In How’s Work?, Esther Perel takes on professional relationships

The couples therapist makes a departure from the world of romantic love.

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Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist known for her work in couples counselling, and even better-known to the general public thanks to her extremely popular podcast, Where Should We Begin? Now in its third series, the podcast allows listeners to eavesdrop on real therapy sessions with couples: those who follow it often become devoted Esther fans, thanks to her empathetic listening skills, keen awareness of structural dynamics, and straight-talking, often funny, advice. But Perel has now started a new podcast exploring relationships outside the world of romantic partnerships.

In How’s Work? two colleagues sit down with her to talk about their professional relationships. So far, the people on her couch have included two men who flew fighter jets together in Iraq and then co-founded a successful business; two sex workers with quite different levels of experience in the industry; and a mother-son estate agent team who disagree over the direction in which to take the business.

“Relationships matter,” Perel explains – something that corporations and organisations are increasingly aware of. “Never has the world of emotion entered in the workplace like it does today.” As her conversations with different colleagues develop, the picture that emerges is that professional relationships have all the complexity and unspoken dynamics of personal ones, and are equally shaped by our early experiences with our families.

“Every relationship has a power structure,” Perel explains. “It’s no different if you’re talking about romantic love or if you’re talking about relationships in the workplace.” 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 20 November 2019 issue of the New Statesman, They think it’s all over