What is Gerontological Counseling?

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Gerontological CounselingGerontological counseling offers mental health assistance to older adults during the difficult stages of advanced aging and loss of independence. Gerontological counselors help older clients with common problems and seek to make their lives more manageable and comfortable.

Gerontology and Counseling

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), providing psychological assessments and services to older adults is more challenging and specialized. There is a growing demand for mental health professionals who are trained to deal specifically with the needs and problems of older adults. On the one hand, gerontology is the academic study of the social, physical and psychological changes that people experience as they age. On the other hand, counseling is a mental health field that focuses on identifying and resolving various emotional and psychological problems. Gerontological counseling combines elements of both fields to assist elderly clients cope with common mental and physical health issues that are associated with aging in order to improve overall quality of life.

Gerontological Counselor Job Description

Geriatric counselors start their work by analyzing and understanding the unique needs of their client. They will review the client’s medical and case history and other relevant documentation. They will also seek to understand their client’s social, personal and financial situation. Then, they will collaborate with the client and create a concise plan designed to improve quality of life. This may involve education, such as helping the client learn how to manage money, and health care, such as working with their client’s hospital social worker. Common jobs in gerontology include hospice executive, nursing home administrator and case management supervisor. Potential workplaces include community, retirement, human service or adult care facilities.

What are the Education Requirements?

Professional counseling of any kind generally requires a master’s degree and specialized training. Gerontological counseling is no exception, but there are very limited bachelor’s degrees in this field. Therefore, students should consider obtaining an accredited bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in counseling, social work. Upon completion of a master’s degree, students will be ready to obtain their state sponsored counseling license and if required, complete their post-graduate clinical internship or practicum. Most states require gerontological counselors to have approximately 3,000 hours of supervised experience working with older individuals before they become licensed.

A Typical Master’s Degree Program

A gerontological counseling program will generally provide training that aligned with the academic values and standards of the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Specialized courses will explore the social, culture, biological and psychological aspects of aging. Students will learn about current issues in gerontology and how to become a community advocate for aging populations. Students must also study basic counseling classes that will be focused on older populations. These classes include couples, family, group and substance abuse counseling for older adults. Master’s degrees in gerontological counseling include specializations in management, health policy and public health and administration.

Related Resource: Top 15 Online Masters in Counseling Degree Programs 2015

Students who wish to pursue a career in gerontological counseling should complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree and then obtain a license and private accreditation.