While your parents might think it’s taboo to bring up your psychotherapist at the dinner table, we bet you couldn’t drop in on a millennial gathering without hearing about what someone’s therapist told them in their last session. It’s no wonder the Wall Street Journal dubbed millennials “the therapy generation.” So, what exactly do millennials talk about in therapy if they're going so often? We spoke with Tess Brigham, licensed therapist and author of LIKE NOW: A Radically Practical Guide to Liking Your 20s, who shared with us four of the most common struggles that bring millennials to therapy and how to overcome them.
1. Decision paralysis
This is a generation that’s come of age with Amazon, Uber and Instacart. There are not only options, but they’re also immediate and at our fingertips. This can actually have the opposite effect of feeling free. As Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, writes, “Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” Though we can’t control the endless assortment of offerings out there, Brigham believes that gaining a deeper understanding of yourself—and what you want—can ease the decision-making pain. “Awareness and knowing what you want starts from a place of getting quiet and listening to yourself,” Brigham says.
Aka, fear of what other people think. For better or worse, millennials ushered in the age of the influencer. They witness the filtered lives of strangers and friends alike 24/7 on social media, and the impact of scrolling is real. Not only is there the typical societal pressure—ya know, to be married with two kids and a labradoodle by age 30—but social media has added that omnipresent fishtank pressure of everyone watching you. Often, when a client comes to Brigham with concerns about failure, especially compared to others, Brigham tries to help them focus on what they actually want out of their life—not what @PerfectMommy24 wants.
3. Letting go of regrets
Piggybacking on the whole decision-making exhaustion, Brigham finds that many of her millennial patients have difficulties with letting go of the past, experiencing grief over things not working out exactly the way they envisioned it. Instead of pushing these complex emotions aside, Brigham advises her patients to ask themselves, “What can I learn from this?” If you broke up with your partner and find yourself regretting that you “wasted” five years in a dead-end relationship, ask yourself how you can pivot this feeling of loss to help improve your future relationships—or better yet, your relationship with yourself. As Brigham puts it, “It’s all information.”
4. Dating app fatigue
Overwhelmingly, Brigham says, millennials seek therapy to talk about dating and relationships. Dating apps bring us back to that paradox of choice, but above that, Brigham explains that “there is a lot of dating fatigue because there is a tremendous amount of work just to figure out if you are interested in someone.” Dating has always come with obstacles and challenges, but Brigham sees millennials wasting a lot of time swiping, which ultimately leads to burnout. When this happens, Brigham says, “The best thing that you can do is focus on the quality of your own life.” Don’t be afraid to take a step back to reevaluate your own needs and priorities and to remind yourself why you are dating in the first place.