Why Do Young Adults Go to Therapy?
I recently met with a group of young adults from Towson University to talk about the stigma surrounding mental health and therapy. As the students asked questions and shared their perspectives, two words continued to come up: Anxiety and Depression. It took me a little while to notice that this conversation was creating the illusion. It is a myth is that you must be either anxious or depressed to go to therapy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are limitless reasons why therapy can be beneficial to young adults. You don’t have to just have anxiety and depression. Therapy could be useful to someone experiencing any number of concerns (or no pressing concerns at all)!
All of this got me thinking, “Why do students and young adults seek therapy?” To answer this, I collected information from 10 local college counseling centers’ websites to see what sort of topics came up. The results were revealing.
If we tried, we could categorize all of these terms in many different ways.
- Internal vs. External
- Short term vs. Long term
- Psychological vs. Environmental.
I find myself thinking about it in terms of Reactive vs. Proactive.
Young adults come to therapy as a reaction to something
Of course, it’s true that many people seek therapy in response to a recent event. This could including a breakup, death, or a trauma. Also it could be that because they are experiencing active mental health issues, several which you see in this word cloud.
Seeking therapy as a reaction to these sorts of triggers is a great way to get on the path to healing. However, you don’t necessarily have to be at that point to want support. Nothing needs to be “wrong” for you to start therapy. An article in the Wall Street Journal illustrated this point by discussing how in addition to seeking treatment for “problems,” Millennials and Gen Z are viewing therapy as a preventative measure of self-improvement.
Even so, it can be challenging to wrap your head around this concept. Afterall, what would you even talk about? It’s helpful to think about your mental health like your physical health. You might go to the doctor for a check-up even though nothing is wrong, but that doesn’t mean you’re 100%. So while “you’re good,” that doesn’t mean you have no concerns at all or room for improvement. Mental health is similar. People who are fine, happy, good, chill, normal, balanced, (or whatever word you want to throw out there) still have areas in which they can improve. This comes in the form of developing a deeper understanding of yourself, identifying patterns in behavior and relationships, talking about future goals, or most of all, just feeling heard.
Therapy can be proactive for young adults!
Often times, clients need a place to talk about their week with someone who has taken the time to build a rapport and understand the players and events in their lives. But a therapist is very different than a friend in the role. With a therapist, there is not the enduring the societal pressure of having to say, “now how are you doing?” after you’ve spent your time talking. This a one-of-a-kind experience.
A therapist provides a non-judgmental space for people to verbalize their thoughts and try to make sense of the world around them. Therapy might be the first place where someone says out loud what has been bouncing around in their minds for weeks. Thoughts like “I’m not sure if my boyfriend is right for me,” or “I don’t want to study business anymore,” can finally come out from the depths of your thoughts.
Validation from another adult is developmentally essential in young adulthood
Just hearing the words leave your mouth can feel very freeing. The freedom can help you solidify and/or explore your thoughts. What’s more, hearing your therapist say, “that makes sense” or “that’s an interesting thought,” or simply asking, “why is that?” can be the catalyst that helps you break through a mental block. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a therapist is watching a client’s thought process play out. I love seeing it crystalize in real time. This proves what I often say to clients: that you are the expert of yourself.
We can also look at therapy as a preventative tool to help prepare for the inevitable peaks and valleys throughout our lives. Building trust with a therapist during a calm phase means that you don’t have to start at square one when an issue arises. This is helpful because those crisis moments often exceeds your ability to cope, let alone build new relationships. It also means that you’ll be able to problem solve or otherwise address issues in their early phases. This means a larger conflict or blow-up can often be avoided.
Similarly, talking to your therapist about things like everyday stressors, for instance, gives us an opportunity to tackle “low hanging fruit.” In other words, you gain an opportunity to learn coping skills or methods to challenge your thoughts while discussing topics that seem safe and low stakes. This prepares you for the harder times in life. You build a repertoire of skills that get stored in your mental toolbox for future use.
Young adult therapy is self-care for your present and your future self.
Ultimately, this is a discussion that could go on forever in quite a bit of depth. But there is a direct point to be made: everyone can benefit from therapy. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you might be considering starting therapy. But maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “I’m not sure if my problems are that big of a deal.” Let’s assume that’s true. I say, great! What a great time to start therapy! Like taking a walk or practicing yoga, adding therapy as a part of your weekly self-care routine is sure to help you live your best young adult life.
If you are a young adult wanting to therapy in Olney and surrounding Maryland areas,
simply read our information section on young adult therapy. Then check out our awesome team of therapist. Email us to get started and you can get the preventative care (or responsive care too) that you are thinking about now!
About The Author
Alex Bleiweis, LMSW is a licensed social worker and Therapist at Montgomery County Counseling Center in Rockville and Olney, MD. He earned his Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Maryland School of Social Work in 2021, where he was named student of the Year. He training is rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Among his many strengths, Alex specializes in treating young adults and professionals, career concerns, and process addictions such as gambling problems and technology addictions.