Esther Perel: Watch “The First Time” - Rolling Stone
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The First Time: Esther Perel

Therapist and author Esther Perel talks her first time going to therapy and how she redefines communication

Esther Perel was not thrilled about her first time going to therapy.

“I’ve had my share of lousy therapy. I had my share of useless therapy. Then, I’ve had a few people who helped me try to change my life,” the psychotherapist and author tells Rolling Stone. In the latest segment of “The First Time,” Perel reveals that when she was 18, she realized she was not happy.

“I realized I was often very melancholic and that I was rather tortured sometimes, even though I had the same effervescence and energy as I have today,” she says. “But inside, it was a different story.”

As a real psychotherapist, she finds identifying with a fictional therapist difficult. “For so many years, I thought that the therapists on screen were often terribly portrayed,” she says. The first American movie she used in teaching was Ordinary People, but much later she became interested with In Treatment. “More and more, there are some very interesting portrayals of therapies that are closer to the realities,” she adds.

As Perel shares stories about her experience as a therapist, she laughs while admitting that she’s “given bad advice many times.” During her sessions, she wants the person to tell her if the advice resonates with them, otherwise they need to go down another route. The only thing she could label as “bad” is when she goes too fast and is too far ahead of the person during the session.

Her first album she ever bought was a 45 record. “Many of you probably never even saw a 45,” she says. “It was the small ones. I had a little suitcase, that when you opened, it played records. You could actually travel with it. I sat in the back of the car driving with my parents for three days to Italy, playing these songs.” One of the popular singers at the time she recalls was Dalida, an Egyptian-French singer and actress.

The Belgian psychotherapist now writes bestselling books on intimacy like, Mating in Captivity. She also rose to fame with her 2017 couples-therapy podcast, Where Should We Begin? Noticing a cultural shift, she started a podcast recently called, How’s Work? which is centered around counseling people who work together. She wants to help colleagues understand they have a “relationship résumé.” 

“You bring your whole self to work,” she explains in the interview in Rolling Stone‘s March issue. “Your family, your culture. So let’s put [it all] out there, because it will help people work better together.”


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