Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

In a culture obsessed with youth, the needs of older individuals are often not addressed. Successful aging typically requires a degree of anticipating the changes, planning accordingly and enjoying the moments that this new stage bringsss.

Common struggles that older adults frequently face and seek out therapy for:

  • Retirement

  • Empty nesting

  • Navigating family and caregiving relationships

  • Insomnia

  • Chronic illness, pain, and disability

  • Death of family members and peer group

  • Loneliness and isolation

  • All the traditional therapeutic issues: anxiety, depression, grief, anger, marital problems, affairs, sexual dysfunction etc.

Fortunately, therapy is shown to be an efficacious option for older adults who are struggling to adjust to changes brought on during this period of life. With a mindset shift, older adults can create the experience(s) that they want. WIth the support of a therapist, clients will tap into their own wisdom and resiliency to make peace with the past, find strategies to enjoy the moment, and find a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.

While all humans have the same basic needs, the developmental needs of an older adult are unique. When choosing a therapist, we encourage you to choose a therapist with real experience / training in this area.

How Older Adults Can Benefit from Therapy:

  • Become more present and mindful

  • Anticipate & prepare for this stage of life

  • Develop healthier relationships through better boundaries and communication

  • Cultivate more gratitude for what is and acceptance for what cannot be changed

  • Become more engaged in your community

  • Gain a stronger sense of purpose and meaning in life

  • Have a cheerleader / guide to help you

Why Stigma is a Barrier to Therapy for Older Adults

Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

Studies show that older adults are underserved by the mental health system. Some older adults may not recognize their mental health symptoms as worthy of treatment, subscribing to a pull- yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. Older adults may hold stigmas about therapy itself based on outdated ideas about what therapy involves and who it’s for, or they may have discomfort with a mental health diagnosis.

Fortunately, therapy today is demonstrated to be useful for a wide variety of presenting concerns, not all of which require a diagnosis. In fact, while therapy is essential for treating serious mental health concerns that may involve a diagnosis, most clients present to therapy struggling with life transitions and relationship issues that are accompanied by increases in grief, anxiety, or depressive symptoms. Whereas in the past therapy operated from a “pathology” model, which, similar to medicine, focuses on fixing something that’s broken, most therapy today focuses on collaborating with clients to leverage their inherent strengths to devise a plan that addresses their areas of concern.

Another reason older adults are underserved in therapy is that many doctors who interface with older adults may neglect to screen for emotional well-being. This may be in part that other illness issues take precedence during a physician visit, but stigma may also play a role: Changes to an older adult’s mood, activity, interests, and personality may wrongly be attributed to the aging process and therefore not be seen as worthy of mental health treatment.

Older adults, like all people, deserve access to therapy, and while some may be influenced by stigmas about therapy as something that’s fluffy or gratuitous, mental health actually contributes to physical health and vice versa. For instance, one of the treatments for high blood pressure is to manage anxiety levels since anxiety is linked to blood pressure, and untreated depression in someone with heart disease can negatively affect the disease outcome.

Biopsychosocial Assessment for Olders Adults: Special Considerations for Older Adults in Therapy

Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

Therapists at The Center for Growth conduct biopsychosocial assessments during our intake process and pay special attention to certain factors when working with older adults. Given the higher prevalence of medical disorders and medication use among older adults, our therapists assess psychological symptoms and mental functioning from a holistic lens. Doing so enables us to explore potential physical causes of psychological symptoms as well as side effects of medications contributing to emotional distress or barriers to psychological functioning.

When necessary, we also work with specialized neuropsychological professionals who can assess neurological issues. We strive to collaborate with a client’s primary care doctor and whole health care team to ensure no stone is left unturned when it comes to assessing and treating our older adult clients.

Life Reflection and Exploration of Meaning Therapy for Older Adults

Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

Many older adults come to therapy sharing about feeling stagnant, disconnected from themselves and their community, isolated, or unproductive. Therapy for older adults can help you to reframe your experience in such a way that you feel empowered to continue to make your mark on the world in ways that will outlast you, to give back to help you to feel useful, productive, and part of the “bigger picture.”

