Listening to the Next Generation


Listening to the Next Generation

Are We Hearing What They Have to Say?

November/December 2018


In my sixth decade of life, I’ve gotten much more comfortable—and familiar—with bafflement. It’s something of a paradox of the years that my increase in confidence in so many areas of my life seems to be intertwined with growing acceptance of my ignorance. In fact, it’s a relief to be this unabashed in declaring, “Well, I have no idea. Please tell me.”

In particular, although I’m surrounded day and night by millennials—my children and their friends, my doctoral students, most of my clients, and many of my fellow marchers and canvassers this past year—I’m intrigued by what I don’t know about this younger generation. Sure, I’m pretty well versed in the theoretical issues of emerging adulthood and am also a stalwart fan of these “kids,” so I have moments when I assume I understand what it’s like for them as individuals, and even as a cohort. But there are striking moments with every millennial I treat, when, truth be told, I know I’m missing something that’s fallen into the generational gap between us: perhaps the fact that I still call them kids is a good indicator of that.

So I decided to consult with a small group of millennials, all with firsthand knowledge about providing and receiving therapy—a few current and former doctoral students and a smattering of young adults I know from my nonprofessional world who’ve put in time as psychotherapy clients. I picked four different cases off the top of my pile, outlined a couple of aspects I found a bit perplexing,…

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