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Therapy & Counseling for the Elderly & Aging

Therapy & Counseling for the Elderly & Aging

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Statistics on Mental Health & The Elderly

  • Anxiety, significant cognitive impairment, and mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder are among the prevalent problems that 20% of persons aged 55 or older experience.1
  • Of the 34 million Americans 65 and over, more than two million experience depression in some form.2
  • In the first month following the loss of their spouse, a third of widows and widowers fulfill the criteria for depression, and 50% of these people are still clinically depressed one year later.
  • Healthcare expenses for older adults with depression symptoms are around 50% higher than for elderly patients without depression.
  • Nearly six times as many white men age 85 and older commit suicide (65.3 deaths per 100,000), compared to the national suicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000.
  • Primary care physicians provided treatment for more than 55% of elderly patients receiving mental health treatments. However, less than 3% of people 65 and older received treatments, such as therapy, from a specialized mental health professional.
  • The two most prevalent conditions in people over 60, dementia and depression, affect 5% to 7%. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that anxiety is a close second, affecting 3.8% of older people.3
  • Nearly 60% of the estimated 50 million dementia sufferers worldwide reside in low- and middle-income nations. In 2030, there will be a projected 82 million cases of dementia, and by 2050, there will be 152 million cases.4
  • The assumption that a decline in mental health is a normal aspect of aging was shown to be the most significant deterrent to seeking help in a study of persons between the ages of 60 and 79.5
  • Anxiety and despair rates rose among the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic.6
  • Anxiety or depression was reported by 28% of older women and 20% of older men in August 2020.7 This is unsurprising, considering older women experienced higher rates of depression symptoms and diagnoses than older men before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common Reasons Seniors Seek Therapy Treatment

Below are a few common reasons seniors seek therapy treatment:

  • Retirement
  • Dealing with grief
  • Fear of mortality
  • Medical issues
  • Ageism
  • Social isolation
  • Loneliness
  • Worrying about money
  • Alcohol/substance dependency
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep issues
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

Signs a Senior May Need Therapy

Every stage of life requires attention to one’s mental health. Counseling for the elderly can improve your quality of life and manage your mental health during the golden years.

The first step in receiving elderly counseling is to recognize the symptoms, which may include, but is not limited to, the following:8

  • Changes in mood, energy level, or hunger that are discernible
  • Lacking enthusiasm or having difficulty evoking pleasant feelings
  • Having trouble staying asleep or sleeping too much.
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feeling restless or tense
  • Rising anxiety or tension levels
  • Aggression, irritation, or anger
  • Ongoing pain, discomfort, or headaches
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Depression or despair
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Taking part in risky activities
  • Compulsions or obsessive thoughts
  • Thoughts or actions that disrupt your family, career, or social life
  • Thinking or acting in a way that worries others, including friends and family members
  • Being capable of seeing, hearing, and experiencing things that other people are not

Insurance may be able to help cover the cost of therapy. Find out if your insurance provider can help with the costs by filling in our confidential insurance verification form below.

What Happens in Therapy for the Elderly?

Since patients and psychologists work closely, finding the correct match is vital. Effective psychotherapy depends heavily on the therapeutic relationship (TR), which is thought to be responsible for between 20% and 27% of the variable in the outcome.9 Therefore, it’s essential to be open and honest about feelings, relationships, and other personal difficulties you may be facing.

You probably want to select a therapist covered by your health insurance to save money. Filling out our free and confidential online insurance verification form is the best method to determine the specifics of your therapy insurance coverage.

Furthermore, read reviews. Finding out if a counselor is the correct fit for you can be done via online review sites. Read testimonials from satisfied and dissatisfied clients to learn about a therapist’s qualities and shortcomings. You can also see if they have experience with your issues.

You should anticipate that your initial visit to the therapist will be similar to the doctor’s office. When you arrive, you’ll check in and sit in the waiting area until someone calls your name. The environment might be a little more laid back if your therapist works from a home office.10

You will likely complete some paperwork while you wait, such as:

  • HIPAA forms
  • Information about insurance
  • Medications you’re taking now and your medical history
  • Assessment of your symptoms
  • Record release form
  • Agreement between a therapist and a patient

If you feel uncomfortable answering the questions on paper, you can discuss them verbally with your therapist. Before your first visit, you might be able to complete this paperwork at home.

