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Moving from Annoyed to Impactful: Working with the Selfie Generation

Millennials deal with unique problems that few generations have faced before. Watch this webinar to gain a better understanding of their upbringing, values and motivations.

Moving from Annoyed to Impactful: Working with the Selfie Generation

Estimated watch time: 1 hour 23 mins

Available credits: none

Presentation Materials:

Welcome to the Community Education Series hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. Welcome everyone. I know that people are busy, even though some are still in quarantine, so thank you for carving out time to be here with me. It is such an honor to be able to present to everyone. Especially with Advanced Recovery Systems, which is a fabulous program. I’m lucky to have them as a resource. With that all said, I want to speak to the title of the presentation, which is “Moving From Annoyed to Impactful: Working With the Selfie Generation.” This presentation is on millennials; that’s anyone 24 to 40 years old.

Some of us still think of millennials as folks in their early 20s, and what we now know is that’s actually the next generation — Gen Z. This presentation is only speaking to the generational research that has studied 24- to 40-year-olds. So when you’re thinking about this presentation and if you are a mental health or addiction professional, I want you to think about those 24- to 40-year-old clients as you apply some of these concepts. All of this presentation is based on research. There is a section of the presentation that is sort of anecdotal findings that I have noticed, but the rest of it is confirmed by generational research, which I think is really awesome because research is informative and helps us all get more clarity and insight. And that insight allows us to do greater work with our clients.

I’ll start with this acronym: VISION. This is not something that was created in the research. I actually created this acronym, and it pulls from different concepts of the research. What we’re going to do as we work through this presentation is get through each of these letters. So, V stands for values. We’re going to talk about the value system of millennials, their outlook, perspective, stance on life and how that differs in comparison to Gen X and boomers. Something else to know is that all of this research is comparing millennials to Gen Xers and boomers, the two generations prior to millennials. It’s not including Gen Zers, which is the generation after millennials. Please keep that in mind; it’s just comparing it to the generations before millennials. Again, V — we were going to explore that value system.

As we continue through the presentation, we’ll get to I: individuality. That is going to talk about
the independence that millennials want to create, the self-focus that we notice, the individuality of them wanting to carve their own path. We’ll get to S, which stands for stress. This section includes the mental health, the addiction, the substance use disorders that are unique to millennials in comparison to past generations. The I stands for instability. We’re going to talk about the economic disadvantages, the expectations that millennials had and the actual reality that they face when they entered into the world.

O and N are the last sections of this presentation, and it’s going to be the part where I talk about how mental health and addiction professionals can enhance their practice with the millennial generation. So, practical tools that you can start right now with your millennial clients, those 24- to 40-year-olds, that will allow you to increase treatment outcomes, feel like you’re creating a greater impact and really using a generational model to address their unique and special kind of experiences in life. They — millennials — struggle very differently than Gen X and boomers, and it’s important that we note that they struggle uniquely and then use a generational model to better serve them. That is the entire presentation, and we’ll start working through that right now.

What we see in the research is that there’s been a decline in social approval and a rise in individualism, and millennials are really the first generation to adapt this value. We didn’t see the same value in individualism as we did with Gen X and boomers, so it’s kind of a unique value. And what we notice is in past generations, duty and responsibility were the most important aspects, and that was more important than individual wants and needs. So those are our Gen Xers and boomers; they really value duty and responsibility, whereas millennials value individualism. And what we know is today, we’re driven by our individual needs and desires. Millennials were taught to be independent and self-reliant, and millennials were taught to always pursue happiness above else. And really, from a very young age, we were taught to be different, to stand out, to value being unique and different. It was the first time that a generation had emphasized something like that. When you talk to Gen Xers and boomers, there wasn’t as much of an intrinsic motivation to stand out. They were much more driven to collaborate and be kind of cohesive as a community. Whereas millennials are like, “No, I want to be unique. I want to be special. I want to stand out.” That’s where we see that individualism.

We also see a decline in social approval and increase in self-focus. Millennials put a lot of their attention on self, which is where we get that stereotype that we’re entitled and selfish. I think I’m going to speak to a little more of those stereotypes throughout this presentation because I would like to share a different lens to view self-focus, and instead of labeling it as narcissistic or as selfish, I would like to provide an explanation as to why we focus so much on self, but we’ll get to that. Something to note is that baby boomers pioneered the modern brand of self-focus. So, the majority of millennials were parented by boomers. Of course, depending on when people are having children, there are some Gen Xers that had millennial children, but the majority are boomers. And boomers were instilling the value of self-focus from early on.

Millennials were taught as children to put themselves first, and key word is that they were taught to put themselves first. We didn’t just magically start valuing self-focus — we were taught it. And I want to throw out some common sense advice that we hear so often in society. What I’m about to share with you all — I would imagine if I could see people’s faces, they’d be nodding their heads because we say it all the time to each other. “Just be yourself, believe in yourself, express yourself, respect yourself, be honest with yourself.” What does everyone notice in this common sense advice? I know I can’t hear anyone answer, so I’ll just say it: yourself. The emphasis is self. And these are phrases that millennials heard from a very young age and as they navigated adolescence and young adulthood and even childhood.

We also see in the decline in social approval a rise in independence. Millennials really value being independent; they value self-focus — that individualism. “Just be yourself” became the central ethos of parenting in the ‘80s and ‘90s. So parents, those boomer parents, were taught by the education system, by psychologists, by parenting experts, that we should be teaching the model of “just be yourself” to our children. And studies show that parents in the ‘80s and ‘90s named independence and tolerance as the most important traits to teach their children. Again, that was independence and tolerance. Millennials were taught from birth to be independent, open-minded, receptive.

Parents even gave their children unique names to stand out. Even in our names, parents were thinking, “How do I choose a name that’s going to not allow them to blend in? I want them to stand out. I want them to be unique. I want them to feel like a special snowflake.” Which I find is really interesting and informative when we look at this value system, and instead of viewing it as, “Oh, millennials just magically became this way,” if we can view it as they were taught to be this way, it changes our experience as we interact with millennials. And it starts to dismantle the stereotypes — that they’re narcissistic, that they’re selfish, that they’re entitled. Now, I understand there might be some truth to that, but if we can look at it through this lens, I think it helps to kind of decrease that annoyance we might feel and provide a different way to look at it.

So, not only did we see a decline in social approval, but also a decline in social rules, which allowed for the equality revolution to explode. One of the upsides to individualistic attitudes is lessened prejudice and discrimination. Again, “being different is good” became the mantra of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and this promoted diversity, equality and acceptance. So, one of the perks of individualism is lessened prejudice and discrimination, which is where we see the start of this equality revolution, which really kind of started to get noticed in the early ‘90s. But even in the mid-’80s we saw this — that diversity was starting to be valued. And millennials were taught to be more tolerant because they rejected the social rules and some of those childhood messaging.

I know some people have an issue with the term tolerance, so I’ll kind of pull away from that terminology and really refer to it as the equality revolution, but millennials were taught that being different is good. We were more open and accepting of people of different ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, religious backgrounds, and certainly now we see gender and sexual orientation and things like that. What’s interesting is the only group that millennials won’t tolerate — I want people to pause and kind of think — who do you think the group of people millennials won’t tolerate? That group of people are the individuals who are intolerant. So, the only group that millennials won’t tolerate are the people who are intolerant, which I find really stands out to me and is powerful.

In continuing with the decline in social rules, we also see the rise of the individualism. We’re much more tolerant. We’re much more willing to be open minded and accepting of differences, but what we also see is that happiness is overruled with societal rules. We value happiness much more than the societal script. Millennials are often evaluating in situations, “Does this jeopardize my happiness? If it does, then I’m going to make a choice or decision that keeps my happiness in mind,” versus the societal rules, which is the script that that society has laid out for us that we are less inclined to prescribe to. Those societal rules might be you go to school, you then get married, you then have babies, and you have that white picket fence. Millennials are really the first generation to go, “Uh huh, no. I’m not following that blueprint. I’m carving my own path because my happiness is the most important thing.”

What we see is that millennials are getting married much later than Gen X and boomers, they’re having children much later, so it’s kind of bringing to light that we don’t follow that blueprint. We also will always choose our personal choice over social standards, so I think this slide is really highlighting that the social blueprint or flow chart is something that we’re rejecting. And we’re even told — you can see this picture over here that says “five social norms you should break” to stay true to, again, yourself. So the messaging is clear, and millennials were sponges; they absorb this.

What I want to point out is, in the ‘90s and early 2000s, even movies promoted this specific messaging. “Rebel against restrictive social rules, don’t follow the rules if it jeopardizes your happiness.” Some of those met some of those movies, which I think everyone has probably seen: Bend It Like Beckham, Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. All of these movies have this clear message, which is, “Do what is right for yourself and always choose happiness above all else.” And when you’re viewing millennials, I want you guys to keep that in mind when you think about your 24- to 40-year-olds. You’re oftentimes going to hear them in a clinical session say, “Yeah, well, I left that job because I’m not happy” or, you know, “I’m just not happy in the relationship, and I think it’s best if we break up.” We’re very quick to make decisions that surround happiness.

I want to start a new section. We just worked through the first part of the acronym of VISION. We’ve talked about V and I, but I also want to get to a big part of the research, which is the self-esteem movement. And this movement was powerful, man. It really informed millennials and how they show up in the world, how they navigate the world and, really, their stance on the world. So we’re going to spend some time talking about the self-esteem movement because I think it will be helpful for everyone to really start to understand millennials using this movement or keeping this movement in mind.

This little picture says, “I love me.” Okay, so the self-esteem movement, but as we said, millennials were born into a world that celebrated the individual. The number of psychology and educational journals devoted to self-esteem doubled between 1970 and 1980. Journal articles on self-esteem increased another 52% during the ‘90s. So again, when we look at it in comparison to past generations, Gen X and boomers, there wasn’t as much emphasis on self-esteem. There wasn’t as much messaging that self-esteem was important or valuable. Millennials are the first generation to get blasted with this. And what we also know is that children’s books also promoted self-esteem. So when millennials were children in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were reading books that promoted self-esteem. Two books that were really popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s were I am Lovable and Be a Winner, and I think just from the title of the book, we can see that it emphasizes feeling good about yourself, putting yourself first and valuing that.

The self-esteem movement not only was in parenting books and being taught by those parenting gurus, but it also rolled out into the education system, and the education system then adapted to create a self-esteem curriculum. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the education system, researchers and scholars truly believed that high self-esteem would lead to particular outcomes. So the self-esteem movement was created because they believed that if we created a generation that felt super good about themselves — a generation that felt really strong about themselves, they had a solid self-concept — that it would lead to certain outcomes. And here are those outcomes — what they predicted. They believed if you had high self-esteem, it would lead to better grades, improved work performance, improved academic performance, less violence in school, less cheating in school, and it would lead to better life and emotional coping skills.

I think it’s important to note here that the self-esteem movement truly believed in their hearts that it would create a generation that led to all of these fabulous outcomes, and we’ll see whether that actually panned out. We’ll get to that later in the presentation, but it’s important to know what the self-esteem movement was trying to do. What the education system was more concerned about was creating a positive environment and keeping students happy, and what happened was they stopped correcting students’ mistakes. These teachers were so worried about this, about preserving self-esteem, that they pulled away from providing critical feedback. They pulled away from providing constructive feedback. They pulled away from providing any criticism because they were worried that if they did, it would jeopardize the child’s self-esteem or happiness.

Now, this is a really profound part of our development, and I say that because a lot of the stereotypes will say, “Oh, millennials are so sensitive, they can’t take feedback. I’m walking on eggshells with them.” And I believe that to be true because in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the education system, we weren’t getting critical feedback. We weren’t getting the guidance and construction that we needed to be able to adapt and do better because of the self-esteem movement and because teachers were preserving our happiness. So we can kind of see how these stereotypes and labels have come about, but now we can view this differently. That, “Hmm, okay. Millennials are more sensitive because they didn’t receive that constructive or critical feedback during their formative years.”

Teachers and educators didn’t want to hurt students’ self-esteem, right? So it led to this nonstop recognition. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we also saw that grade inflation occurred. The number of A students nearly doubled, and this was not due to improved performance or study time. Teachers were giving out more A’s not because students deserved it, but because they wanted everyone to feel equal — they wanted everyone to feel really good about themselves. And that has implications that we now see later on as these millennials navigated early adulthood and even into their 30s, and now our oldest millennials’ 40ths this year. Grade inflation also led to academic boredom, right? Why put in the extra effort to be in the top 5% or 10% when one third of students are already receiving A’s?

