The Role of Late-Life Therapy

By Amanda Ronan

Young psychiatrist with a geropsychology background does assessment on older African-American male

One of the fastest-growing populations of people seeking therapy for the first time are senior citizens. Many come from generations when it was not considered necessary to ask for help; some were taught to hide their emotions, to “be strong” and deal with whatever life events came up by themselves. But as they are aging, many older Americans are beginning to turn to counseling and therapy as a way to cope with unresolved feelings they may have lived with for many years.

Continue reading to learn why some seniors are beginning to seek therapy and what issues they are getting help with most.

What is Bringing Seniors to Seek Help?

As with any group, there are lots of reasons why senior citizens start therapy for the first time after nearly a lifetime of possibly ignoring their feelings or hoping things change on their own. So what changes for them?

1. They want end of life to be easier than beginning.

Some seniors who are seeking therapy have decided they want to enjoy their last years. Instead of living with crippling grief, depression, and anger, they are looking for ways to be more proactive with their mental health.

2. They want to talk to someone.

As they age, seniors are finding that their friends, peers and social groups are not as active as they once were. Many experience multiple deaths of family and friends each year. Many seniors seek therapy as they are looking for ways to communicate with someone who can understand the struggles of their lives.

3. Medicare pays for psychiatric assessments and therapy.

Seniors can access therapeutic services through Medicare; this may make the process more appealing to them. The financial barriers that many patients face when pursuing counseling is not always a barrier for older Americans.

What Do Counselors Need to Know About Senior Patients?

Geropsychology is a branch of psychology that specializes in the health needs of senior citizens, including mental health. Those not familiar with this field may wonder what issues seniors may bring to therapy. Some include:

1. Depression

Seniors have a lot of time to reflect on how they have lived their lives. They also often outlive some of the most important people in their lives. In addition, seniors may feel a sense of loss or low self-esteem after they retire, if they do not find meaningful work in other areas. All of these issues may lead to depression. In fact, The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that more than 6.5 million Americans over age 65 suffer from depression.

2. Anxiety

Many seniors feel anxiety around aging and impending end-of-life situations. In addition, children or grandchildren may be pressuring the patient to move out of a home and into a care facility. These changes can cause mood disturbances and even panic in some instances.

3. Substance Abuse

A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that about half of all Americans ages 50 to 70 will be at high risk for alcohol and marijuana abuse by 2020, compared with less than 9 percent in 1999. In addition, the chronic health problems that seniors often face might lead to prescription pill abuse in some instances.

If you have an interest in the areas of counseling, behavioral science or mental health, you may wish to consider a degree program from Grand Canyon University’s diverse College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Consider a Graduate Certificate of Completion in Geropsychology or our Master of Science in Psychology with an Emphasis in Geropsychology degrees to get started in this rewarding field.

To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences provides students with the knowledge get started helping seniors and other groups get the therapy they need, visit our website today or click the Request More Information button on this page.

More About Amanda:

Amanda Ronan is a writer and editor focused on education. She was a classroom teacher for nearly a decade. Now she spends her time writing for students, teachers and parents. Amanda also writes curriculum for entrepreneurial learning and financial literacy programs. Amanda lives in Austin where she enjoys splashing in creeks with her husband and two dogs, swaying in a hammock on the porch and sampling all the breakfast tacos the city has to offer.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.