Millennials In Therapy
Why it matters most now.
Posted November 3, 2016
When we hear about millennials, a number of words typically come up—privileged, casual, technology-focused, self-absorbed, social media-obsessed…just to name a few. As a therapist, psychology graduate student, and undergraduate instructor, I come in contact with millennials every day. I teach them. I listen to them. I advise them.
By the way, did I mention that I am one?
Millennials, referring to those who were born in the 1980’s through the early 2000’s, are experiencing new generational challenges, from career and economic uncertainty to mountains of student debt. We are taking on adult responsibilities earlier and delaying family life until later, and as Dr. Meg Jay details in her book, The Defining Decade, this leaves us with a critical ten-year period in which to jump start our lives and set ourselves up for success.
I am in a unique place where I both experience the real stressors associated with emerging adulthood and help others navigate through their own. I have eaten dinner on my commute from work to night classes (yogurt is a bad idea, smoothies are a better idea). I have made terrible, terrible mistakes in my financial aid. I have shown up to work wearing two different shoes after a sleepless night of wondering how I’m going to pay rent. I have alternated between PB&J’s and ramen noodles in a pitiful attempt to “mix things up”. I have sat with students in office hours as they cried about their seemingly insurmountable stress. What this has created, aside from a whole lot of confusion and a questionable sense of sanity, is deep respect and empathy for our shared challenges.
You see, in a world that is now filled with perfectly posed Facebook photos and filtered Instagram posts, it has become even harder to lead an authentic life. Lacking authenticity prevents us from leaning into our vulnerability, and avoiding vulnerability keeps us from asking for help.
The best time to see a therapist is now, and here are some of the myths that keep us from asking for help:
5 Millennial Myths About Therapy
1. It’s too expensive.
You’re right, therapy can be expensive, but it depends on whom you seek services from and how willing you are to investigate the resources available to you. If you are a university student, you likely have access to free or low-cost counseling on your campus. Check out what your school has to offer—you may already be paying for sessions through your student fees.
Many community clinics and agencies offer sliding-scale rates, which means they will accommodate your financial needs and offer you a reasonable fee. If the information isn’t published, there’s no harm in asking.
Group rates are also typically less than the cost of individual therapy. If you’re willing to invest in group fitness classes, why not splurge on some group therapy? Emotional fitness is just as crucial to your development and health, so it’s worth a try.
Finally, therapist interns (LPC-I’s or LMFT-A’s, for instance) typically offer more reasonable rates because they are therapists-in-training and under supervision by a fully licensed mental health professional. The details vary state-by-state, but an intern is usually working toward their minimum direct-service hours to get fully licensed. Don’t be turned off by this! What it really means is that you get two qualified therapists for the price of one, and someone who is fresh out of their master’s degree is going to be concerned about doing things the right way.
2. I have too much going on, and I can’t commit to weekly therapy for months and years.
Hey, most therapists can’t either! I want to dispel the myth that therapy involves a lengthy, expensive commitment. Gone are the days of laying on the couch for hours on end, free associating while someone passively takes notes from across the room. Therapy is an ongoing conversation and an active dialogue. It is purposeful and targeted toward your goals. You can expect to enter brief therapy for 3-6 sessions, on average.
3. I’m already set in my personality. Why change now?
Because you can! We all have room for improvement and exploration. As a young adult on the verge of a lifetime of important interpersonal experiences (job promotions, intimate relationships, friendships…the list goes on), you have the ability to break any negative habits now. Do you often refrain from speaking up, and is it starting to affect your work life and friendships? Are you struggling to stay motivated? Are you a workaholic? Therapy can be the perfect lab to experiment with new behaviors and traits. Your therapist is not your friend, which means he/she is going to be honest with you about their reactions to you. This is a unique perspective that we rarely get anywhere else in our lives. You can actually build your confidence, assertiveness, interpersonal skills, and self-esteem in therapy.
4. I’m casually dating and finding “the one” isn’t exactly on my radar. I don’t need to deal with that until later.
Believe it or not, the best time to work on your love life is before you actually have one. You may be more committed to a Netflix marathon than an actual human being right now, but this doesn’t mean you won’t be interested later in life. Therapy can offer a judgment-free space to explore what you want out of your love life. Do you find yourself in a constant cycle of feeling excited about someone and being let down? Are you struggling to get out of the casual-dating vortex and trying to enter a more serious relationship? Are you noticing a pattern across your dating experiences? Don’t delay, talk about it soon to better understand your needs and how you view healthy relationships.
5. Okay, maybe I’m sort of down, but it’s not like I’m grieving a death or going through a major life crisis. I’m not “depressed”, so therapy isn’t for me.
Maybe you don’t have a DSM-V diagnosis, but feeling stuck, nervous, or unsure is as good a reason as any to seek counseling. Therapy does not solely exist for those who are struggling on the severe side of the mental health spectrum. It is designed to help you improve your quality of life in whatever way makes sense to you. The therapy process can allow us to adjust to big life changes like career shifts or cross-country moves, and it can help us navigate important decisions.
Emerging adulthood presents us with heavy stressors, but you don’t have to go through all of it alone. We can all benefit from a healthy outlet for processing and exploring. Consider therapy as yours.
© Megha Pulianda, MS, LPC-I