I’m going to kind of sit in that for a moment, and I want you guys to think about that question. Why put in the extra effort to be in the top 5% or 10% of your class when one third of students are already receiving A’s? Why try, why show up? Why work hard when it’s already been given to you and for not much effort at all? I just want to do a quick comparison of this, of self-esteem from millennials to Gen X and boomers. Millennial self-esteem is higher than 86% of boomers. Our self-esteem is higher than 63% of Gen Xers, and there was a college study that said the majority of students landed a perfect self-esteem score, which was 40 points. I think part of some of the commentary around millennials is that we have low self-esteem, and in fact, the research confirms the opposite. We have really solid and strong self-esteem, much greater than our previous generations.

We kind of spoke about this — this nonstop recognition was a means to preserve self-esteem. We saw that through trophies and ribbons; we saw that through certificates of participation. Really, what we know is that nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed, but instead causes them to underachieve, and I think that’s really powerful. We see that with millennials in the workforce. We don’t have the same work ethic as Gen X and boomers do. We value being balanced and having work versus play, but I also think that part of that value system was formed through the self-esteem movement. That we weren’t inspired to go above and beyond. We weren’t inspired or encouraged to, you know, work like a dog. Instead, we were just kind of praised for where we were at, and it led to this underachieving. Another question I’ll throw your way is, how interesting could school possibly be when there’s little reward for stellar performance, right? If everyone’s being treated equally, if everyone is getting trophies and ribbons, then how did we ever reward the people that stepped up and worked their ass off? And the answer is we didn’t because we were trying to preserve self-esteem. We were trying to maintain everyone’s happiness so no one felt less than or so no one felt subordinate.

So you can see this little picture; this little guy is so cute. Unfortunately, he’s become a meme where he is made fun of, so my heart goes out to him. But we can see this guy sitting here with a trophy. This clearly was in the ‘80s — you can tell by that mullet. It’s supposed to be a funny photo to make everyone smile. Again, now we know what the self-esteem movement was trying to do. It was to lead to certain outcomes: better grades, improved work performance, decreased violence, less cheating, better life and emotional coping skills. But now we can evaluate, did it work? Was the self-esteem movement helpful or was it unhelpful? As they researched it over time and they looked at millennials in the education system, when they looked at millennials navigating the workforce, what they noticed and what they found was that self-esteem does not lead to better grades. It does not lead to better work performance, decreased violence, better life and emotional coping skills. There is no correlation between feeling good about yourself in these outcomes, and the self-esteem movement taught millennials that their achievements are less important than just being inherently wonderful. I think that we see that a lot with millennials — I certainly do in my clinical practice — where there isn’t as much motivation to achieve because achievement isn’t tied to self-worth.

Instead, it’s just, “I feel good about myself no matter what, and I expect everyone else to see that as well and to feel that.” Gen Xers and boomers don’t see the world that way. Gen X and boomers believe that you build self-esteem through achievement. You build self-esteem through taking action through honing your talents, and millennials don’t see it that way, so there’s definitely a gap. Another question that I throw out to everyone is, if you feel great about yourself, even when you’ve done the bare minimum, why are you more? What we know is that humans develop true self-esteem from behaving well, achieving accomplishments and honing talents. That is the organic and natural way to develop self-esteem, but we didn’t develop it naturally.

It was kind of thrown down our throat or shoved down our throats, and we created pseudo self-esteem not based on any action or accomplishments. And what we really needed to do for millennials was to create a happy medium. I’m not trying to infer — I’m not trying to say that millennials should have crappy self-esteem that also has implications, but we also don’t want to have such an inflated self-esteem, and that happy medium would have been much more helpful in the long run. And what I mean by a happy medium is you’re not a failure for one or two bad grades, but you’re not a champion for not studying at all. Remember, self-control or the ability to persevere is a much better indicator of life outcomes than self-esteem alone. So again, self-control or the ability to persevere is a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem alone.

Millennials who have high self-esteem built on a shaky foundation often run into trouble when they encounter the harsh realities of the world, which is what happened. Our self-esteem was so high, but it was built on the shaky foundation, and now we’re running into the troubles of the harsh reality of life — that life is really hard, that life is harder than it is easy, but we weren’t prepared for that. And sadly, what the self-esteem movement did is it left kids ill-prepared for the inevitable criticism, failures and adversity that life brings. I want to repeat that line: The self-esteem movement leaves kids ill-prepared for the inevitable criticism, failures and adversity that life brings. Remember, teachers and parents didn’t want their children to feel low about themselves. They were told that self-esteem was the most important thing, and so they weren’t providing that constructive feedback, They weren’t providing that tough love, and that now leads us navigating the worlds, being extra sensitive and not being able to receive constructive feedback, whether that’s in relationships, in the workforce, from family. It has made a lot of problems in the long run.

Now we’re going to get to a new section, which is the cultural embedded messages that millennials learned growing up. So, from birth, throughout childhood, through adolescence and early adulthood. And we’ll talk about how that messaging informs the way that we show up in the world. So this slide says, “Dream big kid, you can have it all.” And if you notice at the bottom, it says you can be anything you want to be. No limits.

Some of the culturally embedded messages are the following. “You can be anything you want to be. Follow your dreams, never give up on yourself. You are uniquely special and there are no limits.” You can see in this messaging that we were taught to shoot for the stars. We were taught that the world is our oyster. We were taught that there are no limits, there are no obstacles, there are no barriers. You can be anything you want to be and you will be a star every step of the way. We learned this from birth, all the way through our development. Really, what this messaging does is it teaches millennials that the key to success is not hard work, performance or tremendous effort, but instead just believing in yourself. That if you believe in yourself, that will be enough to be successful in the world. What everyone who’s part of this presentation knows is that believing in yourself is not the only part of success. It’s a part, and it’s helpful to believe in yourself as you make choices and take risks. However, it’s not everything, and there’s a lot more to success and achievement than believing in yourself. We also know that books started to use these phrases 12 times more often in the ‘90s than they did in the ‘70s, so the phrases are those bullets: You can be anything you want to be, follow your dreams, never give up on yourself. It was used 12 times more often in the ‘90s and in the ‘70s, so we can see that messaging had a very clear impact on our belief system.

What I want to take some time to walk through is the aftermath of all this. So, what were the consequences of the self-esteem movement? What were the consequences of those embedded messages, and how does that impact us today? And this picture is, “Follow your dreams, they know the way.” So again, that “shoot big, shoot for the stars, the world is your oyster.” What we see is that one of the consequences of the self-esteem movement and these embedded messages is grand expectations, and millennials have very lofty ambition. Since this is over a webinar, I usually ask a bunch of questions to the audience and have people raise their hand or shout out answers. Unfortunately, we can’t do that this way. We have to adapt to the technological situation we’re in, but I’m going to pose these questions. What I want you to do is think about them in your head, come up with a number, and then I will tell you what the data says.

There was a study done in 2012, and they asked a bunch of millennial high school students and early college students. They said, “How many of you believe that you will go to grad school after you complete college?” So, this was high school students. “How many of you believe that you will go to grad school, no questions asked, after college?” So my question to you all is how many of the high school students do you believe said, “Yup, I’m going to go to grad school.” Come up with a number in your head. Okay. Does everyone have that number? Give you a couple more seconds. The actual data confirms that 9% actually go to grad school, and that 58% of students expected to go to grad school. So 58% of those students said, “Oh yeah, I’m definitely going to grad school,” and then only 9% actually went. That’s a huge gap in the numbers. Again, it highlights this lofty ambition.

They asked another question to these high school students. They said, “How many of you believe that after you graduate college that you will work in a managerial position two years after graduation?” So, again, they ask these students, “How many of you believe that after you graduate college, you will be in a managerial position two years after graduation?” So, come up with that number. How many of you believe, or how many students said for sure, that would happen.” Okay, if you have that number in mind, it was 68%. So 68% of high school students expected to work in a managerial job, a professional job, two years after graduation. Now, I want you to think how many of them actually did that? How many of them actually accomplished it?

20% were able to work in managerial positions after two years of graduating. So again, 68% said no doubt it will happen, and only 20% were able to accomplish it. Again, we see a big gap in those numbers. What they expected to happen didn’t actually pan out — again, that lofty ambition, grand expectations. Just so we can do a quick comparison to Gen X and boomers, when they asked that question to high school students in the ‘70s, only 40% said that they would have managerial positions after two years. So in the 1970s, those high school students said 40% of them would have managerial jobs after two years, and in high school with millennials, they reported 68%, so we see a big rise in what they expect to happen. What we also know is that millennials’ overconfidence is often tempered by the dawning realization of reality. So what we were taught would happen and what those culturally embedded messages told us that shooting for the stars, there are no limits, there are no barriers, we expect a lot. Millennials demand a lot.

I just want to throw out some of the most common dreams of millennials. When they’ve done studies asking millennials, “What are your biggest dreams? What do you think you can achieve in the world,” millennials reported acting, sports, music and screenwriting. I’m going to say those again: acting, sports, music and screenwriting. What we all know is that those are incredibly tough fields to get into. They are super competitive, but millennials believe that they can achieve it with no barriers or obstacles. When they’re not able to get into acting or sports or music, it’s very defeating. They were not prepared for the adversity or the failure of life. We were not prepared for that, and so we have a lot of challenge in accepting that. We don’t process it like Gen X and boomers. We don’t have the same threshold to deal with that defeat or to process that failure. We struggle a lot more in it than Gen X and boomers because our ambitions were so big and they weren’t reasonable, and they weren’t realistic because of those messages we learned.

We also see another consequence — millennials are extending adolescence. We’re taking our sweet time, for lack of a better term. And a lot of people will use the term “failure to launch.” That’s another term for extending adolescence, and I personally like to use “emerging adulthood.” I think that’s a term that resonates with millennials a little bit better and doesn’t have as much shame and criticism. Now maybe I’m being the typical millennial, like, “Oh, be gentle, be sweet. Don’t say anything to hurt someone’s feelings.” So I can own that, but I do think it’s a term that millennials respond better to. And what we also know is that millennials struggle with the decision to pursue their dreams or cut their losses and go home. We have a really hard time accepting that the world isn’t our oyster and that there are obstacles and barriers to life. And so we struggle with whether we want to keep pursuing these lofty expectations or whether we cut our losses, go home and change gears. Choosing something seems like giving up on endless possibilities. That’s how millennials register it — that they’re just giving up, they didn’t live up to their standards, they weren’t shooting for the stars. And that’s hard on millennials, and that weighs on millennials. And what we need to help millennials do is claim something. Is to start challenging their expectations in saying, “Hey, I know you were taught that you could have anything and everything, but unfortunately, that messaging wasn’t helpful nor accurate. And so now that you have faced the world and you know a little bit how it operates, let’s now change your expectations to ones that are more realistic.”

We also see that millennials don’t want to settle for ordinary things. Millennials are not looking for a job, but instead a calling that is going to be an expression of their identity and purpose. So when we look at Gen X and boomers, they were fine at getting a job, working nine to five, going home, sleeping, repeat and doing that for 30 years at the same job, no questions asked. Millennials are not going to fall into that script. We’re looking for something, again, that’s an expression of our identity and calling. We want to feel special. We want to stand out, which makes sense now that I’ve walked you through what we learned at such a young age and what the self-esteem movement promoted. And what we also know is that extending adolescence has a big impact on relationships — 44% of millennials believe marriage is obsolete. Not only do they believe marriage is obsolete and they’re pulling away from monogamy and commitment, but delaying adulthood also has psychological consequences. When we postpone adult roles, it leads to being less responsible, less organized and actually more emotionally dysregulated. Studies have looked at when you postpone adult roles, what happens? And we see that millennials are less responsible, are less organized and are a bit more emotionally dysregulated.

Another consequence that we see is we are hungry for fame. We live by inspirational stories. Millennials assume that success will come quickly, and we demand success to come quickly. Again, because we were taught to shoot for the stars and we could have anything and everything, 51% of millennials said that the most important goal was to “become famous.” 51% of millennials said their most important goal was to, quote, “become famous,” and 81% of millennials said, quote, “getting rich was the most important and the most valuable thing in their life.” So we have a lot of emphasis on fame and glam and, again, standing out and being different, but we also value money and financial stability. I think there are some studies out there that have said that millennials don’t value money — that they’re much more into creating meaningful experiences, which is true. We are living by those inspirational stories, and we also care a lot about money. It’s not an “or” — it’s an “and.”

