By Toby White
Do you ever feel nervous about your future? Is everyone pressuring you to decide what you want to do with your life-and you have no clue? Feel like the “real world” is approaching and you’re not ready? Well, you’re not as alone as you may think. Many university-aged people feel like they’re going through a “quarter life crisis,” unsure of what the future has in store and worried that they are on the wrong path. Fortunately, help is available.
Stephanie Foster, a U of C Psychology graduate, and her colleagues at The Psychology Group have developed a program to aid individuals aged 18 to 29 who may be overwhelmed by the life choices they face.
"There seems to be a void of services for those people," explained Foster. "We have developed services focused on career counselling, choosing an educational program, etc. People are worried about making the right choices and we offer counselling for those issues."
Foster believes the quarter life crisis phenomenon is caused in part by the greater stress placed on today’s young people in regard to their future. It takes a lot longer for students to acquire the level of education required for professional careers, and the cost of education itself can be overwhelming.
"Students want to ensure they’re on the right path," explained Foster. "No one wants to spend over $20,000 and find out they’ve done the wrong thing."
Academic research into the emotional issues faced by individuals in their early twenties is lacking. Foster believes this is largely due to financial factors-students simply can’t afford to pay for the kind of psychoanalysis that is often done on older adults.
"While there is some research on indecision in college-aged people, there is no research on the feelings associated with life at that age," said Foster.
Foster developed her program with this in mind and The Psychology Group offers counselling and services specific to student problems at a discounted rate. Foster also believes that society does not appreciate the stress faced by individuals in their twenties.
"Society perceives that this is a carefree time without stress," Foster points out. "But having your whole life ahead of you can be the cause of a lot of stress."
While students are often conscious of the stress that their life choices impose on them, they are reluctant to seek help because of the stigma attached to therapy. Foster receives many calls from parents concerned about their children, but she encourages people experiencing a quarter life crisis to contact her.
"This is not psychotherapy with you lying on a couch," explained Foster. "For anyone who feels they are struggling we will try and focus on practical issues, whether that be career or personal counselling."
Foster believes the key to becoming comfortable with yourself and the path your life is taking is to ignore what other people or society may be pressuring you to do. You need to know yourself and not be afraid of failure.
"Look at why you’re struggling, and then focus on what you want," said Foster.