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The Millennial Therapist

Since Day 1 of working toward becoming a psychologist, I’ve always had a heart for children. During my graduate training, I was willing to work with children in any capacity possible so that I would have a breadth of experience. This means that I have done everything from traditional therapy to working with cancer patients and their families at St. Jude to evaluating youth involved in the criminal justice system.

As I was gaining experience with youth, I began to realize I also loved working with young adults. Transition Age Youth (TAY; adults ages 18-24) were beginning to be included in the literature as falling under the umbrella of being a “child” therapist specialty population. As I have matured in my personal and professional life, I have grown to love working with my generation, the Millennials. They get my pop culture references (Remember Hoku?) and I, in turn, understand their struggles.

Millennials have faced extreme challenges, have unique mental health needs, and are more mental health-conscious than any generation before them (but maybe not after – looking at you, Gen Z). For example, after I graduated from Auburn University with my bachelor’s degree, my first job earned me the $7.50 per hour Alabama minimum wage. The economy had dipped, and it never quite seemed to recover. We’re the generation that was told, “Get educated, and you’ll succeed.” Well, we got educated, and we have faced hurdles ever since. Millennials are the highest educated generation, yet facing a major wealth gap. We’ve been blamed for killing all sorts of industries (our apologies to department stores) and delaying our developmental milestones in favor of eating avocado toast. We’ve survived 9/11 and a recession and are still navigating a pandemic. Our parents bought houses that we can’t afford with our now-larger salaries. To fix the problem, Millennials’ employers offer “wellness” programs but not salary increases.

Can we see why Millennials are in a mental health crisis?

Now, I have named many of the outside factors contributing to mental health concerns. Obviously, those issues require their own solutions to help Millennials. So, what benefit can therapy have?

Although therapy will not fix the world’s problems, it can help us reach a level of resiliency and health that allows us to face our challenges as our best selves. To borrow from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we’re all doing the best we can right now with our current skill set, and we can always make improvements in ourselves toward living our best lives. While there are many barriers to starting or continuing therapy, I urge those who are able to do the work. [And for those who can't, I promise you that our field is working to reduce inequalities in access to care.] You probably have no clue how much better you can even feel. I’ve seen powerful changes come from individuals choosing to prioritize their mental health. It’s time to invest in ourselves and become leaders that make this world better for the next generations.

Interested in therapy but don’t know where to start? Read this.

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