305 West End Assisted Living Blog

A Closer Look at Therapy Options for Older Adults

Senior woman speaking with therapist

Caring for your mental health is important at any age. The World Health Organization reports that about 20 percent of people over the age of 60 suffer from a mental health condition, including depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments available to help you care for your mental health. Learn more about therapy options and how they can help you feel your best, regardless of your life stage. 

What is Therapy? 

Therapy involves meeting with a professional, such as a licensed therapist or clinical psychologist, to discuss your questions and concerns relating to your mental health. Think of it like going to any other doctor. A mental health professional can help you identify opportunities and changes to cope with or overcome problems, boost your mental health, and help you live a healthier life. 

Types of Therapy Options 

There are many types of therapy to consider depending on your individual needs. They include:

  • Talk therapy (also called psychotherapy) - involves meeting with a professional to discuss your concerns and build strategies for overcoming or managing them. 
  • Behavioral therapy  - includes a variety of therapy types aimed at creating positive behaviors and eliminating negative ones.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy - CBT explores the relationship among a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to identify unhealthy patterns and build more positive ones.
  • Psychodynamic therapy - helps people uncover past experiences that may be causing negative behavior patterns and learn to overcome them.
  • Holistic therapy - aims to align all facets of a person’s health and well-being. 

Therapists typically specialize in one of these styles, then apply them to individuals, couples, or groups.

Reasons to See a Therapist 

Anywhere from one to five percent of seniors may experience depression. The number is typically higher for those who require in-home or nursing home care. Seniors may also experience anxiety and other types of psychological conditions. The good news is that therapy can help: 75 percent of people who participated in talk therapy noted some benefit. 

An older couple in therapy together to cope with life changes.

Whether you are struggling with depression or having difficulty adjusting to a new stage in life, just about anyone may benefit from receiving therapy. Some reasons you may consider seeing a therapist include: 

  • Coping with life changes, like losing a job, the death of a loved one, or grown children moving away. 
  • Resolving conflicts between family members, friends, or other acquaintances. 
  • Coping with a serious or ongoing health issue, like cancer or dementia, either in yourself or a loved one. 
  • Recovering from a substance abuse disorder.
  • Seeking help for anxiety or depression. 
  • Improving your sleeping habits. 

Fortunately, great strides have been made in increasing the public’s awareness of mental health. Advances in treatments and technology and more public dialogue have helped shine a spotlight on the importance of mental health — empowering more people to seek the help they need.

How Talk Therapy Works 

Therapy will be different for each person depending on your goals, needs, the type of therapy you’re receiving, and more. 

The brain has the ability to change and adapt through life experiences; this process is called neuroplasticity. Through neuroplasticity, therapy works by helping to change your brain structure and function to a healthier state. It also teaches you new skills, such as learning to cope with stress positively. 

At your first therapy appointment, you will likely spend some time getting to know the therapist. Similar to any other doctor’s appointment, they’ll ask you health history questions and become familiar with your situation. 

The therapist will typically discuss what you’d like to achieve or work on. Together, you will determine an outcome that you will strive to accomplish during your sessions together. Some therapists may assign “homework” — something to do or think about ahead of an upcoming session. 

Most people notice an improvement after a few months of therapy. But the tools and knowledge you gain from therapy can continue to positively impact the rest of your life. 

Related: Is the MIND diet good for brain health? 

Benefits of Therapy for Seniors

It is clear that therapy can be beneficial in developing good relationship skills with oneself and others. But it can also be important in helping older adults navigate the emotions and stress associated with common life transitions.

Therapy can also help provide the following benefits

  • Better communication skills
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • More happiness and life satisfaction
  • Increased confidence and empowerment 
  • Improvement in blood pressure and relief from chronic pain

Finding a Therapist 

Choosing the right therapist for you will depend on your needs, preferences, location, and more. It’s important to remain persistent with your search until you find the right option for you. 

There are many choices when it comes to who provides therapy, including psychologists, social workers, and licensed professional counselors. WebMD suggests the following tips when looking for the right therapist for you:

  • Call a university psychiatry or psychology department and ask for recommendations of people trained in that program. Be sure to ask about the type of therapy they specialize in.
  • Call a large clinic in your area and ask for a recommendation. The receptionist will likely be able to match you with someone who specializes in whatever area you need. 
  • Check with friends, family, and neighborhoods for referrals. 
  • Check with professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

When you choose a therapist, allow yourself some time to feel comfortable with the person. Like any relationship, it may take a few visits to build trust and share openly. 

As you consider whether you’re a good match, ask yourself whether the therapist is focused on your goals. Do their recommendations make sense and help you? Are they a good listener? If you still don’t feel your visits are effective, explore other options that will be a better match. 

Related: Simple self-care ideas >>

Online Therapy Options to Explore

Do you prefer to meet with a therapist from the comfort of your own home? Or, maybe limited mobility makes traveling to appointments a challenge. Luckily, there are a plethora of online options to choose from these days. 

Online therapy can often be more convenient and affordable than in-person therapy. However, you’ll want to consider your options before choosing a service or therapist online. Always do your research to ensure the practitioner is licensed and that the service is secure. 

Specialized online therapy is available for various groups — whether you’re seeking one for families, couples, addiction, and more. Before choosing one, you may want to compare a few options to see which will be best for you. 

Read This Next: Strategies for Overcoming Loneliness

Loneliness can affect anyone, especially older adults. Learn more about how to stay socially connected and boost your mental health in our blog, 5 Strategies for Overcoming Loneliness in Older Adults. 

Read Now >> 

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