Continuing with the aftermath, we were also taught to express ourselves — that our thoughts and feelings mattered. We were taught to love ourselves before we love others, and there’s consequences to that. We hear this phrase all the time, “You have to love yourself first before you can love others,” and I think that that phrasing has a lot of implications because it’s making people pull away from intimacy and connection because they’re trying to strive for perfection. Millennials are trying to figure themselves out and be perfect before we allow anyone else into our life before we allow our life to be blended with someone. And I think that’s increased loneliness and isolation, and the research confirms that. That millennials report loneliness and isolation far more than Gen X and boomers did.

We also see that there’s an appearance fixation. Millennials care a lot more about their physical appearance than Gen X and boomers reported. There’s a quote by Jean Twenge, you can see it at the bottom of this picture, “When we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.” The appearance obsession. Millennials equate looking good with feeling good, and we’re constantly assessing happiness. So, do whatever makes you feel good or happy. Because we embrace that mantra of “happinesses is a priority,” we’re also tying that to our appearance and that if we look good and feel good, that will make us more happy. So we’ve also seen a rise in plastic surgery because of that mantra. Far more millennials are getting plastic surgery in their 20s and 30s than Gen X and boomers did. Plastic surgery also includes Botox, which I realized Botox is not necessarily plastic surgery, but millennials are getting Botox in their late 20s, early 30s.

We also see a rise in materialism — 82% of millennials believe it’s important to be, quote, “well off financially.” So we care a lot about money, we care a lot about materialism. Again, part of that is to stand out, to feel different, to preserve our happiness. 75% of millennials believe it’s important to go to college to, quote, “make more money.” So a lot of the motivation of millennials to go to college wasn’t because it was the societal blueprint, but instead it was to get famous and have glam and make money and live a luxurious life. What we know is that in the 1970s, 45% of boomers believe this statement to be true. So 75% of millennials believe that it was important to go to college to make more money, whereas in the 1970s when you ask boomers this question, only 45% of boomers said that was the reason to go to college — to make more money. So a big gap in the data. Materialism is also the outcome of practical self-focus. You want more things for yourself. That is all materialism is: What can I get for myself that will make and preserve my happiness?

Now, to move to part of the acronym — S. We’re going to talk about the mental health, the substance use disorders and how this compares to Gen X and boomers. The title of this slide is “Stress, anxiety, depression, oh my.” I am from Kansas, so I had to put a Wizard of Oz reference in there; I just couldn’t avoid it. So, we’re going to talk about the mental health and substance use. One in five millennials report experiencing depressive symptoms. Depression diagnoses have increased 47% from 2013 to 2016, 30% of working millennials experience anxiety symptoms daily, 61% of college students reported suffering from daily anxiety symptoms.

We see that millennials are struggling with mental health much more intensely than Gen X and boomers did in their early 20s and 30s. I want to talk about some of the stressors that millennials face that I think are unique to millennials, and these stressors are important to note because as mental health and addiction professionals, we want to check in with clients about these stressors. We want to explore these stressors and be able to provide practical tools and ways to deal with these stressors. So, the top five stressors — how many times can I say “stressors” in one word and one sentence — is money. 85% of millennials struggle with finances and money and stability, 75% struggle at work, feeling happy at work, feeling motivated at work, feeling part of the team, feeling like their values are being met.

62% of millennials struggle with family responsibilities. 65% struggle in relationships. That could be long-term partners, dating, friendships. 59% struggle with job security, and 35% struggle with personal safety. So, the top five stresses of millennials are money, work, family responsibilities, relationships, job security and personal safety. And I think the “me too” movement has really brought this to light, where we are seeing far more doom and gloom than Gen X and boomers did around sexual assault, around physical safety. Millennials are reporting that they are worried about their personal safety. It’s something that stresses them out on even a daily or weekly basis.

We also know that millennials suffer from that loneliness and isolation because they’re also connecting less face to face. Gen X and boomers were about duty and responsibility and community engagement and coming together as a community with cohesiveness and strength. Millennials value that independence and individualism. Because of that, we’re pulling away from social connections. Now, if I was doing a presentation on Gen Z, the generation after millennials, it’s even worse. They’re pulling away even more significantly than we are, but we also see that that is increasing loneliness and isolation, and millennials report that they’re oftentimes starving for affection. They want really close relationships, but because of their value system of independence and self-focus and individualism, it’s pulling them away from something they really want. I think that’s interesting to note.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the substance use disorders and how that compares to Gen X and boomers. Opioid abuse is more common in millennials than Gen X and boomers, and millennials are 23% more likely to die from a heroin overdose than Gen Xers are. Millennials who use opioids recreationally are five times more likely to suffer from addiction, and we know that 12% of the millennial population is currently struggling with opioid addiction. 90% of students say they can easily access stimulants from peers, and millennials have the highest rates of binge drinking compared to Gen X and boomers. More than 10 million millennials are currently in need of addiction treatment. That’s roughly 3% to 5% of the U.S. population — that’s a lot of people. I mean, that’s a lot of individuals struggling with substance use and mental health disorders, and the majority of them are not getting help, which is why we’re so thankful for Advanced Recovery Systems for offering such great care for co-occurring disorders. So, we can see from a substance use and mental health side of things that millennials are struggling more intensely with their mental health — more intensely with their use in comparison to past generations. We’re kind of the steroid version of these.

I want to highlight now as we get to the section in our acronym: I, instability. You can see I’m working through these letters in our VISION acronym, and the instability is created through the economic disadvantages that millennials face. A lot of times, millennials will hear, “Oh, you’re just big babies. You’re just complaining. Things aren’t really that hard for you.” And the research actually confirms the contrary — that things are harder for millennials. We are experiencing income inequality, corporate downsizing, financial hardship through education, housing, daycare, health care, student loans. I mean, things are just astronomically more expensive for millennials in their 20s and 30s than it was in comparison to Gen X and boomers. The housing, the student loans, the health care is far more expensive now than it was for Gen X and boomers when they were in their 20s and 30s. And what we know is that the age distribution of wealth has changed significantly in the U.S. between 1984 and 2011. The wealth of older adults increased by 37% when adjusted for inflation, while millennials’ wealth fell by 44%. That financial hardship is real, and it’s confirmed by the data. We have a bunch of people that are highly educated, that went to school, got a higher education, and they’re looking for a job. The market can’t keep up with how many educated millennials there are. I think this picture really shows that. Again, the wealth of older adults increased 37% and millennials’ wealth fell by 44%.

Millennials are the most highly educated generation. I think that’s important to note here — that 32% of millennials have a college degree. That’s much higher than Gen X and boomers, and 13% of them are unemployed. The national employment average is 4% just so that we have a comparison, and millennials are at 13% unemployment and they have a four-year college degree. The supply of college graduates over exceeds the demand in the workforce, and this leads to intense competition. Millennials weren’t prepared for intense competition; remember, we were told we were magic snowflakes, we could have anything and everything, the world was our oyster, and it’s not true. We have to show up and we have to compete for jobs in a way that requires a lot of effort and achievement, and we weren’t trained nor prepared for that. Millennials feel screwed no matter what they do. No wonder they experienced so much depression, anxiety and excessive stress. We did what we were told to go get that four-year degree and we can’t shine, and part of our happiness is dependent on shining and standing out and being great. So we can see how that impacts mental health, substance abuse, and certainly as we navigate the workforce. Again, just to highlight that highly competitive market is not only in college and graduate school, but also in jobs.

Okay, so now we get to expectations versus reality. What we were taught as millennials growing up is the left picture, that perfect baby, and what we actually faced in reality is shown through the picture on the right. We are experiencing a lot of disappointment because what we were told would happen didn’t happen, and all of those culturally embedded messages didn’t actually shake out because it’s not how the world works — life is really hard and we have to hustle. In the world of individualism and consumer longing, millennials have been taught to expect more. Remember, millennials were taught from birth to follow their dreams, believe in themselves and shoot for the stars, and this messaging from childhood is not only not attainable always, but it leads to bitter disappointment and defeat.

It sometimes is attainable. I shouldn’t have said it so black and white, but it’s not always attainable, and that really is leading to a lot of defeat and feeling and struggle. These high expectations were also fostered by the childhood media consumption that millennials experienced. And this high media consumption is enough to shape a worldview of relentless excitement and glamour. Remember, we want to be Instagram stars; we want to be able to make a name for ourselves but do so with little effort, which as we all know, is not how the world works. Media consumption also promotes perfectionism because we’re constantly in a state of social comparison, and I think social media unfortunately amplifies social comparison. We are constantly viewing these perfect pictures and asking ourselves, “Well, gosh, Sarah gets to go be on top of a mountain and eat sushi and be with her perfect boyfriend, and I’m sitting here unemployed, just trying to do the best I can.” We are in a constant state of social comparison, and social media makes that worse because no one’s posting their hard days. No one’s posting that they lost their job and a picture of them, you know, crying, eating ice cream — no one’s posting that. Instead, we’re posting these mock versions of our lives, and that is really heavy on millennials.

Now I’m going to start a completely new section. We have gotten through V, I, S, I, and I want to kind of speak to this equality revolution because it really shapes millennials in a way that is positive and has made our society better. I want to point out that this section doesn’t neglect the fact that discrimination and microaggressions and general prejudice still strongly exists within our society. The equality revolution has not alleviated discrimination and prejudice completely, but it’s a movement that’s starting to work towards challenging it. So please, I hope no one takes this section as me not acknowledging the discrimination and microaggressions that still exist, because they’re absolutely there, but as millennials, we’re working really hard to fight for love, equality and cultural diversity.

We’ll start with the LGBTQ population. Millennials created an enormous change in the attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. We have really fought for this community much more than Gen X and boomers did in their 20s and 30s. In less than two decades, those supporting gay and lesbian rights have become the majority, and two thirds of millennials in 2013 supported same-sex marriage. This number has only risen over the last few years. In comparison to past generations, millennials have been also exposed to the LGBTQ community in media, which has also helped to increase acceptance and open-minded attitudes while also lessening prejudice and discrimination. Again, we’re nowhere perfect and we’re nowhere where we need to be in at the end, but millennials are fighting hard for equality.

We also see more acknowledgment and awareness around minority groups. Millennials are more informed about privilege and oppression and the privilege and oppression cycle. I’m not saying there aren’t Gen X and boomers out there that are fighting for this — that would be crazy for me to say — but at large, there’s more millennials that are fighting for these rights and speaking up and owning their privilege than Gen X and boomers did in their 20s and 30s. We’re still all in it together, and I think all the generations are working towards this at this point. In comparison to Gen X and boomers, millennials were exposed more to popular media that showed various minority groups from a very young age, because in the ‘80s and ‘90s, diversity was being promoted. We were just exposed to different people.

Millennials have become more accustomed to diversity in a variety of professions. We see a lot more African Americans, Latinos, Hispanics being part of different fields, and because of that exposure, we view it as normal — it doesn’t stand out to us. Really, because we were taught to be different and stand out, we actually celebrate it. Workplaces, neighborhoods, marriages are far more integrated now in the millennial generation than past. Millennials are more comfortable with racial crossovers involving dating, all the way through music; we don’t have as much of a hangup. And the perk of individualism is that millennials value that culture, diversity and universal acceptance. So again, one of the perks of individualism is the equality revolution.

Women now are earning the majority of college degrees, and almost half of all medical and law degrees. I really find that so incredibly awesome that the majority of women now are earning half of medical law degrees — that’s badass. Women are now the majority of accountants, financial managers, medical scientists and pharmacists, and a major shift in gender role and attitudes have occurred because of the millennial generation. Feminist attitudes have increased 87% since 1970. There has been also a profound shift towards gender equality and just the language we’re using. Millennials are much more mindful and cognizant of the language and how that language impacts certain groups of people, whether it’s the LGBTQ community, minority groups, different religious or ethnic backgrounds. We are more PC, maybe if that’s the term people want to call it, but that’s because we’re really fighting for everyone to be equal and to challenge that privilege and oppression cycle.

Millennial women are more likely to have personality traits of men, which I find interesting. There might be some validity issues in this study depending on how we feel around masculine versus feminine traits. But this study looked at millennials, and what they found is that millennial women are more likely to have personality traits of men. Whether you disagree with these traits, that’s a different story, but the way the researchers classified masculine traits are competitive, independent, self-reliant, ambitious and forceful. Those researchers deemed those qualities to be masculine, and now when they’ve done this study with millennials, it’s indistinguishable across genders. They cannot tell who was part of this study, whether it was a man or a woman or any or all in between, because we all know that gender and sexual orientation is fluid. But they were solely looking at it in a binary way, and now they can’t even tell the difference of whether it’s a male or a female filling out this survey.

