From Gen Alpha to Boomers, we asked 6 therapists what each generation talks about in therapy

  • Different generations like to complain about each other, but therapists say we’re all struggling.
  • Younger generations struggle with identity, friendship and forging their own path.
  • Older generations face challenges with parenting and balancing responsibilities.

The baby boomers inherited a thriving economy and ruined it for the rest of us. Millennials are eager avocado eaters who will never own property, while Gen Zers are depressed snowflakes who take liberties at work. As for Gen X, hardly anyone remembers they exist.

It’s too early to tell how Gen Alpha will be judged, but they practically came out of the womb watching TikTok and are already using anti-aging skin care products, so things aren’t looking good.

Or so the stereotypes go.

So in the spirit of finding common ground amidst all the muck, BI asked six therapists what their clients of different generations commonly talk about in therapy. Topics include feeling inadequate, relationships, and the difficulty of navigating life’s transitions.

Turns out Gen Z aren’t the only ones struggling with their mental health. In 2022, nearly a quarter of American adults visited a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, a Found a Gallup poll. This represents a 10% increase since 2004.

The reasons aren’t entirely bleak: There’s less stigma around seeking treatment, especially among younger people, and more emphasis on the importance of good mental health than in previous years, Gallup found. But the stress of the pandemic likely played a role, he said, and women, young adults and people with lower household incomes were less likely to rate their mental health positively, the survey found.

No matter how old we are, we are all struggling with something, either personally or collectively. International relations are strained, and it seems like we’re constantly on the verge of going into recession or seeing AI steal our jobs, not to mention the text bombs we send each other.

“Every generation is really struggling to make sense of what their life should look like right now. What that looks like for different age groups is different,” Israa Nasir, a New York-based psychotherapist and author of the upcoming book.Toxic positivity,” he told Business Insider.

But each generation goes through the same life stages necessary to become a fully formed human, he said.

So while online headlines and trends would have you believe that Gen Z is from Venus while Boomers are from Mars, we’re probably more alike than different.

Alpha Generation

Members of Generation Alpha were born around 2010 and later. The older ones turn 14 this year, so they’re still kids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five children has a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, with ADHD and anxiety the most common, but of these, only 20% receive treatment mental health CDC data is based on children ages 3-17.

There has been an increase in children diagnosed with ADHD since 2003, according to the CDC, and anxiety has also increased over time. Between 2016 and 2019, more than 9% of American children were diagnosed with anxiety.

Georgina Sturmer, a UK counselor registered with the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, told BI that this age group was “hit hard by a perfect storm”, the COVID pandemic plunging the world into agitation and uncertainty and separated them from their companions. she said

A little girl taking a selfie.

The Alpha generation is learning to deal with emotions.

Elena Popova/Getty Images

In a more general sense, children under 13 are often more stressed about things happening in their immediate environment “often what’s happening that day or that week,” BACP registered therapist Amanda Macdonald told BI based in the United Kingdom.

Parents often play a big role in their children’s lives at this age, and there’s a push between what’s allowed, how things are done, and the child’s desire for greater independence, she said. Gen Alpha is also making friendships outside of their family and independent of their parents or caregivers, and this is reflected in what children care about.

Thai Alonso, a clinical psychologist based in New Jersey, told BI that the most common concern among children at the end of elementary or middle school is conflict with their parents. Parents’ expectations about their child’s behavior and how they deal with emotions can lead to clashes, she said.

Among preschool-age Gen Alphas, who are too young for individual therapy, Alonso said she receives many referrals for children struggling with behavioral difficulties such as emotion regulation, anger and ADHD.

Gen Z

Gen Zers are typically between the ages of 14 and 26. Therapists said identity, body image and friendship issues are common concerns for this age group, and they often struggle with anxiety and low moods.

Gen Zers who are in high school or college worry about hierarchies and social dynamics, such as who is “cool” and who is not, which can lead to anxiety and feelings of not being enough good, Jill Owen, a clinical psychologist from the UK, told BI. Customers often compare themselves to their peers, especially when it comes to how “popular” or attractive they are. She believes the rise of social media over the past decade has made this worse.

Young people holding phones from a low angle.

Gen Z grew up on social media and often compare themselves to others.

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“The younger generation Z is developing their own sense of identity, with how they dress, talk and hang out, basically what it means to be ‘them,'” Owen said. “With that sense of independence comes the anxiety about becoming an adult and an awareness of wider issues such as climate change and global injustices.”

Diana Garcia, a therapist in Florida, works primarily with older Gen Zers between the ages of 18 and 26. “At this stage in life, they begin to explore what is important to them, whether they have similar or different values ​​than their family of origin,” he said. They’re thinking about the races or the start of that journey and that can create feelings of anxiety, he said.


Like Gen Zers, millennials, who are in their 20s to 40s, also feel insecure because they compare the “perfect lives” they see on social media to their own, Owen said.

Many are also becoming parents for the first time or considering having children, which can lead to many different feelings.

Past generations were not as aware of the extent to which parenting styles can affect a child’s mental health. Social media made this information popular, and millennials are thinking more about how their upbringing affected them emotionally and how they can avoid harming their children, Israa Nasir said.

A couple moving boxes from a van to a house.

Millennials are under pressure to get married, own a house, and have children.

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“I’ve noticed a lot of motivation to look inward and start unpacking childhood traumas in an effort to protect their own children,” Alonso said.

Nasir has seen it too. “People actually come straight into therapy saying, ‘I think I had a lot of emotional issues with my parents when I was younger,’ or ‘I need to deal with my issues with my parents,'” Nasir said.

Many millennials are also reaching traditional milestones like buying property, getting married, and having children later in life. Those who haven’t met those societal expectations or simply chosen a different path might come to therapy to discuss those pressures, Sturmer said.

Gen X

Generation Xers are between 44 and 59 years old.

They have higher incomes than millennials, but many still have college debt to pay off or are paying it off on behalf of their children. They also care for aging parents, have larger families than millennials, and are expected to “step up” as community leaders, a 2019 Gallup analysis found. “It’s a perfect storm of financial, emotional and of time pressure,” Gallup said.

Mother stressed about her children

Generation X has to take care of their children and elderly parents.

Moment/Getty Images

Sturmer, who works primarily with women, said all these pressures, along with dealing with the emotional toll of menopause, take a mental toll.

Many of her Gen X clients are also trying to help their children deal with mental health challenges.

She said she sees “tired, overwhelmed and stressed parents doing everything they can to help their children navigate mental health services, while also dealing with everything that’s going on in their own lives.”


Baby boomers are in their 60s and 70s. BI previously reported that boomers hold half of America’s wealth, but it’s not evenly distributed among them. Many members of this generation consider themselves financially insecure and do not have sufficient savings for retirement and long-term care.

Boomer couple sitting at kitchen table.

Boomers are adjusting to a later stage in life.

Half Point Images/Getty Images

They are adjusting to a later stage in life, and some fear that as they age, they may begin to lose their identity or sense a loss of direction.

“Retirement can lead to a loss of identity, confidence and sense of purpose. Empty nest situations can have a similar impact,” Owen said.

As people’s children grow up and start families of their own, it can lead to difficult feelings. “If we’ve always understood our role in terms of our work or our family life, then it makes sense that this can cause us to struggle to understand who we are,” Sturmer said.

“We often hear people joke about how lucky boomers are to get a free college education, rising housing prices leave us with a stereotypical image of a debt-free couple heading into retirement. But this it’s not necessarily reality,” he said.

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