With an eye toward starting off 2024 with the healthiest possible mindset, a psychotherapist is sharing the mental health trends that she expects will be prevalent in the New Year.
Nicholette Leanza, a psychotherapist at LifeStance Health in Ohio, has experience working with children, adolescents and adults in a variety of treatment settings.
She also hosts the “Convos from the Couch” podcast, in which she speaks with industry thought leaders.
Based on her treatment experience and expert conversations, below are the nine trends that Leanza envisions for 2024 — and ways that all can achieve better mental health in the year ahead
1. Blurred lines between therapists and mental health coaches
As the number of non-licensed “mental health coaches” continues to grow, Leanza stressed the need for people to seek out credentialed therapists.
While the non-licensed coaches can help provide coping skills and mindfulness tools, she warned that they should not be seen as a replacement for clinicians with training and licensure.
“There is a difference between therapy and skill-building — so people will need to have a clear understanding of the appropriate role that both types of professionals play when it comes to mental health support and guidance,” she told Fox News Digital.
2. Spike in community-specific mental health groups
“As people navigate an increasingly disconnected world and start to be more open about mental health struggles, we’ll see an increasing number of community and condition-specific groups come together — both over social media and in the workplace,” Leanza predicted.
“Whether this involves finding solidarity and comfort in similar conditions from depression to OCD to ADHD, or struggles faced by specific cultural identities, people will be naturally drawn together to build ecosystems and resources for specialized advice and guidance,” she said.
3. Music as relaxation therapy
The year 2023 marked one of the strongest years for fans’ loyalty to specific artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Harry Styles, Leanza pointed out.
“Traditionally, soothing and ambient noise has been used as a go-to source for relaxation, but as artist obsessions deepen, we’re seeing people leveraging their favorite musicians as a way to relieve anxiety,” she said.
In the New Year, the therapist expects people to continue turning to music as a form of therapy to lift them up and down through different emotions, moods and life cycles.
4. Culture of rapid weight loss
As weight-loss medications continue to become more popular and accessible, Leanza expects that people will start coming to terms with the emotional impact of significant weight loss.
“We’re going to see a ‘catching up’ of sorts, between the physical and psychological aspects of weight loss, and a shifting of mindset that will focus on how you feel on the inside, despite how you look on the outside,” she told Fox News Digital.
“People are going to need to reflect within and focus on building strong body perception now more than ever.”
5. Moderation and long-term sober living
Instead of the annual trend of “Dry January,” Leanza expects to see a shift away from an “all or nothing” mindset when it comes to alcohol.
“Rather than going cold turkey for one month a year, I expect to see more people focus on being ‘sober-curious’ year round, and being increasingly mindful about their alcohol intake as they work to build a more sustainable healthy lifestyle,” she told Fox News Digital.
6. Mental health at work
Leanza foresees a growing trend of people prioritizing their mental health over work — something largely led by Gen Z.
This might include using sick days to deal with bouts of anxiety, taking time off between jobs to focus on mental health or taking a leave for intensive outpatient programs, she said.
“This is shifting the way we think about work-life balance and communication in the workplace,” said Leanza.
“I see young people being significantly more open and transparent about discussing mental health at work, particularly as hybrid and virtual office settings have blurred the lines between work and life, with Zoom meetings sometimes even shifting into personal venting sessions to replace water cooler talk,” she said.
In 2024, the therapist also expects more companies to start offering mental health support and resources to their employees.
7. Discernment of mental health content on social media
In 2023, there was an “explosion” of TikTok self-diagnoses around mental health issues — and the therapist sounded a warning on this.
“It’s gone beyond mainstream and almost became a point of pride, especially for Gen Z,” she told Fox News Digital.
In 2024, Leanza anticipates that people will take a more “discerning eye” toward the mental health content they consume on social media.
“I think they will hold it to a higher standard, relying on licensed mental health professionals to diagnose and counsel them rather than looking to influencers,” she predicted.
8. Higher demand for in-person therapy
“Gen Z is coming of age at a time when mental health awareness is at an all-time high,” Leanza told Fox News Digital.
Although that age group has grown up in a digital world, she said they also crave face-to-face interaction, especially when it comes to their mental health.
“While it depends on patients and their specific diagnosis, for many younger clients, it’s their first time seeing a therapist,” she said.
“Having sessions in-person can help them build a relationship with their therapist and create a more comfortable environment for them to open up.”
9. More holistic New Year’s resolutions
While physical movement has benefits for overall health, Leanza said it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for therapy.
“Going for a run can help release endorphins and alleviate anxiety in the moment, but it’s still critical to properly address deeper issues and trauma with a licensed professional rather than relying on exercise as a band-aid,” she told Fox News Digital.
“As we look toward the New Year and setting resolutions, I anticipate seeing an increase in people committing to therapy — rather than just the gym — as they deepen their understanding of this and recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health.”