Through talking with a skilled therapist, older adults gain the ability to shift their self-narrative from a bias towards negativity to one that accurately reflects the full picture of their lives, the whole range of joys and sorrows. By shifting to a more neutral and empowering self narrative, older adults can let go of self-defeating beliefs that prevent them from tapping into their decades of accumulated wisdom. More in touch with their innate wisdom and strength, it becomes clearer how to shift one’s behavior and relationships in order to feel more connected, at peace, and accepting of any unresolved sense that life did not go as hoped or planned.

Disability, Chronic Illness, and Chronic Pain Therapy for Older Adults

Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

As discussed briefly above, mental health and physical health are intertwined, and effective treatment of one often benefits from treatment of the other. This is especially true for older adults who are adjusting to issues of disability, chronic illness, or chronic pain and related limitations on their functioning and relationships, issues that physical medicine often does not directly treat. Disabilities and chronic conditions often involve losses to one’s health, relationships, finances, and sense of self, and learning to live with these losses can be as big of a mountain to climb as treating the physical symptoms accompanying the conditions.

Therapy can help clients to explore the mind-body connection by examining self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors that may be exacerbating one’s experience of symptoms. Older adult clients with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or chronic pain are guided to turn towards these conditions with acceptance and self-compassion, creating space for the exploration of “a new normal” that allows one to live their life as fully as possible.

To help further explain, consider the analogy of a car. For most young people, your body is like a brand new car, full of new parts, shiny and well lubricated. With TLC, good luck, and regular maintenance, a new car will run for many years and get you to where you need to go. As a result of the normal aging process, car parts get dinged up, the gears don’t work quite as smoothly, and some parts get a little more finicky. Some parts may need to be replaced ouright. In order to continue using the car, you must attend to the car’s shift from a new car to a less new car. In short, therapy can help give you the tools to become a more skilled mechanic for your car (i.e. your body!).

Grief and Loneliness Therapy for Older Adults

Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

Grief therapy for older adults can be very effective to help individuals cope with the emotions and stressors connected to a loss. Because everyone responds to loss differently, and depending on the individual and the severity of the loss, one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around their loss can be difficult to manage alone. While younger adults and youth may have more social support to rely on during periods of grief, older adults may feel isolated with their grief if they can no longer rely on spouses or their peer group for emotional support. For this reason, it is especially helpful to have an unbiased professional who can help you process the loss, help you understand why you are reacting this way, and how to better manage your grief moving forward.

Some older adults may feel reluctant to seek out grief therapy because they’re trying to feel “less sad” and that coming to therapy to talk about their pain and loss will only make their grief and pain worse. Our approach to grief therapy for adults is designed to help feel safety and support in exploring your loss and sadness with the intention of learning better ways to manage your grief and to live your life.

Additional Types of Therapy for Older Adults

Therapy for Older Adults in Ocean City, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, Mechanicsville, VA, Santa Fe, NM, GA and FL

Therapy for Olders Adults Who Are Caregivers or Rely on Caregivers: Caregiving can be a real stressor for older adults who are caregivers for family and friends as well as for older adults who are the recipient of caregiving relationships. Therapy aims to help reduce stress and strains on relationships by empowering you to be more accepting of your limitations and more capable of communicating about them whether you’re a caregiver or recipient of caregiving

Sex Therapy for Older Adults: There are unique challenges to sex and dating for older adults, including normal changes to one’s body and capacity for sexual performance. In addition, many older adults came of age at a time before online dating. Sex therapy for older adults will give you tools to improve sexual performance while supporting you to navigate dating and romance in this new technological landscape.

Insomnia Therapy for Older Adults: Many older adults experience challenges to having a good night’s sleep. These changes reflect normal shifts to the body’s circadian rhythm, but they can be disruptive and anxiety provoking. By helping older adults to become more aware of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that impact their sleep quality and anxiety about sleep, older adults are able to feel more at peace with their body’s changes and ultimately experience improved rest.