Senior Counseling Services

Are you frustrated by the physical and mental changes you are noticing as you get older?

Do you wonder how you’ll maintain a sense of purpose, independence, or community in retirement?

Are you struggling to cope with the loss of friends and family?

 

Once upon a time, older people were treated as elders who were respected for their knowledge and wisdom gleaned from long life experience.  In many cultures around the world this is still the case.  Here and now, however, seniors often feel irrelevant, isolated, an inconvenience to their families. . . even a burden.  On the flip side, they may feel that their help in caring for grandchildren is assumed and taken advantage of, while their goals and independence are not respected.

You may have watched your parents and others from their generation decline in their later years, unable to adapt to life without their spouses, jobs, or robust health.  You are determined to do it differently. 

 Elderly woman in a purple sweater

The "golden years" don't always feel so golden. 

If increasing “senior moments,” multiplying health issues, and the prospect of long-term care are looming, you are not alone.  Aging can bring a host of challenges—physical, cognitive, social, existential—and they are not easy to face alone, especially when they come all at once.

Perhaps you are still active and vital and want to make sure you stay that way.  You may want to embrace your new stage of life but you’re not quite sure how to make the most of these years or face the obstacles you know await you with equanimity. 

Getting older entails plenty of challenges, but in a society awakening to the possibilities of longer life expectancies and long-term vitality, you have many options for aging not just gracefully but with zest.  If you want to write this chapter of your life to read as a story of empowered elderhood rather than aimless decline, senior counseling can help.  With the support of an experienced and caring psychotherapist who specializes in the concerns of older adults, you can be empowered to explore unfinished business, clarify what you want out of your later years, grieve inevitable losses, make end-of-life decisions, and find value and meaning in what can be a time of thriving and growth.  As a licensed professional counselor and registered art therapist with 15+ years of experience in the mental health field and experience with seniors in adult day care, hospice, and private practice, I understand the unique challenges and rewards of aging.

Counseling can help you stop coping with aging and help you start authoring your own next chapter.

If we compare our lives to dramas with various themes and dramatic plot lines, then old age is the time when the meaning of the play becomes clear to us.  Or to use another metaphor: Up to now, we have gone shopping in all the world’s markets, gathering the ingredients for a cake.  To become an elder, we must stop rushing madly about, learn to get quiet, mix all the ingredients together meditatively, bake the cake, and allow it to rise in its own time.  In this way, elderhood represents the crowning achievement of life.  
–Zalman Schacter-Shalomi, From Age-ing to Sage-ing
 Closeup of an elderly African American man smiling serenely with his hands clasped under his chin.

Whether you are just beginning to think of yourself as an “older person” or you are “solidly senior,” you can step into your process with open eyes at any point.  Counseling on aging can help you to accept the aging process with wisdom, curiosity, and vitality.  When you embrace the role of the elder you are no longer just dealing with aging or even aging gracefully.  As an elder you can mine your stage of life for all its meaning and possibilities, mixing the ingredients of a lifetime together to bake your life’s cake.

Senior counseling addresses the typical challenges of aging including a body with more limitations than it once had, increased dependence on others, facing mortality, redefining identity based not just on career or family roles, but on values, strengths, and your own unique life story.  End of life therapy touches on all these themes as well, but focuses more heavily on the emotional and psychological challenges (and opportunities) of facing death and how to plan for end of life care. 

One way to explore these topics is through visual art and other forms of creative self-expression.  As a trained art therapist, I sometimes guide clients in using the arts in therapy.  Sometimes art-making helps us discover things about ourselves that help us grow; sometimes it’s just a relaxing way to practice mindfulness, (focus on the here and now), and reduce stress.  Using this non-verbal, intuitive language with an art therapist can often enable people to discover what lives underground in their hearts, bodies, and psyches and put a new tool for personal growth in their toolbox.

 Older white man wearing a sun hat, holding a paint brush in his mouth and  a water color painting in his hand.
 Most of us will never win the Nobel Peace Prize or a Presidential election, but we can use creativity to shape our lives and, especially as we age, to unleash new potential for personal growth and self-expression.         

 -Gene Cohen, M.D., The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life

In addition to art therapy, mindfulness-based therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can make accepting aging with equanimity an achievable goal and a deeply rewarding process.   As you learn to be more present in the moment—even the moments for which you would rather not be present—you can learn how to defuse the power of self-sabotaging thoughts about the trials of aging and endure the painful feelings and worries that come with them.

But you may still have concerns about counseling. . .

“I’ve heard counseling can be expensive and now that I’m retired, I’m on a fixed income.”

Committing to a series of counseling sessions is making an investment in your health, your well-being, and even your longevity.  Dealing with unfinished business and ongoing stress can be important in staving off illness and improving immunity and resilience, saving you money in the long-run. If your insurance plan will not cover my services and finances are an issue, I can provide you with receipts for reimbursement for out-of-network psychotherapy or offer a reduced fee when needed.

“Growing up, I was taught that we don’t talk about our feelings and personal problems.  You can't teach an old dog new tricks.”

Senior counseling can be a practical way to deal with issues that make it hard to enjoy life and be there for those who need you.  Though it may feel self-indulgent or uncomfortably intimate at times, the goal is to help you live your best life.  I am sensitive to the range of backgrounds clients come from and the generational perspectives we all carry.  I aim to gently introduce new ideas while respecting your boundaries and meeting you where you are.  An "old dog" CAN, in fact, learn new tricks.  Though it may feel uncomfortable, even unacceptable, to spend money on working on yourself with a stranger, you can learn to observe-but-not-act-on this discomfort while choosing to focus on your intentions, hopes, and values through your counseling experience.

“I don't get out as much as I used to and sometimes I don't feel up to leaving the house.  How can I go to therapy?”

If you are undergoing treatment for an illness, facing a chronic health condition, or just find it too difficult to leave home some days, counseling can still be an option and may help you cope with the impact of your situation.  If you are temporarily unable to travel to my office, I can provide phone sessions until you are able to come in.  I do not do ongoing, long-term video calls or phone sessions due to the experiential nature of my approach, but I will do my best to support you if your health or mobility is compromised.

Claim your seniority.

If you would like to schedule an appointment or discuss any questions you may have about my senior counseling services, please call me at 720-336-5852 or contact me.  I am happy to do a free, 30-minute in-person or phone consultation.  I do my best to return all voicemails and emails within one business day.