This Is What Millennials Talk About the Most in Therapy

Therapist talking to millennial woman in therapy

Therapists are the go-to people for talking about issues you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone else. If you bring up an issue involving your partner, they aren’t going to call them up and tell them what you said. You can talk about wanting to leave your job without your boss finding out. The connection with one’s therapist is sacred and safe.

Millennials, in particular, are taking advantage of therapy. According to a survey by the Thriving Center of Psychology, 55% of Gen Z and millennials have been to therapy and 39% plan to go this year. A full 90% of Gen Z and millennials believe more people should go to therapy. What exactly do millennials talk about in therapy? Here, licensed therapists share the issues that come up the most. 

Related: 82% of People Now Believe Mental Health Is Just As Important As Physical Health, So Here's How to Find the Right Therapist for You

The Number One Issue Millennials Talk About in Therapy

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC, a clinical counselor and the founder of PsychPoint, shares that the number one issue the millennials she works with bring up in therapy is coping with the pressure to reach different life milestones that they either have not yet achieved or are not ready for yet. For example, she says that some people express that they feel they should be more successful in their careers at this point in their lives. Others, Guarino says, worry because they are not in a committed relationship or have children yet.

“The pressure they put on themselves to meet milestones their parents were able to achieve by their age, like promotions, homeownership, and a successful family life, causes millennials to believe they made poor choices for themselves, which is not always the case,” Guarino explains.

Related: The One Thing Gen Z Brings Up the Most in Therapy, According to Therapists

Guarino says that the reason why this particular issue is so common with millennials is because many were brought up to think if they reached important checkpoints in their life, then they would achieve success. “[For example], if they earned a college degree, they would find a high-paying job and build a successful career by the time they were in their 30s, and if they molded themselves to fit societal expectations, they could easily find a partner and get married. Both of these expectations are common, but unrealistic for the current times,” she explains.

She adds that these benchmarks (such as getting married, owning a home, having children) were set by older generations and it’s harder to meet them now by the same ages as for generations past. “Families are starting later in the millennial generation due to people focusing on their careers and the impact of ongoing financial stress and the poor housing market—factors that the previous generation did not struggle with in their 30s. Dating has also become more challenging, as dating apps have impacted how people connect, and the effects of the pandemic caused years of isolation that prevented people from being able to date in person,” Guarino says.

Jacob Wilen, MA, AMFT, a psychotherapist at Wilen Psych in Los Angeles, California, sees this too. He says that as millennials are delaying traditional milestones, they’re opting to prioritize their “chosen families” over their predetermined biological ones. “A chosen family is typically a diverse constellation of close friendships, creative collaborators and intimate partners,” Wilen explains. Since these are typically the primary relationships in millennial clients’ lives, he says that their therapy sessions tend to focus on them.

“In psychotherapy sessions, these shifting attitudes have brought a renewed emphasis on millennial friendship dynamics, giving rise to the practice of ‘friendship therapy,” Wilen says. He explains that similar to traditional couples therapy, friendship sessions create a dedicated time and brave space to process resentments and differences and enable the friendship to evolve, or in some cases, end. Wilen adds that when a friendship ends, it’s often just as (if not more) traumatic for someone than a divorce because friendships are so central to millennials.

Related: When Is It Time to See a Therapist About Your Anxiety?

How to Cope if You Struggle With This Too

Can you relate to the feeling that you’re behind on reaching certain milestones? If you do, Guarino says it can be helpful to remember that these milestones were set in a very different time under very different circumstances. In other words, they’re outdated.

“I encourage my clients to be more self-forgiving and appreciate the hard work they are doing to build a life they appreciate for themselves,” Guarino shares. If there are people in your life who are putting pressure on you to reach certain milestones or making you feel like you’re not enough due to their decisions or circumstances that are out of their control, Guarino recommends setting boundaries with these people. It's up to you to decide how much time and energy you want to give them.

When it comes to major life milestones like getting married and having kids, Guarino says it’s important to make decisions that you want to make; not ones that other people want you to make. After all, it’s your life and you have to live with the consequences of your decision. “I encourage millennials—both men and women—to make such important life decisions for themselves, and not to satisfy the expectations of family and others. It is your life. Build it for yourself,” she says.

Last, remember that you are not alone. Whatever you talk to your therapist about, rest assured that others are facing the same struggles.

Next up, here's how to break up with your therapist.