So we get back to our VISION acronym. I am hoping by now everyone has a good understanding of the values, how independence, self-focus and individualism impacts millennials, how the individuality shapes the way we show up in the world. We navigate the world — how we view the world. S is stressed. You now have a better understanding of what mental health and substance use disorders look like for millennials in comparison to Gen X and boomers. The I stands for instability. We talked about the economic disadvantages that millennials face, the expectations they had for the world and what actually the world gave them. We also see just how the culturally embedded messages impact millennials just through a values lens. So I’m hoping that the I, S, I you have a good understanding on. Now we’re going to get to O and N, which is what we, as mental health and addiction professionals, can do to increase treatment outcomes. What we can do to you or how we can use a generational model to inform our practice to help our 24- to 40-year-olds thrive and flourish in society a little bit better. And I want to give you guys some ideas around how you can use this generational model, which is what I’m going to outline right now.

So, let’s view this as a way of increasing treatment outcomes with your 24- to 40-year-olds. The first thing you can do is become informed about the generational differences. Yay, everyone can check that box because we did a heavy dose today. I want you to be aware of their personality, their behavior, their attitudes, their beliefs, their values, which is all informed by individualism, self-focus, independence — all of that shaped the way that we show up in the world. If you can note those differences and pull away from the stereotypes and really view it as, “Okay, these individuals were taught this from a very young age,” and keep in mind how the self-esteem movement impacted us, I think it allows you to be more successful with those clients because it’s coming from a place of knowledge versus judgment and shame.

So, keeping that in mind when you’re interacting with your millennials. Another thing that is helpful is for us to teach millennials self-control and self-discipline skills. How you go about it — I think there’s a variety of ways to address those markers, self-control and self-discipline, but we know in research that it increases productivity, it increases performance and it actually helps with emotional regulation. So, helping our millennials explore those aspects because we didn’t learn it and we weren’t taught it. Checking in with millennials on what is their connection to self-control, what does self-discipline look like and how to help them build those skills and strengthen them.

We want to teach millennials practical life skills. A lot of millennials sadly don’t know how to budget — they don’t know how to pay taxes, they have poor time management, they can barely write a resume, cover letter. If you are a Gen X or boomer clinician, you might think, “Oh, well duh. They know how to do that stuff. That’s part of life,” but I wouldn’t make that assumption. I would intentionally check in with your millennial clients, “Hey, do you know how to do these things? Do you struggle doing these things? How can I support you?” Instead of assuming that they should know it, we want to be curious and open to, “Do you know how to budget? Do you know how to do a load of laundry? Do you know anything about the tax system? If you don’t, I can help you build those life skills.” I think it’s also important that we teach millennials how to adapt and cope effectively with life challenges. We weren’t prepared for adversity; we weren’t prepared for the natural failures of life, and because of that, we take it much more harshly and it’s much more intense when we experience it in comparison to Gen X and boomers. So, we might say, “Okay, so you lost your job. Tap into your resiliency, get a new job.” But a millennial is going to experience that much more intensely because of the lack of preparation for adversity.

Part of the way that we can do that is we want to teach millennials how to be more self-aware. That’s where mindfulness skills go in. “How can you change your relationship with emotional discomfort? How can you surf the wave of discomfort?” So, teaching them ways to cope more effectively and be able to emotionally regulate more efficiently. I think that’s where distress tolerance skills come in. We want to help them with decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication skills and certainly how to deal with stress and challenging emotions. I think as clinicians, we need to give them a heavy dose of, “How are you going to cope when you receive constructive feedback from your boss? How can you cope when you do potentially lose your job? How can you cope when a friend’s really angry at you and they’re providing you feedback or when a family member’s upset?” Helping them really adapt and tap into their inner resiliency is very powerful for millennials and definitely teaching them those distress tolerance skills.

We also want to encourage millennials to foster face-to-face social relationships. It’s key, and research confirms that when people interact face to face, it really helps their mental health and substance use. I oftentimes, with my millennial clients, promote Meetup groups. Meetup is a great organization that’s across the United States that creates groups based on similar interests, and then people can join those groups and be among people that share similar passion. I had a client that was super into cats — she self-identified herself as a cat lady — and I said to her, “What would it be like to look up a cat group?” And she’s like, “What? There’s no cat groups. That’s crazy.” And I said, “Okay, well let’s just take a quick look.”

We found seven different cat groups in Denver, and they all meet up and bring their cats and have coffee, and it was such a beautiful opportunity for her to do something that she values, to engage in something she feels passionate about and be among people that share it with her.
Other ways to do that is through clubs, sport leagues, volunteering, really pushing our clients to engage in the community because there is a lot of positive outcomes from engaging in the community and there’s a lot of benefit from it. But because we value independence and individualism, we tend to pull away from that. So, helping them connect a little bit more.

We also want to provide millennials career counseling, helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses. Because of the self-esteem movement, you have everyone feeling amazing about themselves, but they’re not honing in on their talents and they’re not accepting the parts of themselves that are maybe a bit weaker. As clinicians, we want to help them start identifying their strengths and weaknesses and then choosing careers that suit them based on those findings. Again, are some millennials becoming Instagram stars? Sure, but it’s not the majority of people. We have to be able to learn how to accept that there are some things we are good at and there are some things we are not so great at and how we can use that to inform our choices. A lot of times when I’m working with millennials, I start to do this process and it’s very uncomfortable — they don’t want to note the weaknesses. They start to share with me like, “Hey, every time we’re talking about the things I’m not so great at, it’s, it’s making me feel sad. It’s pulling me away from my happiness.” Part of that can be kind of that delusion. It’s very important that we identify what we’re good at and what we’re not, and so I push my millennial clients to start doing that.

We also want to help them cultivate realistic life expectations. Because we have that lofty ambition, because we shoot for the stars and we dream big, it has led to very unrealistic expectations of life, which then create more defeat and dysregulation. So what I oftentimes do is I check in with my millennial clients, like, “What are your expectations around the workforce? Oh, you think that you should get a 30% raise? Okay, we need to talk about that.” I’ll tell you a personal example. I was working with a 26-year-old client who had started at a marketing firm; she had been there for a year and she was having her first performance review. So she came in — I was seeing her two days before this year review — and she said to me, “Okay, Paulina, I have my game plan. I know what I’m going to ask. I think it’s what I deserve.” And I said, “Okay, well, share that with me. What are you going to go in and ask your employer?” She said, “Well, I’ve been here for a year and I’ve worked super hard. I’m going to ask for a 30% raise.” And I looked at her and I said, “Okay, I know that’s what you feel you deserve, and I’m not going to debate what you deserve, but let’s look at how realistic that is.”

And I said, “What I would like to do is just pull up the average salary increase, what percentage per year people in that field get. Let’s just look at the data for a moment.” So, people in marketing positions after a year of being at a company — what is the typical salary raise that they receive? She was a little bit hesitant, but we did our research and 3% to 4% was what we were seeing in the marketing field. So I said to her, “If the average is 3% to 4% and you walk in asking for 30%, your boss is going to laugh at you. So let’s talk about how to make your expectations more realistic.” And we did, and she walked into that meeting and I got a text from her saying, “I got a 4%,” with a smiley face. Whereas if she walked in asking for 30%, that was going to be a big moment of defeat.

Also in dating, millennials are looking for the perfect person, and we know that that doesn’t exist. Millennials are also using dating apps, so it’s leading to choice overload where we have so many options that we’re just not committing to anyone. So, exploring like, “What are your expectations around dating? When it comes to choosing a partner, what’s your belief system?” So, actively checking in on those markers and seeing if you can help them cultivate realistic life expectations. We also want to do that interpersonally, so how they relate to friends and family as well as their expectations of self.

Another big thing is that we want to help millennials decrease overexposure to social media. We’re consuming a lot more media than Gen X and boomers did, and it’s actually impacting our brain structurally. My rule of thumb is I help clients decrease screen time by 20% to 30%. First, we identify: “How many hours of screen time do you typically average per day, and how can we start working towards decreasing that two to three hours less each day, and when you have that additional two to three hours, how can you engage more? How can you connect to your values and do something that’s going to be nourishing to your mental health?” I think checking in on exposure to social media and TV is also important as clinicians, and then adapting some boundaries around that.

Everything I just outlined was confirmed in the research as ways that we can help our millennial clients, and this section is anecdotal. These are just what I have found to be helpful. It’s not backed by research, but these are the modalities that I use with my millennial clients and feel a lot of success. The first is acceptance commitment therapy. I am actually formally trained in that, and I love this modality because it works beautifully with millennials. Part of the ACT foundation is to really increase mindfulness skills, to be able to surf the wave, bring acceptance to emotional pain, bring acceptance to emotional discomfort, learn how to lean into that discomfort and change your relationship with it. Not one where you’re fighting it or using avoidance strategies, but instead saying, “Okay, I feel sad today. How can I lean into this sadness? How can I look at it through curiosity and openness?”

A lot of ACT is changing your relationship with the adversity that you face, and because millennials are facing so much adversity, there is a lot of discomfort. So I’m helping them surf that wave a little bit better building those distress tolerance skills, which is more DBT, but I incorporate that. You know, looking at their belief systems. How do they attach to thoughts and these beliefs, and do those thoughts and belief systems serve them? Do they help them? Do they allow them to be successful and thrive and flourish in society? We’re teaching them diffusion skills. Again, being present, learning how to be part of, being connected to your experience in the here and now, not doing it through judgment but noticing judgment and then being objective, being the observer and knowing that our discomfort is temporary.

I also explore self as context. The other big piece to my work is helping millennials identify their values. Values work is imperative for millennials because we’re very driven by what we care about. We’re very driven by what’s going to serve ourselves. We’re driven by putting ourselves first. So if millennials can identify what they care about and they can identify what matters to them most, then I help them start to live by that value and engage in that committed action. So I have a lot of values assessments that I use with my clients. Happy to share all of this as well, if you have any interest, but we explore, “Okay, what do you care about? What matters to you? What do you want to stand for in the world?” And once they’re clear on that, then our work is, “Okay, how do we get you closer to that while also accepting and bringing peace with the inevitable adversity and challenges that come your way?” DBT is another modality that I’m trained in, and we do a lot of that interpersonal effectiveness work — the distress tolerance, emotional regulation skills, and then certainly enhancing the mindfulness skills and allowing someone to change their relationship with discomfort and obstacles that they face. I find that to be profound with millennials, especially viewing it from a generational lens.

Some of the modalities I use for substance use disorders is a lot of motivational interviewing. You know, expressing and showing empathy, supporting them but also noting and developing the discrepancies, kind of me leaning into their resistance, supporting self-efficacy, and definitely helping them to better develop autonomy, which is something they already value because individualism and independence supports autonomy. So these are all things that allow millennials to feel like they are moving through those stages of change in the hopes that they do get into recovery or change their relationship with their use. I think the golden standard, especially in our field, is abstinence or relapse prevention programs. That could be 12-step treatment; some other non-12-step programs are Lifespring Secular Recovery, SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (also known as SOS) and Women for Sobriety.

So if you have a client that’s like, “Hell no, I’m not doing 12-step,” then I invite you to look into some of these other programs because they might be more supportive to that client. I also have a lot of clients that are not willing to engage in abstinence — they don’t want to be substance-free. So I personally use the harm reduction model, which has a lot of evidence behind it that it works. What this model does is it reduces the negative consequences of use. So if you have someone struggling with alcohol and they typically drive, I would help them to work on, “How can you drink but not use your car?” If you have someone who is using dirty needles, “Okay, how can we reduce the consequences of sharing needles? Let’s figure out ways that you can get clean needles.” These are all ways where, yes, it’s not stopping their use, but it’s reducing the harm of it. So I am someone who absolutely uses this model when someone’s not ready to practice abstinence, but also find that sometimes they just naturally transition into relapse prevention and want to practice abstinence for and in recovery that way. I think it’s a flexible model that oftentimes moves people in different directions.

So those are the biggest modalities I use with my 24- to 40-year-olds, and that concludes our presentation. I will say that again: It was so wonderful presenting this content. I know I moved through it quickly, so please know that I am a resource. If you ever want to hop on the phone, I’m happy to process a case with you. Do some case conceptualization using this generational model. I’m happy to send some of the worksheets I use with my millennial clients, whether they’re ACT or DVT, and I would love to hear from you. I provided my cell phone number, my email, my website. I’m happy to be a resource to any clients that might need some support or struggle with those unique generational issues, and I’m always here with open arms, so feel free to reach out.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Objectives and Summary:

If America can’t decide what to make of the millennial generation, neither can our mental health and addiction professionals. Millennials are the most misunderstood cohort and are harshly critiqued by older generations and society at large. Millennials experience exclusive generational issues that are vastly different from Generation X and baby boomers, and they need a tailored approach to best meet their unique needs.

