Listen Up: The Bright Sessions

After last year’s successful resolution (pretty much a first for me!), I decided to dip my toes into a spec-fic area I barely even know exists — podcasts.

The rules for 2018:

  • I will listen to twelve spec-fic oriented podcasts, one per month.
  • For each podcast, I will listen to a minimum of five episodes per podcast before I either give up or add it to my entertainment cycle.

This may be much less of a triumph. It may in fact be doomed to failure. The reasons:

  • I am not good at listening or paying attention. Yet most forms of multi-tasking are out when you’re listening to audio. It comes down to baking or exercising for me, and those are not always easy to fit into my day.
  • I am not patient. Reading is faster and more efficient. When I complain about the slowness of listening, people suggest I listen to podcasts at 1 and a half speed or even 2 times the recorded speed. Because what I need to make me listen is people sounding increasingly like the Chipmunks?

But when I asked for podcast recommendations, they came fast and furious, so podcasts are obviously something people enjoy. I want to be one of them.

My first podcast choice was The Bright Sessions with its tag line of “Therapy for the Strange and Unusual,” which seemed like an easy and amusing way to start. It also came well-recommended.

So the first month in, one podcast, five episodes, a whole whopping hour and a half of my time… did I succeed?

Short answer: No.

Part of this was purely technical reasons. My phone and I are having a war over whether it wants to download anything, which meant that my original plan of listening to podcasts while walking the dogs was a no-go. The iPad has a terrible speaker so that didn’t work unless I was sitting in a quiet room, doing nothing. My laptop was fine, but… the laptop is WORK TIME, so, that didn’t happen either.

Part of it was that I just picked the wrong podcast to start with. Even so, I did get halfway to my goal, listening to three episodes.

Mild spoilers for The Bright Sessions:

The premise of this podcast sounded fun, but the first episode left me more unhappy and distressed than entertained. My audio processing difficulties meant that while I had a hard time paying attention to the details of the dialogue, the emotional tone came through loud and clear. In episode one, Dr. Bright talks to a first-time client, Sam, who has a peculiar problem: she time-travels accidentally and at random, against her will.

For me, episode one (Sam) was like eavesdropping on a miserable, distressed woman. Since I had given up on other forms of multi-tasking and was listening to this as a wind-down to going to bed…not a great idea.

I had a hard time following the details of the plot (blame my inattentiveness if you will). I just couldn’t figure out why Sam was so distressed about her accidental time-traveling abilities. I gathered she was concerned that people would notice and she’d end up in a lab as an experiment, but… she’d been vanishing (literally) in front of people for years, and there was no great hue and cry. Episode one left me anxious and confused.

Episode two (Caleb) was equally hard to get through. The idea seemed sound: Dr. Bright continues to counsel a patient on how to cope with his empathic abilities. Empathic abilities in high school? That does sound like a special sort of hell. I was intrigued.

It’s just hard to stay motivated to listen. I love characters with interesting personal problems, but I think I love them trying to do other things while dealing with their issues. I don’t particularly love them talking about their personal problems. Especially when they’re playing moody teens, who are either sullen or shouting. Then I was perplexed by the advice Dr. Bright gave Caleb, which seemed like she’d forgotten a whole lot about high school politics.

I considered giving up on The Bright Sessions for good about three minutes into the third session. The premise was fine: Dr. Bright takes on another new patient (Chloe) who is the daughter of her old college friend, and first unusual client. But when Dr. Bright spent the opening of the session talking about Chloe’s mother and how close they were, I kept cringing. It seemed odd and unprofessional to point out how friendly she was with the patient’s mother — I’d be worried about the confidentiality of my session. This is where plot and podcast bang into each other uncomfortably. We, the listeners, needed to know some of Dr. Bright’s past, and sharing it with Chloe makes sense plot-wise, but therapy-wise?

Again, I powered through. There were two things I enjoyed about this episode. I liked that Chloe had come up with her own explanation for her telepathic abilities and the doctor was left going, “Wait, angels are talking to you, really?” That was fun to see that the girl had accepted the peculiar, but just steadfastly assigned something with her own meaning to it. Magical instead of scientific.

The other thing I really liked was that Dr. Bright thinks Chloe might be one of her most promising subjects. Which suggests there’s more going on than just therapy to the strange and uncanny, and raises the specter of experimentation and oversight and all sorts of plot-rich events.

The Bright Sessions is growing on me, but I didn’t finish the five episodes in a month I’d wanted to. I’m hoping that I’ll be motivated enough to go further even without this month’s push. The upcoming episode titles suggest more interesting stuff lies ahead. Anyone who’s listened to this podcast, feel free to let me know that oh yeah, super cool stuff lies ahead. Or conversely, spare me the false hope and say, nope, it’s just client sessions over and over and over.

But for February, it’s on to Lauren Proves Magic is Real, about a tweenage cat-sitter learning her neighbor is a secret agent for a magical justice system. This is a bit of a cheat for me because I enjoyed the book — Irregulars — that this podcast is a spin-off from, so I’m already familiar with the world and some of the characters. Also, because Nicole Kimberling was the publisher/editor for my book Renovation, so I already know where our senses of humor overlap.

Hopefully, I’ll get both Lauren Proves Magic is Real and a few more episodes of The Bright Sessions under my belt. If I win the war against my phone. Wish me luck!


  • Shara White February 7, 2018 at 7:52 am

    I haven’t listened to this one, but it sounds pretty cool. When I was poking around on the podcast’s website, I got the impression that after these three episodes, it’s not strict case files. Don’t hold me to that, though, since I haven’t listened yet! 🙂

    • Lane Robins February 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      I think it must have some over-arching plot, because as stand-alone vignettes they’re not quite satisfying. But if they were pieces of a whole, they’d be more interesting.

  • Laurin February 7, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    As a huge fan of this podcast, I’ll just hop in to let you know that they do eventually move away from the patient therapy session format, but it takes a while for the first non-therapy ep (17ish eps IIRC?) and then those are sprinkled in. They don’t completely abandon that format until 30ish episodes in. There is also an overarching plot (linked to Joan’s comments about “assets”), and the characters begin to be pulled together. Also, I know this doesn’t completely help since you want to be doing other things while you listen, but if you do find yourself just sitting, there are transcripts for all the episodes on the website, which might help you follow along with the plot.
    Finally, since it can bother some people a lot, it’s worth knowing going in that Dr. Bright is… not a good therapist. She wants to help, but she does a lot of not good things, and the characters do call her out on that.
    Anyway I hope you give it another shot and keep going, because it’s honestly one of my favorite podcasts! Also I’m really interested in this idea, I’m definitely guilty of listening to the same few podcasts and having a “to listen…eventually” list a mile long, so I might borrow this idea and start working through those.

    • Lane Robins February 7, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      Oh that’s great! I am intrigued enough to want an excuse to keep on trying. You’ll have to let me know if you find anything else great to listen to. 🙂

      • Carey Ballard February 8, 2018 at 2:55 am

        Agreed with Laurin, and your instincts are correct, there is an overarching plot. I was hooked by the concept (people with powers going to therapy?) and stayed for the characters. We’re in the 3rd season, I think, and still waiting for a little more Dr. Bright angst – I think she still has way more secrets than she lets on – but overall I have really enjoyed this podcast. The other thing it has going for it is that some of the characters are queer, bi, or ace. That’s refreshing.


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