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What is Geropsychology

What is professional geropsychology?

Professional geropsychology became an official psychological speciality in 2010.Geropsychology is a specialty in professional psychology that applies the knowledge and methods of psychology to understanding and helping seniors and their families to maintain well-being, overcome problems and achieve maximum potential during later life.

Individuals in this age group face many losses:  loss of physical ability and health, loss of lifelong relationships and loss of autonomy. This has resulted in an increase in their mental health needs. Mental disorders, depression and ageing, anxiety, and age-related illnesses all increase the need for older adults to seek psychological care from geropsychologists. Due to the complex changes that occur in the minds, as well as in the bodies as we age, geropsychologists are needed in today’s society.

What does geropsychology address?

The specialty of geropsychology addresses many biopsychosocial problems encountered by seniors and their families such as:

  1. Mental disorders

  2. Dementia and related behavioral/lifestyle changes

  3. Changes in decision making or everyday living abilities 

  4. Coping with and managing chronic illness 

  5. Behavioral health concerns 

  6. Grief and loss 

  7. Family caregiving strains 

  8. Adjustment to aging-related stresses

  9. End-of-life care

What do geropsychologists do?

Using the knowledge gained from their research, on caregiving needs, ailments related to ageing and specific therapies that are effective with seniors, and skills, in assessment, intervention and consultation, geropsychologists are then able to assess their patients, leading to diagnoses of potential mental health issues. They are able to tell the difference between what a normal reaction to outside events is, and what may be causing unnecessary hardship on a person’s mental state. Despite some of the hardships that come with ageing, seniors can live happy, healthy lives. With the help of a geropsychologist, seniors can learn to manage their mental health with medicine and/or therapy.

What are the specialised knowledge of a geropsychologist?

  1. Adult Development and Ageing

  2. Behavioral and Mental Health in Late Life

  3. Foundations of Geropsychological Assessment

  4. Foundations of Intervention and Consultation

What are the types of treatments?

There are three common treatments to help seniors effectively deal with their mental distress:

  1. Psychodynamic

  2. Cognitive Behavioural

  3. Interpersonal Therapy

How to become a geropsychologist?

Clinical education and training, to perform psychotherapy and/or psychological evaluations, are required. Some geropsychology studies are offered as concentrations within clinical psychology programs. The program does not necessarily need to be labeled as geropsychology but at the least; there should be research in gerontological issues and suitable mentorship.

What are the licensing and certification requirements?

In the US, a clinical psychologist will need state licensing. In many cases, it will be a generic psychology license. The individual will need to do a formal internship and approximately a year of additional supervised practice. The additional practice may or may not be part of a formal postdoctoral fellowship.

A Board certification indicates a level of expertise beyond what is required for licensing. Candidates will need to meet general requirements for ABPP diplomat status. Additionally, they will need 2,000 hours of formal geropsychological training or 3,000 hours of informal training. Requirements for formal geropsychology education are modest: two courses or seminars or 100 hours of continuing education. Certification candidates must have post-license experience with seniors.

What are the careers in geropsychology?

A career in geropsychology requires dedication and a commitment to advancing treatment and care for seniors. A doctorate in either psychology or geropsychology would help prepare individuals for a clinical practice that focused on the ageing population. Previous experience with seniors, in either an internship or volunteer setting, is strongly recommended for students who wish to study geropsychology.

Career opportunities for students interested in psychology and ageing are expanding. Although there is a broad range of exciting opportunities in psychological research and practice focusing on seniors, there are not enough psychologists to keep pace with the increasing demand. It is an exciting time in geropsychology; geropsychology has grown so much in the past years. There is a growing understanding and support for efforts to address their mental and behavioral health needs, and career opportunities in psychology and ageing are growing.

What role does geropsychology play in chronic illness in seniors?

Negative cognitive changes sometimes manifest in seniors for a variety of reasons, including retirement, financial difficulties, transportation issues, housing problems, and declining health. Anxiety is common in seniors who also experience symptoms of depression. Geropsychology identifies stress factors, from the past or present that cause anxiety in the lives of seniors and provides the most suitable treatment. Geropsychologists guide seniors through all the issues associated with chronic illness, including socioenvironmental issues and crumbling social networks, to help them adjust to their conditions and comply with treatment.

What role does geropsychology play in substance abuse?

Older adults with substance abuse problems are likely to have feelings of isolation, letting their substance abuse erode their social networks. Geropsychology research provides guidelines and programs to help older adults who suffer from substance abuse by focusing on rebuilding those social networks. One successful program was the Gerontology Alcohol Project.