Attendees will learn about the specific generational issues that millennials face and how to best address these issues effectively utilizing evidence-based practices.

After watching her presentation, the viewer will be able to:
  1. Have an in-depth understanding of cutting-edge millennial research and learn how to implement the VISION acronym into their clinical practice
  2. Identify the top five stressors that millennials face and how these stressors lead to dual diagnoses
  3. Effectively implement the research into their clinical practice to increase treatment outcomes and maximize client success rates

Presentation Materials:

Welcome to the Community Education Series hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. Welcome everyone. I know that people are busy, even though some are still in quarantine, so thank you for carving out time to be here with me. It is such an honor to be able to present to everyone. Especially with Advanced Recovery Systems, which is a fabulous program. I’m lucky to have them as a resource. With that all said, I want to speak to the title of the presentation, which is “Moving From Annoyed to Impactful: Working With the Selfie Generation.” This presentation is on millennials; that’s anyone 24 to 40 years old.

Some of us still think of millennials as folks in their early 20s, and what we now know is that’s actually the next generation — Gen Z. This presentation is only speaking to the generational research that has studied 24- to 40-year-olds. So when you’re thinking about this presentation and if you are a mental health or addiction professional, I want you to think about those 24- to 40-year-old clients as you apply some of these concepts. All of this presentation is based on research. There is a section of the presentation that is sort of anecdotal findings that I have noticed, but the rest of it is confirmed by generational research, which I think is really awesome because research is informative and helps us all get more clarity and insight. And that insight allows us to do greater work with our clients.

I’ll start with this acronym: VISION. This is not something that was created in the research. I actually created this acronym, and it pulls from different concepts of the research. What we’re going to do as we work through this presentation is get through each of these letters. So, V stands for values. We’re going to talk about the value system of millennials, their outlook, perspective, stance on life and how that differs in comparison to Gen X and boomers. Something else to know is that all of this research is comparing millennials to Gen Xers and boomers, the two generations prior to millennials. It’s not including Gen Zers, which is the generation after millennials. Please keep that in mind; it’s just comparing it to the generations before millennials. Again, V — we were going to explore that value system.

As we continue through the presentation, we’ll get to I: individuality. That is going to talk about
the independence that millennials want to create, the self-focus that we notice, the individuality of them wanting to carve their own path. We’ll get to S, which stands for stress. This section includes the mental health, the addiction, the substance use disorders that are unique to millennials in comparison to past generations. The I stands for instability. We’re going to talk about the economic disadvantages, the expectations that millennials had and the actual reality that they face when they entered into the world.

O and N are the last sections of this presentation, and it’s going to be the part where I talk about how mental health and addiction professionals can enhance their practice with the millennial generation. So, practical tools that you can start right now with your millennial clients, those 24- to 40-year-olds, that will allow you to increase treatment outcomes, feel like you’re creating a greater impact and really using a generational model to address their unique and special kind of experiences in life. They — millennials — struggle very differently than Gen X and boomers, and it’s important that we note that they struggle uniquely and then use a generational model to better serve them. That is the entire presentation, and we’ll start working through that right now.

What we see in the research is that there’s been a decline in social approval and a rise in individualism, and millennials are really the first generation to adapt this value. We didn’t see the same value in individualism as we did with Gen X and boomers, so it’s kind of a unique value. And what we notice is in past generations, duty and responsibility were the most important aspects, and that was more important than individual wants and needs. So those are our Gen Xers and boomers; they really value duty and responsibility, whereas millennials value individualism. And what we know is today, we’re driven by our individual needs and desires. Millennials were taught to be independent and self-reliant, and millennials were taught to always pursue happiness above else. And really, from a very young age, we were taught to be different, to stand out, to value being unique and different. It was the first time that a generation had emphasized something like that. When you talk to Gen Xers and boomers, there wasn’t as much of an intrinsic motivation to stand out. They were much more driven to collaborate and be kind of cohesive as a community. Whereas millennials are like, “No, I want to be unique. I want to be special. I want to stand out.” That’s where we see that individualism.

We also see a decline in social approval and increase in self-focus. Millennials put a lot of their attention on self, which is where we get that stereotype that we’re entitled and selfish. I think I’m going to speak to a little more of those stereotypes throughout this presentation because I would like to share a different lens to view self-focus, and instead of labeling it as narcissistic or as selfish, I would like to provide an explanation as to why we focus so much on self, but we’ll get to that. Something to note is that baby boomers pioneered the modern brand of self-focus. So, the majority of millennials were parented by boomers. Of course, depending on when people are having children, there are some Gen Xers that had millennial children, but the majority are boomers. And boomers were instilling the value of self-focus from early on.

Millennials were taught as children to put themselves first, and key word is that they were taught to put themselves first. We didn’t just magically start valuing self-focus — we were taught it. And I want to throw out some common sense advice that we hear so often in society. What I’m about to share with you all — I would imagine if I could see people’s faces, they’d be nodding their heads because we say it all the time to each other. “Just be yourself, believe in yourself, express yourself, respect yourself, be honest with yourself.” What does everyone notice in this common sense advice? I know I can’t hear anyone answer, so I’ll just say it: yourself. The emphasis is self. And these are phrases that millennials heard from a very young age and as they navigated adolescence and young adulthood and even childhood.

We also see in the decline in social approval a rise in independence. Millennials really value being independent; they value self-focus — that individualism. “Just be yourself” became the central ethos of parenting in the ‘80s and ‘90s. So parents, those boomer parents, were taught by the education system, by psychologists, by parenting experts, that we should be teaching the model of “just be yourself” to our children. And studies show that parents in the ‘80s and ‘90s named independence and tolerance as the most important traits to teach their children. Again, that was independence and tolerance. Millennials were taught from birth to be independent, open-minded, receptive.

Parents even gave their children unique names to stand out. Even in our names, parents were thinking, “How do I choose a name that’s going to not allow them to blend in? I want them to stand out. I want them to be unique. I want them to feel like a special snowflake.” Which I find is really interesting and informative when we look at this value system, and instead of viewing it as, “Oh, millennials just magically became this way,” if we can view it as they were taught to be this way, it changes our experience as we interact with millennials. And it starts to dismantle the stereotypes — that they’re narcissistic, that they’re selfish, that they’re entitled. Now, I understand there might be some truth to that, but if we can look at it through this lens, I think it helps to kind of decrease that annoyance we might feel and provide a different way to look at it.

So, not only did we see a decline in social approval, but also a decline in social rules, which allowed for the equality revolution to explode. One of the upsides to individualistic attitudes is lessened prejudice and discrimination. Again, “being different is good” became the mantra of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and this promoted diversity, equality and acceptance. So, one of the perks of individualism is lessened prejudice and discrimination, which is where we see the start of this equality revolution, which really kind of started to get noticed in the early ‘90s. But even in the mid-’80s we saw this — that diversity was starting to be valued. And millennials were taught to be more tolerant because they rejected the social rules and some of those childhood messaging.

I know some people have an issue with the term tolerance, so I’ll kind of pull away from that terminology and really refer to it as the equality revolution, but millennials were taught that being different is good. We were more open and accepting of people of different ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds, religious backgrounds, and certainly now we see gender and sexual orientation and things like that. What’s interesting is the only group that millennials won’t tolerate — I want people to pause and kind of think — who do you think the group of people millennials won’t tolerate? That group of people are the individuals who are intolerant. So, the only group that millennials won’t tolerate are the people who are intolerant, which I find really stands out to me and is powerful.

In continuing with the decline in social rules, we also see the rise of the individualism. We’re much more tolerant. We’re much more willing to be open minded and accepting of differences, but what we also see is that happiness is overruled with societal rules. We value happiness much more than the societal script. Millennials are often evaluating in situations, “Does this jeopardize my happiness? If it does, then I’m going to make a choice or decision that keeps my happiness in mind,” versus the societal rules, which is the script that that society has laid out for us that we are less inclined to prescribe to. Those societal rules might be you go to school, you then get married, you then have babies, and you have that white picket fence. Millennials are really the first generation to go, “Uh huh, no. I’m not following that blueprint. I’m carving my own path because my happiness is the most important thing.”

What we see is that millennials are getting married much later than Gen X and boomers, they’re having children much later, so it’s kind of bringing to light that we don’t follow that blueprint. We also will always choose our personal choice over social standards, so I think this slide is really highlighting that the social blueprint or flow chart is something that we’re rejecting. And we’re even told — you can see this picture over here that says “five social norms you should break” to stay true to, again, yourself. So the messaging is clear, and millennials were sponges; they absorb this.

What I want to point out is, in the ‘90s and early 2000s, even movies promoted this specific messaging. “Rebel against restrictive social rules, don’t follow the rules if it jeopardizes your happiness.” Some of those met some of those movies, which I think everyone has probably seen: Bend It Like Beckham, Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. All of these movies have this clear message, which is, “Do what is right for yourself and always choose happiness above all else.” And when you’re viewing millennials, I want you guys to keep that in mind when you think about your 24- to 40-year-olds. You’re oftentimes going to hear them in a clinical session say, “Yeah, well, I left that job because I’m not happy” or, you know, “I’m just not happy in the relationship, and I think it’s best if we break up.” We’re very quick to make decisions that surround happiness.

I want to start a new section. We just worked through the first part of the acronym of VISION. We’ve talked about V and I, but I also want to get to a big part of the research, which is the self-esteem movement. And this movement was powerful, man. It really informed millennials and how they show up in the world, how they navigate the world and, really, their stance on the world. So we’re going to spend some time talking about the self-esteem movement because I think it will be helpful for everyone to really start to understand millennials using this movement or keeping this movement in mind.

This little picture says, “I love me.” Okay, so the self-esteem movement, but as we said, millennials were born into a world that celebrated the individual. The number of psychology and educational journals devoted to self-esteem doubled between 1970 and 1980. Journal articles on self-esteem increased another 52% during the ‘90s. So again, when we look at it in comparison to past generations, Gen X and boomers, there wasn’t as much emphasis on self-esteem. There wasn’t as much messaging that self-esteem was important or valuable. Millennials are the first generation to get blasted with this. And what we also know is that children’s books also promoted self-esteem. So when millennials were children in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were reading books that promoted self-esteem. Two books that were really popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s were I am Lovable and Be a Winner, and I think just from the title of the book, we can see that it emphasizes feeling good about yourself, putting yourself first and valuing that.

The self-esteem movement not only was in parenting books and being taught by those parenting gurus, but it also rolled out into the education system, and the education system then adapted to create a self-esteem curriculum. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the education system, researchers and scholars truly believed that high self-esteem would lead to particular outcomes. So the self-esteem movement was created because they believed that if we created a generation that felt super good about themselves — a generation that felt really strong about themselves, they had a solid self-concept — that it would lead to certain outcomes. And here are those outcomes — what they predicted. They believed if you had high self-esteem, it would lead to better grades, improved work performance, improved academic performance, less violence in school, less cheating in school, and it would lead to better life and emotional coping skills.

I think it’s important to note here that the self-esteem movement truly believed in their hearts that it would create a generation that led to all of these fabulous outcomes, and we’ll see whether that actually panned out. We’ll get to that later in the presentation, but it’s important to know what the self-esteem movement was trying to do. What the education system was more concerned about was creating a positive environment and keeping students happy, and what happened was they stopped correcting students’ mistakes. These teachers were so worried about this, about preserving self-esteem, that they pulled away from providing critical feedback. They pulled away from providing constructive feedback. They pulled away from providing any criticism because they were worried that if they did, it would jeopardize the child’s self-esteem or happiness.

Now, this is a really profound part of our development, and I say that because a lot of the stereotypes will say, “Oh, millennials are so sensitive, they can’t take feedback. I’m walking on eggshells with them.” And I believe that to be true because in the ‘80s and ‘90s in the education system, we weren’t getting critical feedback. We weren’t getting the guidance and construction that we needed to be able to adapt and do better because of the self-esteem movement and because teachers were preserving our happiness. So we can kind of see how these stereotypes and labels have come about, but now we can view this differently. That, “Hmm, okay. Millennials are more sensitive because they didn’t receive that constructive or critical feedback during their formative years.”

Teachers and educators didn’t want to hurt students’ self-esteem, right? So it led to this nonstop recognition. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we also saw that grade inflation occurred. The number of A students nearly doubled, and this was not due to improved performance or study time. Teachers were giving out more A’s not because students deserved it, but because they wanted everyone to feel equal — they wanted everyone to feel really good about themselves. And that has implications that we now see later on as these millennials navigated early adulthood and even into their 30s, and now our oldest millennials’ 40ths this year. Grade inflation also led to academic boredom, right? Why put in the extra effort to be in the top 5% or 10% when one third of students are already receiving A’s?

