The intimate relationship that grows between a podcast host and a listener has become one of the appeals of the medium, not just to consumers but advertisers too. “What we often find with podcast hosts is listeners see them as friends more so than super stars – we see it time and again,” said iHeartPodcast Network COO Will Pearson. “Even with some of our biggest podcasts, when listeners meet them, they feel like they are meeting a friend because of that intimate experience of being inside somebody’s earbuds.” That tie may be even more useful in the new iHeart podcast Dear Therapists, hosted by psychotherapists Guy Winch and Lori Gottlieb.
Based on her books and print work, Gottlieb said she already has a lot of personal interaction with readers. “People feel like they know me, I get fan mail every day from people who feel like they know me, and they feel like I’m their friend and they have advice for me,” she said. “But I think when you’re doing a podcast, there’s a whole new level of intimacy and familiarity because it’s very different to see something on a page versus hearing someone’s voice. When you hear a guest and they start to choke-up because they’re about to cry, or there’s a pause or a sigh – when you hear the guest’s voice they become alive in the listener’s mind.”
Gottlieb thinks that will also extend to how listeners to the podcast think about her and Winch. “You hear how we interact with one another and our little vocal ticks, and our personalities come out differently and spontaneously,” she said. “There’s nothing that can capture an interaction and hearing it live in your ears.”
Winch said a benefit to a listener understanding the hosts is that they are more likely to like the person they hear since it is a lot easier to like someone that you “get” than if you don’t. “They feel attached, but so do we. We really feel fondly about the people who we are speaking with, and I think that comes across,” he said during a webinar Thursday promoting the podcast’s launch.
The concept behind Dear Therapists is a bit different than many of the other mental health podcasts already in circulation. It allows listeners to sit in on the sessions that Gottlieb and Winch have with guests, beginning with a letter they receive from a listener. Then, they call the writer, get more information, and advise the person on what they should do to help their situation. A week later, the caller leaves the podcast producers a voicemail, explaining how doing the homework impacted their situation.
“People want to have these conversations and see what’s happening for real with other people,” said Gottlieb. That can be very different than an all-is-rosy picture painted on social media, she said. It will also offer a behind-the-scenes view of how two therapists analyze a situation and come to their advice.
“I call it therapy on speed because what we do would typically take six months in a therapy process, we do it in very little time,” said Winch. “It’s edited down to a brief interaction with people in which we have to really hit them over the head with what’s going on.”
The Dear Therapists podcast launches as people around the world are dealing with the stresses and anxieties brought on by a global pandemic, and Winch thinks it will help make the topics even more relevant since the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into everyone’s plans. “COVID has touched almost everything we have done in the podcast because it’s touches people’s lives,” he said. “Therapy is complicated, COVID makes it more complicated and doing it on the podcast is even more complicated.”
Gottlieb said the sorts of topics they are hearing this year are quite evergreen issues faced by humans, year in and year out. “Even though COVID is going on, what we have seen from all the letters that we have been getting and the people we have spoken to is, yes COVID is there, but these questions about life and the struggles people have – people struggle with the same kinds of issues that are age-old,” she said.