What a Millennial Brings to the Trauma-Informed Coaching Table
A few weeks ago, at a supervision meeting for certified coaches, we were asked what we thought made us “unique” or “different” as coaches. I think most of us there struggled to answer with anything other than “we are all well versed in trauma.” I was prepared to say something like my sense of humor or my creative thinking style. But at the last minute, what came out of my mouth instead was:
I’m a millennial.
In the past, I’ve actively tried to avoid that word. Mostly because of the negative and stereotypical characteristics that are attached to it. But over the last year, as I’ve delved into research on generational culture, expectations, and views, I’m starting to see a very different picture than the one the media and previous generations seem to have of us.
As luck would have it, not even a day later after that supervision meeting, I receive the latest copy of Psychology Networker. The topic? A New Generation of Clients.
It was as if the world was telling me that I was onto something.
I found most of the content to be enjoyable and informative, but nothing I didn’t already know. What did catch my eye though was an article written by one Ron Taffel. As a “newbie” in the world of psychology gurus and experts, I had never heard of him. To be completely honest, I was expecting the article to lament about how hard it is to treat millennials.
Instead, I read a thoughtful, wonderfully accurate (to me) article about how millennials are changing the therapeutic landscape. I profess… I have never been inclined to highlight passages in a magazine before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?
What I liked about the article was his admittance of the stereotype of millennials, but how he actually sees them.
“Ah, millennials. I use the term advisedly, knowing how it rankles many in that approximately 18–35-year-old age group, having been written about endlessly and tied to stereotypes of being whiny and entitled, spoiled by helicopter parents, too sensitive, narcissistic, and selfie-obsessed. But this oft-criticized generation has finally emerged as a force in society that is, by many accounts, the most diversity-embracing, ecologically minded, and philanthropic on record.” '
—[Taffel, R. (2018, November/December). No More “Same Old”. Psychology Networker, 20–27]
In his article, Taffel talks about the changes he’s had to make in his therapy practice to accommodate for the new “normal” that his millennial clients bring to the table. He asks, “Really, as a therapist, how open am I supposed to be?”
Because I’m not a therapist and have no formal training as one, that’s not a question I can answer with confidence or experience. But as a coach — it’s one of the things I value most about what we do. We are encouraged to bring our openness to sessions with our clients. How open we are is dependent on us and how much we think it will help our clients in their recovery.
I will admit that for me, this is easy because I am exactly the type of millennial Taffel talks about in his article. The kind of millennial that is insatiably curious, constantly concerned about the plight our country is in, drowning in student loan debt and desperate to prove that I’m anything but that stereotypical millennial.
I find being open is second-nature to me. As is questioning everything and wanting to produce thought-provoking conversations. This actually makes for a pretty good coach, I’ve learned. Even Taffel answers his own question with the same conclusion as I’ve made:
“What if the palpable spark of personal immediacy and role-fluidity is essential to today’s increasingly outspoken, yet intensely vulnerable teens and young adults?”
— [Taffel, R. (2018, November/December). No More “Same Old”. Psychology Networker, 20–27]
I would argue with Taffel though that this approach isn’t just for teens and young adults. I’m seeing an increase for this approach in all ages of trauma survivors. Though the millennials are better versed and more comfortable with technology, at the end of the day — no matter what age they are — clients all want the same thing: to be heard. To feel connected.
The advantage that millennials have in achieving this are the very things that we are also disgraced for. Technology (like people) can be good or bad. It’s all dependent on how you use or abuse it.
This article? Not only was it a way for me to dig deeper into the research I started months ago, but it was also a natural way for me to work out my own thoughts, biases, and judgments about the topic. While researching, I discovered a new regulation technique for a client who faces different kinds of adversity than most. The instinct to branch off into that rabbit hole of research for the technique resulted in a completely new recovery plan for my client.
And I would have never thought of it on my own. I wouldn’t have even considered the approach had I not sat down to read and research about this very topic.
That’s the millennial way.
It’s not a right or wrong way either, just a different way to get to the same destination.
Though I was slightly kidding when I answered that supervision group question with “I’m a millennial,” I’m now more confident than ever that it is one part of me that is unique and different.
Despite the challenges that millennials endure and cause, we are also emboldened and driven by our insatiable need to create meaning in our lives. To follow our paths with passion and integrity. Yes, I grew up with peers who cared more about their incoming text message than the people around them. Yes, I have peers who think the world owes them something. But I also have peers that are making their mark on the world by joining social causes and eco-friendly companies and starting charities.
I am making my mark by caring deeply about trauma survivors and using every tool I have to make sure my clients know that. Sometimes those tools might be different from what the older generations used. Sometimes, my techniques may come across as too “out of the box” but in the end, it’s what makes me unique and different.
Because I am a millennial and I’m proud to be one.