I’m going to kind of sit in that for a moment, and I want you guys to think about that question. Why put in the extra effort to be in the top 5% or 10% of your class when one third of students are already receiving A’s? Why try, why show up? Why work hard when it’s already been given to you and for not much effort at all? I just want to do a quick comparison of this, of self-esteem from millennials to Gen X and boomers. Millennial self-esteem is higher than 86% of boomers. Our self-esteem is higher than 63% of Gen Xers, and there was a college study that said the majority of students landed a perfect self-esteem score, which was 40 points. I think part of some of the commentary around millennials is that we have low self-esteem, and in fact, the research confirms the opposite. We have really solid and strong self-esteem, much greater than our previous generations.

We kind of spoke about this — this nonstop recognition was a means to preserve self-esteem. We saw that through trophies and ribbons; we saw that through certificates of participation. Really, what we know is that nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed, but instead causes them to underachieve, and I think that’s really powerful. We see that with millennials in the workforce. We don’t have the same work ethic as Gen X and boomers do. We value being balanced and having work versus play, but I also think that part of that value system was formed through the self-esteem movement. That we weren’t inspired to go above and beyond. We weren’t inspired or encouraged to, you know, work like a dog. Instead, we were just kind of praised for where we were at, and it led to this underachieving. Another question I’ll throw your way is, how interesting could school possibly be when there’s little reward for stellar performance, right? If everyone’s being treated equally, if everyone is getting trophies and ribbons, then how did we ever reward the people that stepped up and worked their ass off? And the answer is we didn’t because we were trying to preserve self-esteem. We were trying to maintain everyone’s happiness so no one felt less than or so no one felt subordinate.

So you can see this little picture; this little guy is so cute. Unfortunately, he’s become a meme where he is made fun of, so my heart goes out to him. But we can see this guy sitting here with a trophy. This clearly was in the ‘80s — you can tell by that mullet. It’s supposed to be a funny photo to make everyone smile. Again, now we know what the self-esteem movement was trying to do. It was to lead to certain outcomes: better grades, improved work performance, decreased violence, less cheating, better life and emotional coping skills. But now we can evaluate, did it work? Was the self-esteem movement helpful or was it unhelpful? As they researched it over time and they looked at millennials in the education system, when they looked at millennials navigating the workforce, what they noticed and what they found was that self-esteem does not lead to better grades. It does not lead to better work performance, decreased violence, better life and emotional coping skills. There is no correlation between feeling good about yourself in these outcomes, and the self-esteem movement taught millennials that their achievements are less important than just being inherently wonderful. I think that we see that a lot with millennials — I certainly do in my clinical practice — where there isn’t as much motivation to achieve because achievement isn’t tied to self-worth.

Instead, it’s just, “I feel good about myself no matter what, and I expect everyone else to see that as well and to feel that.” Gen Xers and boomers don’t see the world that way. Gen X and boomers believe that you build self-esteem through achievement. You build self-esteem through taking action through honing your talents, and millennials don’t see it that way, so there’s definitely a gap. Another question that I throw out to everyone is, if you feel great about yourself, even when you’ve done the bare minimum, why are you more? What we know is that humans develop true self-esteem from behaving well, achieving accomplishments and honing talents. That is the organic and natural way to develop self-esteem, but we didn’t develop it naturally.

It was kind of thrown down our throat or shoved down our throats, and we created pseudo self-esteem not based on any action or accomplishments. And what we really needed to do for millennials was to create a happy medium. I’m not trying to infer — I’m not trying to say that millennials should have crappy self-esteem that also has implications, but we also don’t want to have such an inflated self-esteem, and that happy medium would have been much more helpful in the long run. And what I mean by a happy medium is you’re not a failure for one or two bad grades, but you’re not a champion for not studying at all. Remember, self-control or the ability to persevere is a much better indicator of life outcomes than self-esteem alone. So again, self-control or the ability to persevere is a much better predictor of life outcomes than self-esteem alone.

Millennials who have high self-esteem built on a shaky foundation often run into trouble when they encounter the harsh realities of the world, which is what happened. Our self-esteem was so high, but it was built on the shaky foundation, and now we’re running into the troubles of the harsh reality of life — that life is really hard, that life is harder than it is easy, but we weren’t prepared for that. And sadly, what the self-esteem movement did is it left kids ill-prepared for the inevitable criticism, failures and adversity that life brings. I want to repeat that line: The self-esteem movement leaves kids ill-prepared for the inevitable criticism, failures and adversity that life brings. Remember, teachers and parents didn’t want their children to feel low about themselves. They were told that self-esteem was the most important thing, and so they weren’t providing that constructive feedback, They weren’t providing that tough love, and that now leads us navigating the worlds, being extra sensitive and not being able to receive constructive feedback, whether that’s in relationships, in the workforce, from family. It has made a lot of problems in the long run.

Now we’re going to get to a new section, which is the cultural embedded messages that millennials learned growing up. So, from birth, throughout childhood, through adolescence and early adulthood. And we’ll talk about how that messaging informs the way that we show up in the world. So this slide says, “Dream big kid, you can have it all.” And if you notice at the bottom, it says you can be anything you want to be. No limits.

Some of the culturally embedded messages are the following. “You can be anything you want to be. Follow your dreams, never give up on yourself. You are uniquely special and there are no limits.” You can see in this messaging that we were taught to shoot for the stars. We were taught that the world is our oyster. We were taught that there are no limits, there are no obstacles, there are no barriers. You can be anything you want to be and you will be a star every step of the way. We learned this from birth, all the way through our development. Really, what this messaging does is it teaches millennials that the key to success is not hard work, performance or tremendous effort, but instead just believing in yourself. That if you believe in yourself, that will be enough to be successful in the world. What everyone who’s part of this presentation knows is that believing in yourself is not the only part of success. It’s a part, and it’s helpful to believe in yourself as you make choices and take risks. However, it’s not everything, and there’s a lot more to success and achievement than believing in yourself. We also know that books started to use these phrases 12 times more often in the ‘90s than they did in the ‘70s, so the phrases are those bullets: You can be anything you want to be, follow your dreams, never give up on yourself. It was used 12 times more often in the ‘90s and in the ‘70s, so we can see that messaging had a very clear impact on our belief system.

What I want to take some time to walk through is the aftermath of all this. So, what were the consequences of the self-esteem movement? What were the consequences of those embedded messages, and how does that impact us today? And this picture is, “Follow your dreams, they know the way.” So again, that “shoot big, shoot for the stars, the world is your oyster.” What we see is that one of the consequences of the self-esteem movement and these embedded messages is grand expectations, and millennials have very lofty ambition. Since this is over a webinar, I usually ask a bunch of questions to the audience and have people raise their hand or shout out answers. Unfortunately, we can’t do that this way. We have to adapt to the technological situation we’re in, but I’m going to pose these questions. What I want you to do is think about them in your head, come up with a number, and then I will tell you what the data says.

There was a study done in 2012, and they asked a bunch of millennial high school students and early college students. They said, “How many of you believe that you will go to grad school after you complete college?” So, this was high school students. “How many of you believe that you will go to grad school, no questions asked, after college?” So my question to you all is how many of the high school students do you believe said, “Yup, I’m going to go to grad school.” Come up with a number in your head. Okay. Does everyone have that number? Give you a couple more seconds. The actual data confirms that 9% actually go to grad school, and that 58% of students expected to go to grad school. So 58% of those students said, “Oh yeah, I’m definitely going to grad school,” and then only 9% actually went. That’s a huge gap in the numbers. Again, it highlights this lofty ambition.

They asked another question to these high school students. They said, “How many of you believe that after you graduate college that you will work in a managerial position two years after graduation?” So, again, they ask these students, “How many of you believe that after you graduate college, you will be in a managerial position two years after graduation?” So, come up with that number. How many of you believe, or how many students said for sure, that would happen.” Okay, if you have that number in mind, it was 68%. So 68% of high school students expected to work in a managerial job, a professional job, two years after graduation. Now, I want you to think how many of them actually did that? How many of them actually accomplished it?

20% were able to work in managerial positions after two years of graduating. So again, 68% said no doubt it will happen, and only 20% were able to accomplish it. Again, we see a big gap in those numbers. What they expected to happen didn’t actually pan out — again, that lofty ambition, grand expectations. Just so we can do a quick comparison to Gen X and boomers, when they asked that question to high school students in the ‘70s, only 40% said that they would have managerial positions after two years. So in the 1970s, those high school students said 40% of them would have managerial jobs after two years, and in high school with millennials, they reported 68%, so we see a big rise in what they expect to happen. What we also know is that millennials’ overconfidence is often tempered by the dawning realization of reality. So what we were taught would happen and what those culturally embedded messages told us that shooting for the stars, there are no limits, there are no barriers, we expect a lot. Millennials demand a lot.

I just want to throw out some of the most common dreams of millennials. When they’ve done studies asking millennials, “What are your biggest dreams? What do you think you can achieve in the world,” millennials reported acting, sports, music and screenwriting. I’m going to say those again: acting, sports, music and screenwriting. What we all know is that those are incredibly tough fields to get into. They are super competitive, but millennials believe that they can achieve it with no barriers or obstacles. When they’re not able to get into acting or sports or music, it’s very defeating. They were not prepared for the adversity or the failure of life. We were not prepared for that, and so we have a lot of challenge in accepting that. We don’t process it like Gen X and boomers. We don’t have the same threshold to deal with that defeat or to process that failure. We struggle a lot more in it than Gen X and boomers because our ambitions were so big and they weren’t reasonable, and they weren’t realistic because of those messages we learned.

We also see another consequence — millennials are extending adolescence. We’re taking our sweet time, for lack of a better term. And a lot of people will use the term “failure to launch.” That’s another term for extending adolescence, and I personally like to use “emerging adulthood.” I think that’s a term that resonates with millennials a little bit better and doesn’t have as much shame and criticism. Now maybe I’m being the typical millennial, like, “Oh, be gentle, be sweet. Don’t say anything to hurt someone’s feelings.” So I can own that, but I do think it’s a term that millennials respond better to. And what we also know is that millennials struggle with the decision to pursue their dreams or cut their losses and go home. We have a really hard time accepting that the world isn’t our oyster and that there are obstacles and barriers to life. And so we struggle with whether we want to keep pursuing these lofty expectations or whether we cut our losses, go home and change gears. Choosing something seems like giving up on endless possibilities. That’s how millennials register it — that they’re just giving up, they didn’t live up to their standards, they weren’t shooting for the stars. And that’s hard on millennials, and that weighs on millennials. And what we need to help millennials do is claim something. Is to start challenging their expectations in saying, “Hey, I know you were taught that you could have anything and everything, but unfortunately, that messaging wasn’t helpful nor accurate. And so now that you have faced the world and you know a little bit how it operates, let’s now change your expectations to ones that are more realistic.”

We also see that millennials don’t want to settle for ordinary things. Millennials are not looking for a job, but instead a calling that is going to be an expression of their identity and purpose. So when we look at Gen X and boomers, they were fine at getting a job, working nine to five, going home, sleeping, repeat and doing that for 30 years at the same job, no questions asked. Millennials are not going to fall into that script. We’re looking for something, again, that’s an expression of our identity and calling. We want to feel special. We want to stand out, which makes sense now that I’ve walked you through what we learned at such a young age and what the self-esteem movement promoted. And what we also know is that extending adolescence has a big impact on relationships — 44% of millennials believe marriage is obsolete. Not only do they believe marriage is obsolete and they’re pulling away from monogamy and commitment, but delaying adulthood also has psychological consequences. When we postpone adult roles, it leads to being less responsible, less organized and actually more emotionally dysregulated. Studies have looked at when you postpone adult roles, what happens? And we see that millennials are less responsible, are less organized and are a bit more emotionally dysregulated.

Another consequence that we see is we are hungry for fame. We live by inspirational stories. Millennials assume that success will come quickly, and we demand success to come quickly. Again, because we were taught to shoot for the stars and we could have anything and everything, 51% of millennials said that the most important goal was to “become famous.” 51% of millennials said their most important goal was to, quote, “become famous,” and 81% of millennials said, quote, “getting rich was the most important and the most valuable thing in their life.” So we have a lot of emphasis on fame and glam and, again, standing out and being different, but we also value money and financial stability. I think there are some studies out there that have said that millennials don’t value money — that they’re much more into creating meaningful experiences, which is true. We are living by those inspirational stories, and we also care a lot about money. It’s not an “or” — it’s an “and.”

