Below is our recent interview with Irad Eichler, the Founder & CEO at Circles:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Circles?
A: Circles is an online platform that creates “circles of support” for people experiencing life challenges.
Circles enables everyone dealing with a life challenge to receive on-demand quality emotional support 24/7 – from the very people going through the same thing. We harness technology to design the best support solution for people facing chronic and acute illness, divorce, loss of a loved one, loneliness, and those who live with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
Since the launch of Circles, 1000+ groups have already formed validating the need that people need help and feel better connecting with others that face the same challenges.
Q: Irad, what inspired you to start Circles?
A: Eight years ago, I lost my mother to cancer, and before I lost her, I spent a lot of time sitting and talking with her. In the last few months, she told me that it didn’t really help [her] because she feels lonely. She knew that I loved and cared about her but I didn’t know what it is like to be dying.
Two days after she told me that, I overheard her speaking with a friend of hers that had cancer as well. My mother was vivid, alive and happy. I was overwhelmed by the differences between her conversation with me and her conversation with a friend who had “walked a mile in her shoes”.
Shortly thereafter, I lost my mom and I was dealing with heartache and grief. During this time, I had this realization that the most impactful support I received was from my siblings and others that had lost their parents due to their ability to relate to this experience. I went out and I was looking for a go-to place, a place for people dealing with any kind of emotional challenge. And there wasn’t any. Therefore, I set out to create one of my own, and Circles was born.
Q: How exactly do Circles support groups work?
A: Circles only offers one type of support: peer-based group support.
Anyone can start and participate in a group from the Circles App. Signup only requires a first name and groups are audio only. A group can be organized around any topic or area of struggle, such as divorce, loss, infertility, or navigating civilian life after the military. We equip group facilitators with tools to ensure success, so that it is an effective support group and not just a freefall conversation.
Q: Why is this approach to e-therapy a better alternative to traditional therapy?
A: I would not say Circles is always a better alternative to traditional therapy but it opens up a powerful new path for support vs meeting one-on-one with a licensed therapist. Unlike traditional therapy, Circles fills a void by focusing on the therapeutic value of sharing and listening to others with the same pain, issue, or challenge. This provides a place for those who may not need professional therapy as well as functions as a complement to professional therapy. The Surgeon General just sounded the alarm on loneliness. We have become disconnected and when you are going through a challenging time, you may feel more isolated. Circles is really about creating community around shared issues, and equipping participants to grieve and heal together in a safe space.
Q: The U.S. surgeon general just said that widespread loneliness in the U.S. is the latest public health epidemic, with about half of U.S. adults stating that they’ve experienced this feeling personally. What are some of the support trends you are seeing on Circles? What type of support is growing the fastest this year?
A: We experience a huge demand from different kinds of people and challenges on Circles. Loneliness, for example, is a growing phenomenon for people from all walks of life. The pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness and we should all be concerned. However, in general, we find that people come to Circles to validate their feelings and find meaning in the circles of support. Two of the fastest growing areas of support on our platform are narcissistic relationships and caregiving. Another emerging trend we are seeing is people with disabilities supporting others with the same disability.