The complex changes that occur in our minds, as well as in our bodies, are one of the reasons such a specialized professional as a geropsychologist is needed in today’s society. As aging individuals are faced with disease, illness and body pain, they often experience increased instances of depression and other emotional issues. With age also comes the inevitable death of friends and loved ones, causing distress and unhappiness. All of the experiences that are unique to the aging population contribute to the need for specialized psychological services such as geropsychology, a branch of psychology aimed at helping older people to deal with problems, maintain wellness and work toward maximum potential. Let’s take a look at some of the duties of someone in this field.
Psychologists working on issues that affect older adults must engage in research studies in order to determine the best methods to meet the cognitive, emotional and psychosocial needs of their clients. Research is focused on caregiving needs, ailments related to aging and specific therapies that are effective with older persons. Having a greater understanding of the issues at hand, and the kinds of treatments that are most successful, will help geriatric psychology professionals to assess the needs of their clients.
Using the knowledge gained from their research, geropsychologists are then able to assess their patients, leading to diagnoses of potential mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are commonly seen diagnoses in this population. Many people mistakenly believe that these things are just part of growing older. However, that is not necessarily so. Older people can live happy, healthy lives despite some of the hardships that come with age. Working with a professional such as a geropsychologist, who is knowledgeable in the specific psychological dilemmas faced by this age group, can help older adults suffering from a mental health problem to manage it, either with medicine, therapy or both.
Geropsychologists can assess the difference between what is a normal reaction to outside events and what may be causing unnecessary hardship on a patient’s mental state. Though grief, sadness, loss and loneliness are expected, when these emotions interfere with daily life, it is time to assess what the underlying problem may be. That’s when a professional in this field is needed.
As with any population, various treatments are used to help older people effectively deal with the mental distress that is troubling them. Common psychological interventions used with this population include therapeutic approaches such as psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral and interpersonal therapies. Psychodynamic theory is based on the work of Sigmund Freud and looks to the subconscious mind to figure out what is causing problems for the patient in their daily life. The interpersonal approach focuses on the feelings that surround relationships, and cognitive behavioral therapy examines negative thought patterns that are influencing behaviors and attempts to teach the client to change their thinking in order to improve their feelings. Of course, there are other treatments that are utilized in geropsychology, but these are some of the most common.
If you enjoy working with older people and have excellent interpersonal and anlytical skills, this may be a field for you. Becoming a geropsychologist requires a great deal of dedication and time, but it can be a very rewarding career.