High Schoolers Across the Country Are Seeking ‘Teenager Therapy’

As the pandemic has upended school, summer plans, and daily life for millions of teenagers, many are turning to a podcast to cope. “Teenager Therapy,” hosted by five rising seniors at Loara High School in Anaheim, Calif., has become a lifeline for kids and a breakout hit.

The show features five teens (self-described on their website as “sleep deprived, yet energetic”) having loose, candid conversations about mental health, school and family, friendships and sexuality, and more. Sometimes they interview big names; the influencer Loren Gray and the singer Maggie Lindemann have both been on the show. But usually, the format is more of a free-form discussion.

On a recent episode, they chatted about their daily routines and finding some semblance of normalcy during lockdown. “There are episodes where we offer genuine advice, there are episodes where we simply talk about our experiences, and there are episodes where we just talk about anything in order to keep our audience company,” said Gael Aitor, 17, who got the idea for “Teenager Therapy” in 2018 after hearing “Couples Therapy,” a podcast by the YouTuber Casey Neistat and his wife.

But Mr. Aitor wanted something more specific for the problems he was dealing with as a then 15-year-old. “I was like, what if I do this, but with teenagers?” he said.

So he rounded up four friends to record the first episode of “Teenager Therapy” while sitting around a mic on a bed. “The first try was terrible, so we deleted it and did it two more times,” Mr. Aitor said. “The third time we were happy with it, so we posted it online and that’s how it all started.”

Now Mr. Aitor along with Mark Hugo, 16, Thomas Pham, 16, Kayla Suarez, 17, and Isaac Hurtado, 17, record once a week, though the pandemic means they do so remotely from their homes.

Building a podcast audience from scratch is no easy feat, especially since the group of high schoolers had no marketing budget. To attract listeners, Mr. Aitor repurposed an old Instagram account he had used as a fan page for the band 21 Pilots, which had 20,000 followers. Mr. Aitor also reached out to meme pages that are popular among teenagers and asked them to post about the show.

Within a few months of releasing their first episode, “Teenager Therapy” surpassed 100,000 downloads — a number it can take years for independent podcasts to hit. From there, the show kept growing.

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