Therapy In Your Golden Years

Posted by Hilary Young on April 30, 2013

Therapy In Your Golden Years

We came across a great article in the New York Times called “How Therapy Can Help in the Golden Years,” about the benefits of seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist in your later years. As the article points out, the idea of therapy is off-putting and seen as unnecessary by the Greatest Generation, having grown up during an “era when only ‘crazy’ people sought psychiatric help.” We’ve collected some of the highlights from this article for you and listed them below:

  • “We’ve been seeing more people in their 80's and older over the past five years, many who have never done therapy before,” said Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, a professor of research in the department of psychiatry at Stanford. “Usually, they’ve tried other resources like their church, or talked to family. They’re realizing that they’re living longer, and if you’ve got another 10 or 15 years, why be miserable if there’s something that can help you?”

  • Some of these older patients are clinically depressed. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that more than 6.5 million Americans over age 65 suffer from depression. But many are grappling with mental health issues unaddressed for decades, as well as contemporary concerns about new living arrangements, finances, chronic health problems, the loss of loved ones and their own mortality.

  • Attitudes [about psychiatry] have shifted over time, along with the medical community’s understanding of mental illness among seniors. In the past, the assumption was that if older people were acting strangely or having problems, it was probably dementia. But now, “the awareness of depression, anxiety disorders and substance abuse as possible problems has grown,” said Bob G. Knight, a professor of gerontology and psychology at the University of Southern California, and the author of “Psychotherapy With Older Adults.”

  • Many [seniors] eagerly embrace talk therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral techniques that focus on altering thought patterns and behaviors affecting their quality of life now. Experts say that seniors generally have a higher satisfaction rate in therapy than younger people because they are usually more serious about it. Time is critical, and their goals usually are well defined.


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