Continuing with the aftermath, we were also taught to express ourselves — that our thoughts and feelings mattered. We were taught to love ourselves before we love others, and there’s consequences to that. We hear this phrase all the time, “You have to love yourself first before you can love others,” and I think that that phrasing has a lot of implications because it’s making people pull away from intimacy and connection because they’re trying to strive for perfection. Millennials are trying to figure themselves out and be perfect before we allow anyone else into our life before we allow our life to be blended with someone. And I think that’s increased loneliness and isolation, and the research confirms that. That millennials report loneliness and isolation far more than Gen X and boomers did.

We also see that there’s an appearance fixation. Millennials care a lot more about their physical appearance than Gen X and boomers reported. There’s a quote by Jean Twenge, you can see it at the bottom of this picture, “When we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient, our disappointments loom large because we have nothing else to focus on.” The appearance obsession. Millennials equate looking good with feeling good, and we’re constantly assessing happiness. So, do whatever makes you feel good or happy. Because we embrace that mantra of “happinesses is a priority,” we’re also tying that to our appearance and that if we look good and feel good, that will make us more happy. So we’ve also seen a rise in plastic surgery because of that mantra. Far more millennials are getting plastic surgery in their 20s and 30s than Gen X and boomers did. Plastic surgery also includes Botox, which I realized Botox is not necessarily plastic surgery, but millennials are getting Botox in their late 20s, early 30s.

We also see a rise in materialism — 82% of millennials believe it’s important to be, quote, “well off financially.” So we care a lot about money, we care a lot about materialism. Again, part of that is to stand out, to feel different, to preserve our happiness. 75% of millennials believe it’s important to go to college to, quote, “make more money.” So a lot of the motivation of millennials to go to college wasn’t because it was the societal blueprint, but instead it was to get famous and have glam and make money and live a luxurious life. What we know is that in the 1970s, 45% of boomers believe this statement to be true. So 75% of millennials believe that it was important to go to college to make more money, whereas in the 1970s when you ask boomers this question, only 45% of boomers said that was the reason to go to college — to make more money. So a big gap in the data. Materialism is also the outcome of practical self-focus. You want more things for yourself. That is all materialism is: What can I get for myself that will make and preserve my happiness?

Now, to move to part of the acronym — S. We’re going to talk about the mental health, the substance use disorders and how this compares to Gen X and boomers. The title of this slide is “Stress, anxiety, depression, oh my.” I am from Kansas, so I had to put a Wizard of Oz reference in there; I just couldn’t avoid it. So, we’re going to talk about the mental health and substance use. One in five millennials report experiencing depressive symptoms. Depression diagnoses have increased 47% from 2013 to 2016, 30% of working millennials experience anxiety symptoms daily, 61% of college students reported suffering from daily anxiety symptoms.

We see that millennials are struggling with mental health much more intensely than Gen X and boomers did in their early 20s and 30s. I want to talk about some of the stressors that millennials face that I think are unique to millennials, and these stressors are important to note because as mental health and addiction professionals, we want to check in with clients about these stressors. We want to explore these stressors and be able to provide practical tools and ways to deal with these stressors. So, the top five stressors — how many times can I say “stressors” in one word and one sentence — is money. 85% of millennials struggle with finances and money and stability, 75% struggle at work, feeling happy at work, feeling motivated at work, feeling part of the team, feeling like their values are being met.

62% of millennials struggle with family responsibilities. 65% struggle in relationships. That could be long-term partners, dating, friendships. 59% struggle with job security, and 35% struggle with personal safety. So, the top five stresses of millennials are money, work, family responsibilities, relationships, job security and personal safety. And I think the “me too” movement has really brought this to light, where we are seeing far more doom and gloom than Gen X and boomers did around sexual assault, around physical safety. Millennials are reporting that they are worried about their personal safety. It’s something that stresses them out on even a daily or weekly basis.

We also know that millennials suffer from that loneliness and isolation because they’re also connecting less face to face. Gen X and boomers were about duty and responsibility and community engagement and coming together as a community with cohesiveness and strength. Millennials value that independence and individualism. Because of that, we’re pulling away from social connections. Now, if I was doing a presentation on Gen Z, the generation after millennials, it’s even worse. They’re pulling away even more significantly than we are, but we also see that that is increasing loneliness and isolation, and millennials report that they’re oftentimes starving for affection. They want really close relationships, but because of their value system of independence and self-focus and individualism, it’s pulling them away from something they really want. I think that’s interesting to note.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the substance use disorders and how that compares to Gen X and boomers. Opioid abuse is more common in millennials than Gen X and boomers, and millennials are 23% more likely to die from a heroin overdose than Gen Xers are. Millennials who use opioids recreationally are five times more likely to suffer from addiction, and we know that 12% of the millennial population is currently struggling with opioid addiction. 90% of students say they can easily access stimulants from peers, and millennials have the highest rates of binge drinking compared to Gen X and boomers. More than 10 million millennials are currently in need of addiction treatment. That’s roughly 3% to 5% of the U.S. population — that’s a lot of people. I mean, that’s a lot of individuals struggling with substance use and mental health disorders, and the majority of them are not getting help, which is why we’re so thankful for Advanced Recovery Systems for offering such great care for co-occurring disorders. So, we can see from a substance use and mental health side of things that millennials are struggling more intensely with their mental health — more intensely with their use in comparison to past generations. We’re kind of the steroid version of these.

I want to highlight now as we get to the section in our acronym: I, instability. You can see I’m working through these letters in our VISION acronym, and the instability is created through the economic disadvantages that millennials face. A lot of times, millennials will hear, “Oh, you’re just big babies. You’re just complaining. Things aren’t really that hard for you.” And the research actually confirms the contrary — that things are harder for millennials. We are experiencing income inequality, corporate downsizing, financial hardship through education, housing, daycare, health care, student loans. I mean, things are just astronomically more expensive for millennials in their 20s and 30s than it was in comparison to Gen X and boomers. The housing, the student loans, the health care is far more expensive now than it was for Gen X and boomers when they were in their 20s and 30s. And what we know is that the age distribution of wealth has changed significantly in the U.S. between 1984 and 2011. The wealth of older adults increased by 37% when adjusted for inflation, while millennials’ wealth fell by 44%. That financial hardship is real, and it’s confirmed by the data. We have a bunch of people that are highly educated, that went to school, got a higher education, and they’re looking for a job. The market can’t keep up with how many educated millennials there are. I think this picture really shows that. Again, the wealth of older adults increased 37% and millennials’ wealth fell by 44%.

Millennials are the most highly educated generation. I think that’s important to note here — that 32% of millennials have a college degree. That’s much higher than Gen X and boomers, and 13% of them are unemployed. The national employment average is 4% just so that we have a comparison, and millennials are at 13% unemployment and they have a four-year college degree. The supply of college graduates over exceeds the demand in the workforce, and this leads to intense competition. Millennials weren’t prepared for intense competition; remember, we were told we were magic snowflakes, we could have anything and everything, the world was our oyster, and it’s not true. We have to show up and we have to compete for jobs in a way that requires a lot of effort and achievement, and we weren’t trained nor prepared for that. Millennials feel screwed no matter what they do. No wonder they experienced so much depression, anxiety and excessive stress. We did what we were told to go get that four-year degree and we can’t shine, and part of our happiness is dependent on shining and standing out and being great. So we can see how that impacts mental health, substance abuse, and certainly as we navigate the workforce. Again, just to highlight that highly competitive market is not only in college and graduate school, but also in jobs.

Okay, so now we get to expectations versus reality. What we were taught as millennials growing up is the left picture, that perfect baby, and what we actually faced in reality is shown through the picture on the right. We are experiencing a lot of disappointment because what we were told would happen didn’t happen, and all of those culturally embedded messages didn’t actually shake out because it’s not how the world works — life is really hard and we have to hustle. In the world of individualism and consumer longing, millennials have been taught to expect more. Remember, millennials were taught from birth to follow their dreams, believe in themselves and shoot for the stars, and this messaging from childhood is not only not attainable always, but it leads to bitter disappointment and defeat.

It sometimes is attainable. I shouldn’t have said it so black and white, but it’s not always attainable, and that really is leading to a lot of defeat and feeling and struggle. These high expectations were also fostered by the childhood media consumption that millennials experienced. And this high media consumption is enough to shape a worldview of relentless excitement and glamour. Remember, we want to be Instagram stars; we want to be able to make a name for ourselves but do so with little effort, which as we all know, is not how the world works. Media consumption also promotes perfectionism because we’re constantly in a state of social comparison, and I think social media unfortunately amplifies social comparison. We are constantly viewing these perfect pictures and asking ourselves, “Well, gosh, Sarah gets to go be on top of a mountain and eat sushi and be with her perfect boyfriend, and I’m sitting here unemployed, just trying to do the best I can.” We are in a constant state of social comparison, and social media makes that worse because no one’s posting their hard days. No one’s posting that they lost their job and a picture of them, you know, crying, eating ice cream — no one’s posting that. Instead, we’re posting these mock versions of our lives, and that is really heavy on millennials.

Now I’m going to start a completely new section. We have gotten through V, I, S, I, and I want to kind of speak to this equality revolution because it really shapes millennials in a way that is positive and has made our society better. I want to point out that this section doesn’t neglect the fact that discrimination and microaggressions and general prejudice still strongly exists within our society. The equality revolution has not alleviated discrimination and prejudice completely, but it’s a movement that’s starting to work towards challenging it. So please, I hope no one takes this section as me not acknowledging the discrimination and microaggressions that still exist, because they’re absolutely there, but as millennials, we’re working really hard to fight for love, equality and cultural diversity.

We’ll start with the LGBTQ population. Millennials created an enormous change in the attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. We have really fought for this community much more than Gen X and boomers did in their 20s and 30s. In less than two decades, those supporting gay and lesbian rights have become the majority, and two thirds of millennials in 2013 supported same-sex marriage. This number has only risen over the last few years. In comparison to past generations, millennials have been also exposed to the LGBTQ community in media, which has also helped to increase acceptance and open-minded attitudes while also lessening prejudice and discrimination. Again, we’re nowhere perfect and we’re nowhere where we need to be in at the end, but millennials are fighting hard for equality.

We also see more acknowledgment and awareness around minority groups. Millennials are more informed about privilege and oppression and the privilege and oppression cycle. I’m not saying there aren’t Gen X and boomers out there that are fighting for this — that would be crazy for me to say — but at large, there’s more millennials that are fighting for these rights and speaking up and owning their privilege than Gen X and boomers did in their 20s and 30s. We’re still all in it together, and I think all the generations are working towards this at this point. In comparison to Gen X and boomers, millennials were exposed more to popular media that showed various minority groups from a very young age, because in the ‘80s and ‘90s, diversity was being promoted. We were just exposed to different people.

Millennials have become more accustomed to diversity in a variety of professions. We see a lot more African Americans, Latinos, Hispanics being part of different fields, and because of that exposure, we view it as normal — it doesn’t stand out to us. Really, because we were taught to be different and stand out, we actually celebrate it. Workplaces, neighborhoods, marriages are far more integrated now in the millennial generation than past. Millennials are more comfortable with racial crossovers involving dating, all the way through music; we don’t have as much of a hangup. And the perk of individualism is that millennials value that culture, diversity and universal acceptance. So again, one of the perks of individualism is the equality revolution.

Women now are earning the majority of college degrees, and almost half of all medical and law degrees. I really find that so incredibly awesome that the majority of women now are earning half of medical law degrees — that’s badass. Women are now the majority of accountants, financial managers, medical scientists and pharmacists, and a major shift in gender role and attitudes have occurred because of the millennial generation. Feminist attitudes have increased 87% since 1970. There has been also a profound shift towards gender equality and just the language we’re using. Millennials are much more mindful and cognizant of the language and how that language impacts certain groups of people, whether it’s the LGBTQ community, minority groups, different religious or ethnic backgrounds. We are more PC, maybe if that’s the term people want to call it, but that’s because we’re really fighting for everyone to be equal and to challenge that privilege and oppression cycle.

Millennial women are more likely to have personality traits of men, which I find interesting. There might be some validity issues in this study depending on how we feel around masculine versus feminine traits. But this study looked at millennials, and what they found is that millennial women are more likely to have personality traits of men. Whether you disagree with these traits, that’s a different story, but the way the researchers classified masculine traits are competitive, independent, self-reliant, ambitious and forceful. Those researchers deemed those qualities to be masculine, and now when they’ve done this study with millennials, it’s indistinguishable across genders. They cannot tell who was part of this study, whether it was a man or a woman or any or all in between, because we all know that gender and sexual orientation is fluid. But they were solely looking at it in a binary way, and now they can’t even tell the difference of whether it’s a male or a female filling out this survey.

