From counseling to pop culture, close friends Anna Zapata and Kristen Diou cover it all in their new podcast, Pop Culture Therapists, which is free and available on iTunes.
Zapata and Diou are both Dallas-based licensed professional counselors, who, in the midst of stressful careers, decided to create a side project that would be fun while also advocating for the management of mental health.
“Well, we both actually just recently opened up private practices, and it’s been a really stressful experience,” Zapata says. “So we thought that it would be great to have a creative side project, and this podcast just felt like a natural thing for us to do.”
Diou specializes in working with individuals who have experienced trauma and children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, and Zapata works with adult survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse as children.
The podcast focuses on mental health dynamics in TV shows and movies, ranging from the controversial 13 Reasons Why to throwbacks like The Sopranos.
“After watching a heavy piece of television or film, sometimes you need help decompressing and making sense of what you’ve just seen,” Diou says. “Mental health conversations are oftentimes stuffy, so we wanted to steer away from that and provide our listeners with fun anecdotes.”
At least once a week, Diou finds herself talking about something that one of her clients saw on TV, what it was like for them and how hard it was for them, she says.
“One of the hardest things about what I’ve had to go over is when Tyler from 13 Reasons Why got sodomized — that was super triggering. … For me, that was triggering,” Diou says. “That is a really difficult thing to watch, and one of my biggest struggles with the show is that there’s no hope and there’s no healthy resources. Kids will probably go through hard times in their life, and instead of encouraging them to reach out to healthy resources, the show does a really poor job of showing where to find healthy people in your life.”
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Although there are trigger warnings in shows like 13 Reasons Why, Zapata doesn’t know if kids and teenagers — the target audience — have the ability to sit back and determine if watching the show is good for them.
“I think it depends on the kid and where they are emotionally because if they’re not in an emotionally safe place to watch the show, then they’re going to spiral,” Zapata says. “But I do think these shows can be watched by the target audience, but there has to be conversations about them. Because without that, it’s just a bunch of triggering material and graphic scenes with no processing of what they’ve seen.”
The goal of Pop Culture Therapists is to be a source for those conversations and many more as the hosts continue podcasting for the upcoming show Sharp Objects and a new season Orange is the New Black, which both premiere this summer.
“We both want to start changing the dialogue around mental health,” Diou says. “I feel like the best way to have people listen is to have a funny, lighthearted dialogue about something serious, and maybe we can get some good message across, too.”