make our world a better place. Who knows, maybe this new approach to counselling will save more relationships than an army of psychotherapists ever could. Listen in!

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