It’s my pleasure today to be joined with Paulina Seigel with Courageous Paths Counseling out of Denver, Colorado. Welcome, Paulina. So good to have you here particularly You’ve had the opportunity to spend the day with us or at least the morning just learning about our program and so we really want to take this opportunity to learn more about your practice and the work that you all do. I’m specifically interested in learning about the research that you’ve done with Millennials. I had a chance to actually sit in on your presentation that you did at the winter symposium this last January and great job by the way. I mean it was, you’re very good at public speaking and the message was really compelling.
In fact, there was a lot of questions that came out of that that a group of us sat down and talked about in regards to the role that counseling and clinical is taking as a result of Millennials and their and their focus on what is considered good practice, I guess. And so we’re going to probably talk a little bit about that, but before we do, I want to just kind of check in with you a little bit and find out about what is it that got you into working with Millennials? I mean, you’re a therapist, you have built a practice, now you’re working specifically with this very specific cohort of people. You’ve created a tremendous amount of research around it and now you’re using it in a meaningful way. So what was it that moved you in the direction of saying this is the audience I want to work with?
Yeah, that’s a great question. One: I just want to say I’m so incredibly impressed by Harmony- And it has been really special to come up here and actually see firsthand the powerful work that you do. So I had to say that before I jumped into answering your question. So thank you for having me. But you know, there was this pivotal moment when I was in high school, and this might be a very Millennial answer, but I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to leave an imprint on this earth. And the best way that I figured out I could do that is through mental health because one, it’s stigmatized and it’s neglected. And I knew at the time that there was a need for it. And being able to give that gift of allowing people to make monumental change, allow them to be able to get to a place where they’ve always wanted their life to be, is so magical to me. So I think what got me into the field initially is just wanting to have that impact. And then when it got to teens and Millennials, which is my specialty, I only work with Gen Z and Millennials, I’ll define those two generations cause they’re a bit confusing. But after getting my master’s at DU I jumped into community mental health and interestingly enough I was just put in with adolescents and young adults. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily by choice, it was just where I found my internships, it’s where I went. And so all of my direct exposure was with those two generations and it ignited something in me. What I found is that these two generations struggle uniquely in comparison to Gen X and Boomers. And so once I felt this passion, I knew that after I got out of community mental health, I needed to create a specialized practice that only works exclusively with those two generations. And a lot of that, as you mentioned, is research based where I incorporate the generational research into my practice because when we can use a generational lens, then that’s where the real impact can be made because we increase treatment outcomes and we increase client success when we use a generational lens. Because as you can attest, Millennials are very different than Gen X and Boomers. And so we have to create a tailored approach and we have to customize our treatment using a generational lens.
It’s interesting you say that because one of the things that I’ve learned in the decade or so that I’ve worked in addiction treatment, specifically, is when we started to see managed care shift and they started seeing more and more young people coming into addiction treatment because parents can keep their kids on insurance longer. We learned that the traditional model of sitting in group and sharing your feelings with other people was not always the best course of action for the Millennials coming in. Because many times they grew up in a technology age where sitting and sharing your feelings openly and making direct eye contact was very intimidating and created a level of vulnerability that they probably weren’t used to. And so now you see this resurgence of equine therapy and other types of experiential modalities to be responsive to the the young adult population who’s coming into treatment today. And so, let’s talk a little bit about your specific nature of what you do in your practice. You have acceptance commitment therapy that you make as a big part of your practice and you’re integrating that into your practice and I think you believe it’s probably a necessary part of what most people should be looking at doing when they’re working with Millennials. Why is that particular modality so helpful when you’re working with young people?
Yeah, it’s a great question. So I pull from a lot of different modalities. Acceptance commitment therapy I would say is my main framework when it comes to addressing mental health and addiction. And certainly if we’re working with addiction, I use a lot of relapse prevention, MI, harm reduction. But to speak to acceptance commitment therapy, it’s a wonderful modality because it honors ownership and autonomy over your life and Millennials really value individualism and want to be able to carve their own path. And I think because that’s their value, ACT supports that, right? It wants people to take ownership over their life. It wants them to create purpose and meaning and live by their values. What I love about act is that it’s values based. So what I do is I help my clients identify what do you care about? What do you want to live for, what do you stand by in this world? What ignites you? And if we can get really clear on what that is, then I can help you live more in alignment with that. And I think that that really fuels Millennials. They want a purpose and a calling. So I love that ACT has the value based living, but it also increases awareness and mindfulness and engagement. And I think when Millennials are connected and they’re creating memories and experiences, that also makes them feel complete and whole. So helping them increase their mindfulness practice also helps them create more memories and they’re more engaged. And that fits really nicely with the generational attitude that we see with Millennials. So I think working on mindfulness, helping them get connected to their values, learning how to increase life and emotional coping skills, it just fits really beautifully with what the generational research says.