Typical forms of counseling for the elderly include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Geriatric Group Therapy: A great option for elderly adults to connect with others going through similar challenges. Additionally, it might lessen social isolation.11
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): an emerging strategy for treating distress of varying kinds.12
  • Problem-Solving Therapy: Senior patients can learn how to come up with solutions for their particular challenges by participating in problem-solving therapy.13
  • Reminiscence Therapy: Patients are encouraged to reflect on pleasant memories in this therapy. Patients with dementia can still benefit from it because they usually have a solid, long-term memory. When people reminisce pleasant memories, they become happier—their entire demeanor shifts.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a practical, long-lasting treatment for insomnia, anxiety, and depression in later life.
  • Occupational Therapy (OT): To accomplish functional goals that promote health, avoid injury or impairment, and establish, improve, sustain, or regain the highest level of independence, Occupational Therapy (OT) is a strategy that uses “purposeful activity or intervention.”14
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): In this short-term, structured therapeutic method, the therapist and client collaborate to pinpoint the client’s underlying issues and create workable coping mechanisms.

When you go in for your first in-person appointment with your therapist, be prepared to talk about the specifics of your issue(s), what you’ve done thus far to cope with it, whether you’ve attempted therapy before, and how that experience went. Your therapist will likely also ask you about your treatment goals and details about your past. Many people struggle during their first therapy session, which is completely normal.

The first appointment is a time for you and your therapist to get to know one another and determine the best course of treatment. Future appointments will focus more on therapy. For instance, you can focus on a particular symptom, issue, or previous trauma raised in your first session during your second appointment. In addition, medication may be prescribed or recommended at some point during treatment. This depends on the severity of the issue(s) and any potential diagnosis, such as anxiety or depression.

Furthermore, talk therapy can be conducted online from the comfort and privacy of your home.

Things to Consider When Seeking Therapy for Seniors

There are a few things to consider when seeking counseling for seniors. First and foremost, it’s essential to find qualified psychologists with substantial experience working with the elderly. Working with elderly individuals is a specialty for certain therapists and counselors. They are knowledgeable about the particular problems you and other people in your age group face.

These experts are also referred to as geriatric counselors or therapists.15 The more factors that primarily affect the elderly, like dementia and the grief of losing loved ones, the more specialized the geriatric therapist needs to be.

Therapists might hold a degree in social work or psychology. Additionally, they might run a private practice or provide services in a long-term care facility, senior center, or hospital.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably find a string of letters following mental health professionals’ names during your search. This is because many licensing authorities require physicians to indicate their degree (Masters, Doctorate, or Medical Doctorate) in addition to their license.

Each degree varies in terms of requirements. For example, a practicing clinician with LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) credentials in Tennessee has completed a master’s degree in social work and at least 3,000 hours of clinical experience. At least 100 hours included direct supervision, and 60 were one-on-one.16 And a psychologist (usually with a Ph.D. or PsyD) has training in many forms of psychotherapy and psychological assessment.

In addition to their credentials, asking the right questions will help you choose the best therapist for you. Some questions to ask before you make an appointment might include:

  • What professional associations are you a part of?
  • What’s your academic background?
  • What kind of training did you have to become a therapist?
  • How much do you charge? Do you accept insurance?
    • Some therapists will offer a sliding scale payment based on your income if they don’t accept insurance. Ask about this.
  • Tell me about any specialized training and/or experience you’ve had dealing with people my age and the problem(s) I’m facing.
  • What are your office protocols? (scheduling appointments, paying for missed ones, handling crises, gaining access afterhours, cancellation notices, etc.)
  • What kind of therapy do you provide? (Does the therapist offer opportunities beyond evidence-based talk therapy?)

Lastly, keep in mind that you can always try again. You are not required to go back if the initial counselor you select is ineffective. You can always give it another shot with a different therapist or counselor. It could take a few initial meetings before you find the proper fit.

Benefits of Therapy for the Aging

Counseling for the elderly can assist older adults who may be struggling with aging transitions to control their emotions better, discover new interests, and establish social networks. Unfortunately, many older persons grew up during a stigmatized period in which any mental health issues experienced were dismissed as the result of aging or dementia.17

However, therapy is now viewed as a type of treatment by many older adults. Research reveals that seniors are frequently more serious about therapy because they are aware of the passing of time. As a result, they typically see effects more quickly than younger people.

