The benefits of psychotherapy, or ‘talk’ therapy, have been well documented, but the practice still has its skeptics. For many people, mental health intervention holds a stigma of shame—plainly put, anyone who seeks any type of therapeutic help must be crazy. But psychotherapy is widely used by people in all walks of life, and for seniors it can be a powerful tool for finding balance in the later years.
Therapy is not about lying on a couch and analyzing dreams. The basic idea behind talk therapy is to identify problems or issues, explore the root cause, and work toward finding solutions. One of the reasons that this type of therapy is so successful is that it aims to arm the individual with the tools to apply these solutions in everyday life. Learning to cope with feelings, situations, and emotions, is one of the best ways to empower yourself toward a happy life.
So why is therapy a good idea for seniors? First and foremost, aging adults go through more physical changes than any other phase of life. Illness becomes more of a factor than ever before, and even healthy adults may experience a sensation of slowing down. The change in our bodies can bring about feelings of fear and uncertainty, which can, in time, lead to depression. Similarly, seniors face extensive social challenges. Retirement is often seen as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it is also a major lifestyle change and, for some, a difficult adjustment. It’s not always easy to decide what to do with the rest of one’s life. Seniors may have children who have grown, lost friends who have moved or passed, or suffered the death of a partner or spouse. Personal loss is severely taxing, and when viewed in combination with one’s own physical changes, can be overwhelmingly difficult to deal with.
As such, therapy can be extremely beneficial in helping seniors deal with these transitions. There are therapists specifically trained in geriatric issues ranging from simple anxiety to more complex fears associated with later life. And issues don’t have to be age-related. Happily, as the stigma toward mental health diminishes, more seniors are becoming open to exploring past traumas or facing long hidden fears. The ability to open up to the past and pave the way toward a more positive future is healthy for anyone, regardless of age.
In addition to talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy is also beneficial to seniors, and can help address more direct, short-term issues. This type of therapy is focused on identifying core issues behind depression, anxiety, and isolation, and developing behavioral changes to combat them. The benefit of this type of therapy is that it works more rapidly than psychotherapy, which can be helpful to seniors on a budget who may be unable to afford extended sessions. Identifying challenges and solutions is the core focus of CBT, a technique that has proven highly successful with the senior demographic.
Therapy has no pre-requisite, and there should be no shame in seeking help. Recognizing the need for support is a sign of strength, so be sure to explore any avenues necessary to stay healthy (mentally and physically) at every stage of life.