So you’ve talked about this idea of generational research. You’ve talked about the generational attitude. What is the typical generational attitude for a Millennial?
I mean there’s a lot to that answer. It’s not a simplistic one. But what I would say is that there’s a couple of things we value. One: individualism. We want to stand out, we want to be different and again, we want to carve our own path and we were taught that by our late Gen X or Boomer parents. And so you know, if we can promote that autonomy and ownership, that fits nicely with what we already value. And I keep saying we, because I am a Millennial, for anyone that can’t see my face on this. But-
Let me interrupt for a second because this was interesting in your presentation. You brought up that the oldest Millennial today is 39 years old.
Yes. So thank you for segueing into that. Let’s define who Millennials are. Millennials are anyone born 1980 to 1996. So to put that into easy numbers, that’s 23 to 39.
‘Cause you usually assume Millennials are in their early twenties but to know that your oldest Millennial is 39 years old, That really says a lot. I mean it talks a lot about how there’s been a lot of evolution around culture shift and how people think about things.
And it also shows that if a treatment center is believing that their Millennials are 18 to 25, they’re missing out on a good chunk of their clientele, right? Because a lot of your clientele currently are Millennials, you know? And so I think if we can incorporate that generational lens, it’s going to make a far greater impact. But going back to your original question. So individuality, that’s one value. That we see a large decline in social rules. We disown it. We’re like, “Hey, I’m doing my own thing and what I’m doing is the best and I don’t care what society has told me I should do.” We’ve really let go of the shoulds that society has placed on us.
Yeah. That’s another value of Millennials. We care about diversity and tolerance. We care a lot about having a purpose and calling. We care a lot about feeling good and we’re all about, “Hey, if it’s going to make me happy. I’m going to do it.” I think that’s another value, that self care is far more important than maybe societal rules that we’ve been told that we need to prescribe too. So that’s a little taste of it. What the research says. There’s certainly a lot more to it. But those were the main one.
It’s really valuable information to know as people are planning and creating programming because it’s like you said, here at Harmony, our average demographic is 33 years old and up and so we’re clearly treating that Millennial population, which means we need to be thinking about what the research is saying as far as what’s important to Millennials and how do we be responsive to them in that capacity? Which is so true. So your practice is really steeped in generational research, which is so cool. I mean I think that’s one of the things that I found the most compelling about when I first met you and then listening to your presentation. And you talk about why that’s so important. I mean it’s obviously been very important to you in your practice, but why do you think it’s necessary for other practitioners to really take a look at the research?
Excellent question. There are a lot of clinicians that their specialty is young adults. They may not use the term millennia, that’s how I want to identify with the generation and own that label, but what I find is that they don’t understand the generational research. And not that that’s their fault, but you know, who spends hours looking at research like I do? That’s just my thing. But I understand that people don’t want to read article after article. But the reason why it’s important is because when you can understand the generational values, beliefs, attitudes, perspective, it will inform you to then be able to treat them more effectively. So if you are a Boomer clinician or even a Gen Xer clinician and you have your own values that you hold that might be consistent with that generation and you start placing those values on a Millennial, there is going to be a huge disconnect because it’s not the same value system. So if you’re working from your own generational lens because you’re in that generation, it’s going to create a lot of disconnect and I think segregation in the work because Millennials see things differently. They show up differently in the world. So I think unless you understand the research, you can’t adapt your own lens.
So if your specialty is working with Millennials, and you’re a Millennial yourself, reframing to be a Gen Xer and working with a Gen Xer means that you’re going to have to do your necessary research around what Gen Xers and Boomers need for them to be responsive. So do you think it’s easier being a Millennial and doing this kind of work? Do you think it makes it easier for you?