Below are a few of the significant benefits of therapy for the elderly:

  • Get to know yourself better: You will have the chance to gain a deeper understanding of yourself by seeking therapy. You begin a path of self-growth and healing by developing a better awareness of your values, personality, and beliefs.
  • A broader sense of fulfillment: As we age, we have more freedom to pursue hobbies and other interests that we previously may not have had the time for. Having a therapist by our side helps ease this adjustment and motivates us to pursue our goals in life.
  • It helps you develop a positive outlook: Particularly when it comes to aging, it’s simple to become comfortable with the “it is what it is” mentality. However, older adults require the same level of life satisfaction as younger people. Therapy can assist in identifying areas of our lives that aren’t beneficial to us and attempt to change our perspective.18
  • Teaches you how to ask for help: Older persons frequently believe that asking for assistance means losing their independence. But that hardly ever happens. Therapists can assist seniors in creating a solid network of support without surrendering their independence.
  • Develops an outlook for the future: As seniors, we still require a vision for the future. Knowing what you want your future to look like can be a great motivator and boost to your self-esteem.
  • Offers support and validation: Counselors provide assistance and direction by fostering a nonjudgmental environment where you’ll feel secure in expressing yourself. In addition, good therapists will exhibit empathy, compassion, and understanding.
  • Aids in behavior modification: Our habits can occasionally make issues worse. We can regain control by being more conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors by talking with a therapist.

Behavioral Health Resources for the Elderly & Aging


  1. “The State of Mental Health and Aging in America Issue Brief 1: What Do the Data Tell Us?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, 2008, www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/mental_health.pdf.
  2. “Depression In Older Adults: More Facts.” Mental Health America, Mental Health America, Inc., www.mhanational.org/depression-older-adults-more-facts#2. Accessed 4 Sept. 2022.
  3. “What to Know About Mental Health in Older Adults.” WebMD, WebMD LLC., 19 Mar. 2021, www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/mental-health-in-older-adults.
  4. “Mental Health of Older Adults.” World Health Organization, WHO, 12 Dec. 2017, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults.
  5. Wuthrich, Viviana M., and Jacqueline Frei. “Barriers to Treatment for Older Adults Seeking Psychological Therapy.” International Psychogeriatrics, vol. 27, no. 7, 2015, pp. 1227–36. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1017/s1041610215000241.
  6. Webb, Lauren M., and Christina Y. Chen. “The COVID‐19 Pandemic’s Impact on Older Adults’ Mental Health: Contributing Factors, Coping Strategies, and Opportunities for Improvement.” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vol. 37, no. 1, 2021. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1002/gps.5647.
  7. Garfield, Rachel. “One in Four Older Adults Report Anxiety or Depression Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.” KFF, Kaiser Family Foundation, 9 Oct. 2020, www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/one-in-four-older-adults-report-anxiety-or-depression-amid-the-covid-19-pandemic.
  8. “Older Adults and Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/older-adults-and-mental-health. Accessed 4 Sept. 2022.
  9. Mace, Ryan A., et al. “Therapeutic Relationship in the Treatment of Geriatric Depression With Executive Dysfunction.” Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 214, Elsevier BV, May 2017, pp. 130–37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.03.006.
  10. Schimelpfening, Nancy. “What to Expect During Your First Therapy Session.” Verywell Mind, Dotdash Media, Inc., 15 Dec. 2020, www.verywellmind.com/psychotherapy-101-p2-1067403.
  11. Lonczak, Heather S., PhD. “Geriatric Therapy: How to Help Older Adults With Depression.” PositivePsychology.com, 13 July 2022, positivepsychology.com/geriatric-therapy-older-adults-depression.
  12. Petkus, Andrew J., and Julie Loebach Wetherell. “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy With Older Adults: Rationale and Considerations.” Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, vol. 20, no. 1, Elsevier BV, Feb. 2013, pp. 47–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpra.2011.07.004.
  13. Mental Health Physicians Highlight Most Impactful Therapies for Seniors | News. 3 Feb. 2021, news.llu.edu/patient-care/mental-health-physicians-highlight-most-impactful-therapies-for-seniors.
  14. Punwar, Alice, et al. Occupational Therapy: Principles and Practice. 3rd ed., Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2000. https://www.worldcat.org/title/occupational-therapy-principles-and-practice/oclc/255053153
  15. “Counseling Older Adults.” WebMD, 19 Mar. 2021, www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/counseling-older-adults.
  16. Writers, Staff. “Social Work Licensure in Tennessee | Find Accredited Programs.” SocialWorkLicensure.Org, 1 July 2019, socialworklicensure.org/state/social-work-licensure-tennessee.
  17. “Aging and Geriatric Issues.” GoodTherapy, www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/aging. Accessed 5 Sept. 2022.
  18. “Talk Therapy and How It Can Help Aging Seniors.” Inspir, 5 Oct. 2021, inspirseniorliving.com/talk-therapy-and-how-it-can-help-aging-seniors#.

If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from mental health disorders, contact Athena Care today.

One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control. 

(615) 320-1155