So we get back to our VISION acronym. I am hoping by now everyone has a good understanding of the values, how independence, self-focus and individualism impacts millennials, how the individuality shapes the way we show up in the world. We navigate the world — how we view the world. S is stressed. You now have a better understanding of what mental health and substance use disorders look like for millennials in comparison to Gen X and boomers. The I stands for instability. We talked about the economic disadvantages that millennials face, the expectations they had for the world and what actually the world gave them. We also see just how the culturally embedded messages impact millennials just through a values lens. So I’m hoping that the I, S, I you have a good understanding on. Now we’re going to get to O and N, which is what we, as mental health and addiction professionals, can do to increase treatment outcomes. What we can do to you or how we can use a generational model to inform our practice to help our 24- to 40-year-olds thrive and flourish in society a little bit better. And I want to give you guys some ideas around how you can use this generational model, which is what I’m going to outline right now.

So, let’s view this as a way of increasing treatment outcomes with your 24- to 40-year-olds. The first thing you can do is become informed about the generational differences. Yay, everyone can check that box because we did a heavy dose today. I want you to be aware of their personality, their behavior, their attitudes, their beliefs, their values, which is all informed by individualism, self-focus, independence — all of that shaped the way that we show up in the world. If you can note those differences and pull away from the stereotypes and really view it as, “Okay, these individuals were taught this from a very young age,” and keep in mind how the self-esteem movement impacted us, I think it allows you to be more successful with those clients because it’s coming from a place of knowledge versus judgment and shame.

So, keeping that in mind when you’re interacting with your millennials. Another thing that is helpful is for us to teach millennials self-control and self-discipline skills. How you go about it — I think there’s a variety of ways to address those markers, self-control and self-discipline, but we know in research that it increases productivity, it increases performance and it actually helps with emotional regulation. So, helping our millennials explore those aspects because we didn’t learn it and we weren’t taught it. Checking in with millennials on what is their connection to self-control, what does self-discipline look like and how to help them build those skills and strengthen them.

We want to teach millennials practical life skills. A lot of millennials sadly don’t know how to budget — they don’t know how to pay taxes, they have poor time management, they can barely write a resume, cover letter. If you are a Gen X or boomer clinician, you might think, “Oh, well duh. They know how to do that stuff. That’s part of life,” but I wouldn’t make that assumption. I would intentionally check in with your millennial clients, “Hey, do you know how to do these things? Do you struggle doing these things? How can I support you?” Instead of assuming that they should know it, we want to be curious and open to, “Do you know how to budget? Do you know how to do a load of laundry? Do you know anything about the tax system? If you don’t, I can help you build those life skills.” I think it’s also important that we teach millennials how to adapt and cope effectively with life challenges. We weren’t prepared for adversity; we weren’t prepared for the natural failures of life, and because of that, we take it much more harshly and it’s much more intense when we experience it in comparison to Gen X and boomers. So, we might say, “Okay, so you lost your job. Tap into your resiliency, get a new job.” But a millennial is going to experience that much more intensely because of the lack of preparation for adversity.

Part of the way that we can do that is we want to teach millennials how to be more self-aware. That’s where mindfulness skills go in. “How can you change your relationship with emotional discomfort? How can you surf the wave of discomfort?” So, teaching them ways to cope more effectively and be able to emotionally regulate more efficiently. I think that’s where distress tolerance skills come in. We want to help them with decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, effective communication skills and certainly how to deal with stress and challenging emotions. I think as clinicians, we need to give them a heavy dose of, “How are you going to cope when you receive constructive feedback from your boss? How can you cope when you do potentially lose your job? How can you cope when a friend’s really angry at you and they’re providing you feedback or when a family member’s upset?” Helping them really adapt and tap into their inner resiliency is very powerful for millennials and definitely teaching them those distress tolerance skills.

We also want to encourage millennials to foster face-to-face social relationships. It’s key, and research confirms that when people interact face to face, it really helps their mental health and substance use. I oftentimes, with my millennial clients, promote Meetup groups. Meetup is a great organization that’s across the United States that creates groups based on similar interests, and then people can join those groups and be among people that share similar passion. I had a client that was super into cats — she self-identified herself as a cat lady — and I said to her, “What would it be like to look up a cat group?” And she’s like, “What? There’s no cat groups. That’s crazy.” And I said, “Okay, well let’s just take a quick look.”

We found seven different cat groups in Denver, and they all meet up and bring their cats and have coffee, and it was such a beautiful opportunity for her to do something that she values, to engage in something she feels passionate about and be among people that share it with her.
Other ways to do that is through clubs, sport leagues, volunteering, really pushing our clients to engage in the community because there is a lot of positive outcomes from engaging in the community and there’s a lot of benefit from it. But because we value independence and individualism, we tend to pull away from that. So, helping them connect a little bit more.

We also want to provide millennials career counseling, helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses. Because of the self-esteem movement, you have everyone feeling amazing about themselves, but they’re not honing in on their talents and they’re not accepting the parts of themselves that are maybe a bit weaker. As clinicians, we want to help them start identifying their strengths and weaknesses and then choosing careers that suit them based on those findings. Again, are some millennials becoming Instagram stars? Sure, but it’s not the majority of people. We have to be able to learn how to accept that there are some things we are good at and there are some things we are not so great at and how we can use that to inform our choices. A lot of times when I’m working with millennials, I start to do this process and it’s very uncomfortable — they don’t want to note the weaknesses. They start to share with me like, “Hey, every time we’re talking about the things I’m not so great at, it’s, it’s making me feel sad. It’s pulling me away from my happiness.” Part of that can be kind of that delusion. It’s very important that we identify what we’re good at and what we’re not, and so I push my millennial clients to start doing that.

We also want to help them cultivate realistic life expectations. Because we have that lofty ambition, because we shoot for the stars and we dream big, it has led to very unrealistic expectations of life, which then create more defeat and dysregulation. So what I oftentimes do is I check in with my millennial clients, like, “What are your expectations around the workforce? Oh, you think that you should get a 30% raise? Okay, we need to talk about that.” I’ll tell you a personal example. I was working with a 26-year-old client who had started at a marketing firm; she had been there for a year and she was having her first performance review. So she came in — I was seeing her two days before this year review — and she said to me, “Okay, Paulina, I have my game plan. I know what I’m going to ask. I think it’s what I deserve.” And I said, “Okay, well, share that with me. What are you going to go in and ask your employer?” She said, “Well, I’ve been here for a year and I’ve worked super hard. I’m going to ask for a 30% raise.” And I looked at her and I said, “Okay, I know that’s what you feel you deserve, and I’m not going to debate what you deserve, but let’s look at how realistic that is.”

And I said, “What I would like to do is just pull up the average salary increase, what percentage per year people in that field get. Let’s just look at the data for a moment.” So, people in marketing positions after a year of being at a company — what is the typical salary raise that they receive? She was a little bit hesitant, but we did our research and 3% to 4% was what we were seeing in the marketing field. So I said to her, “If the average is 3% to 4% and you walk in asking for 30%, your boss is going to laugh at you. So let’s talk about how to make your expectations more realistic.” And we did, and she walked into that meeting and I got a text from her saying, “I got a 4%,” with a smiley face. Whereas if she walked in asking for 30%, that was going to be a big moment of defeat.

Also in dating, millennials are looking for the perfect person, and we know that that doesn’t exist. Millennials are also using dating apps, so it’s leading to choice overload where we have so many options that we’re just not committing to anyone. So, exploring like, “What are your expectations around dating? When it comes to choosing a partner, what’s your belief system?” So, actively checking in on those markers and seeing if you can help them cultivate realistic life expectations. We also want to do that interpersonally, so how they relate to friends and family as well as their expectations of self.

Another big thing is that we want to help millennials decrease overexposure to social media. We’re consuming a lot more media than Gen X and boomers did, and it’s actually impacting our brain structurally. My rule of thumb is I help clients decrease screen time by 20% to 30%. First, we identify: “How many hours of screen time do you typically average per day, and how can we start working towards decreasing that two to three hours less each day, and when you have that additional two to three hours, how can you engage more? How can you connect to your values and do something that’s going to be nourishing to your mental health?” I think checking in on exposure to social media and TV is also important as clinicians, and then adapting some boundaries around that.

Everything I just outlined was confirmed in the research as ways that we can help our millennial clients, and this section is anecdotal. These are just what I have found to be helpful. It’s not backed by research, but these are the modalities that I use with my millennial clients and feel a lot of success. The first is acceptance commitment therapy. I am actually formally trained in that, and I love this modality because it works beautifully with millennials. Part of the ACT foundation is to really increase mindfulness skills, to be able to surf the wave, bring acceptance to emotional pain, bring acceptance to emotional discomfort, learn how to lean into that discomfort and change your relationship with it. Not one where you’re fighting it or using avoidance strategies, but instead saying, “Okay, I feel sad today. How can I lean into this sadness? How can I look at it through curiosity and openness?”

A lot of ACT is changing your relationship with the adversity that you face, and because millennials are facing so much adversity, there is a lot of discomfort. So I’m helping them surf that wave a little bit better building those distress tolerance skills, which is more DBT, but I incorporate that. You know, looking at their belief systems. How do they attach to thoughts and these beliefs, and do those thoughts and belief systems serve them? Do they help them? Do they allow them to be successful and thrive and flourish in society? We’re teaching them diffusion skills. Again, being present, learning how to be part of, being connected to your experience in the here and now, not doing it through judgment but noticing judgment and then being objective, being the observer and knowing that our discomfort is temporary.

I also explore self as context. The other big piece to my work is helping millennials identify their values. Values work is imperative for millennials because we’re very driven by what we care about. We’re very driven by what’s going to serve ourselves. We’re driven by putting ourselves first. So if millennials can identify what they care about and they can identify what matters to them most, then I help them start to live by that value and engage in that committed action. So I have a lot of values assessments that I use with my clients. Happy to share all of this as well, if you have any interest, but we explore, “Okay, what do you care about? What matters to you? What do you want to stand for in the world?” And once they’re clear on that, then our work is, “Okay, how do we get you closer to that while also accepting and bringing peace with the inevitable adversity and challenges that come your way?” DBT is another modality that I’m trained in, and we do a lot of that interpersonal effectiveness work — the distress tolerance, emotional regulation skills, and then certainly enhancing the mindfulness skills and allowing someone to change their relationship with discomfort and obstacles that they face. I find that to be profound with millennials, especially viewing it from a generational lens.

Some of the modalities I use for substance use disorders is a lot of motivational interviewing. You know, expressing and showing empathy, supporting them but also noting and developing the discrepancies, kind of me leaning into their resistance, supporting self-efficacy, and definitely helping them to better develop autonomy, which is something they already value because individualism and independence supports autonomy. So these are all things that allow millennials to feel like they are moving through those stages of change in the hopes that they do get into recovery or change their relationship with their use. I think the golden standard, especially in our field, is abstinence or relapse prevention programs. That could be 12-step treatment; some other non-12-step programs are Lifespring Secular Recovery, SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (also known as SOS) and Women for Sobriety.

So if you have a client that’s like, “Hell no, I’m not doing 12-step,” then I invite you to look into some of these other programs because they might be more supportive to that client. I also have a lot of clients that are not willing to engage in abstinence — they don’t want to be substance-free. So I personally use the harm reduction model, which has a lot of evidence behind it that it works. What this model does is it reduces the negative consequences of use. So if you have someone struggling with alcohol and they typically drive, I would help them to work on, “How can you drink but not use your car?” If you have someone who is using dirty needles, “Okay, how can we reduce the consequences of sharing needles? Let’s figure out ways that you can get clean needles.” These are all ways where, yes, it’s not stopping their use, but it’s reducing the harm of it. So I am someone who absolutely uses this model when someone’s not ready to practice abstinence, but also find that sometimes they just naturally transition into relapse prevention and want to practice abstinence for and in recovery that way. I think it’s a flexible model that oftentimes moves people in different directions.

So those are the biggest modalities I use with my 24- to 40-year-olds, and that concludes our presentation. I will say that again: It was so wonderful presenting this content. I know I moved through it quickly, so please know that I am a resource. If you ever want to hop on the phone, I’m happy to process a case with you. Do some case conceptualization using this generational model. I’m happy to send some of the worksheets I use with my millennial clients, whether they’re ACT or DVT, and I would love to hear from you. I provided my cell phone number, my email, my website. I’m happy to be a resource to any clients that might need some support or struggle with those unique generational issues, and I’m always here with open arms, so feel free to reach out.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

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