I think it is. Because I already embody those values. It’s not me trying to adapt. I live it, I breathe it. It’s how I view the world myself. Now I understand the implications of some of the Millennial attitudes and that’s why I help them adjust and change and adapt so that they can be more successful in the world. But I think there’s been a couple of times when I was in community mental health and I had a Boomer, 55 years old, and I would find myself maybe saying things or reframing things and there was this disconnect of like, “What do you mean self care? You know what I mean? You want me to stop and do something for myself? You’re out of your mind.” Right? But if I said that to a Millennial, they’d be like, “Yeah, work life balance. I’m in.” So there is a disconnect and I think when you can incorporate the research, it also will just strengthen your relationship and then increase treatment outcomes.
So true. It’s so true. And I think that we definitely need to be leaning more into the research. It’s there for a reason. And to really take advantage of it as a tool to help us be better in the work that we do. So we always like to get to know the person behind the programs. I’m going to ask a couple of personal questions. You okay with that?Cool. So how has a failure or an apparent failure set you up for success and do you have a favorite failure?
So one that comes initially to mind is I struggled a lot in school. Now, I ended up getting my Masters and I feel very proud about that because school was never easy for me. But in elementary school I was diagnosed with ADD and at the time what they said was a severe learning disability. And I remember feeling defeated. I felt an outcast to the other students. But I went through all of this cognitive and psychological testing and I was told, and this was in Kansas City, ’cause that’s where I grew up, I was told by the leading psychologists who did all these clinical assessments that it would be a gift if I could even graduate high school. He told my parents that I would not really be able to function well in the world. That if I graduated from high school they’d be lucky. And I remember hearing that news and I was in fifth grade at the time. And so, I just was like, “All right. This is the time to hustle.” I remember being in fifth grade like, “I have to graduate high school and I have to be able to be something in this world.” And at this point I think what he shared was clearly inaccurate. I don’t think that really stopped me from being who I wanted to be and and leaving an imprint on this world. Like I said originally it was very important to me. So I guess in some ways it felt like a failure because I was told I couldn’t do anything and if I even did something, it would just be pretty minimal. But to be able to, obviously graduate high school, get my Undergrad in three years, have my Masters in five, speak around the United States about generational research, that’s really meaningful to that that did not determine my path.
You are so right and it’s great to know that you didn’t allow someone else’s perceptions of you to define who you are, but to actually reframe it. I hope other people get a chance to hear that story and know that anything is possible, which is so true. So if I were to offer up the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
So I took some time to think about that question and three words come to mind. Unity, integration and consistency. And I think to live in harmony means we need to have connection, we need to be United with other people. We can’t live in this life solo. Especially in recovery. We need community. The research would say that that increases sustained recovery and allows you to live a really full and rich life. I think integration is being able to have a bunch of systems work together and being part of systems and certainly consistency. Having something be reliable and dependable obviously creates a better recovery. You have to work some sort of program. It doesn’t need to be twelve step, it could be something else. But you have to work towards some sort of shared vision with that community. So yeah, I would say that that’s how I view harmony.
I like that. I like it a lot. First time I’ve ever heard it in that way, which is really cool. So we’re going to wrap up and before we do, we want make sure people can have access to you. So if somebody wanted to access services at Courageous Path Counseling, how can they get in touch with you?
Yep. So first thing is just knowing that my specialty, again, is Gen Z and Millennials. That’s 15 to 39. So if you fall within that range, it’s a perfect fit for me just based on age. Now the other piece is I certainly do dual diagnosis. I see a lot of clients struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety. I see those generational specific issues, troubles with dating, integrating into the workforce, finding your purpose and calling and then certainly adjustment and life transitions. So those are a couple, the main things that I’m working with on a daily basis. But the best way to get ahold of me is if you go to my website, which is www.courageouspaths.com, there will be a contact tab at the top and if you just fill out your name, your number, your email, it will blast that to me and then I will get back to you within 24 hours. So yeah, you can easily reach me through my website and I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation. It often ends up being longer than that because I really want to take time to make sure we’re a good fit. But yeah, giving me a call and then we’ll set up that free 15 minute phone consultation. If we both feel like we are good match, then we’ll move forward and schedule an appointment.
Perfect. Paulina, it has been such a pleasure having you on campus. Thank you so much for your time today.