A lot of seniors face a number of emotional issues. Depression, loneliness, and difficult physical limitations and diagnoses all too often come with the territory of aging. Compounding all that – seniors come from a generation where therapy was seen as disreputable. Many of them grew up thinking that a visit to a psychologist meant something was wrong with you.
For most generations today, the value of therapy is more widely understood and acknowledged. Yet amongst many seniors, the feeling that therapy’s something to be embarrassed about persists.
If your loved one is suffering and you know they could benefit from the help of a therapist, how do you get around the lingering stigma?
Work on normalizing therapy.
The best ways to fight negative associations with therapy is to make a case for how common it is. If you can convince them that most of the people around them see therapy as normal and helpful and wouldn’t imagine judging them for going, it might go a long way to helping them see it differently themselves.
If your loved one is statistics-minded, this part should be easy. Nearly half of all households in the US include someone who has sought mental health treatment, and a full 91% of people said they’d try therapy or recommend it to a loved one if they were experiencing a problem.
That last part seems worth repeating. Over nine out of ten people see therapy as a good solution to dealing with a problem. None of those people would think less of your loved one for giving therapy a go.
If statistics don’t work as well as anecdotes with your loved one, then consider if there are people in your life that your loved one respects that would be willing to share their experiences of therapy with them. It could be another family member, or maybe someone from your church or a local organization they’re a part of. If their good friend or the preacher they think so highly of tells them how valuable they’ve found therapy, that could do the trick.
Finally, to demonstrate to them how easily people are able to admit to therapy today without shame, point to famous celebrity examples. Celebrities ranging from Brooke Shields to Jon Hamm to David Letterman have publicly talked about how helpful therapy was to them. If you can find an example of a celebrity your loved one especially likes talking about therapy, show that to them.
Squash some common fallacies about therapy.
When you start talking to your senior loved one about therapy, you may encounter some common misconceptions. Over the years, the media has portrayed therapy in ways that make it look silly or unappealing to some people.
Make clear that going to a therapist isn’t going to just be an hour spent blaming everything on their mother. It’s not going to mean they lie on a couch talking to a silent person who doesn’t talk back. And it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them.
You should also mention that therapy’s not some magical solution. They can’t go to one appointment and expect it to solve their problems. Like most things worth doing, it requires time, work, and cooperation. But it can make a difference if they take it seriously.
Make the logistics easy.
Some of the easiest excuses all of us fall back on when it comes to doing something we don’t really want to do anyway is that we just “haven’t gotten around to it” or we “don’t know where to start.”
You can nip those excuses in the bud by doing the initial work for your loved one. Research therapists in their area that are covered by Medicare or your loved one’s insurance. A lot of therapists focus on particular specialty areas, so if you know your loved one is struggling with something specific, putting a name and description in front of them of a person who’s qualified to help with precisely what they need can be persuasive.
If your loved one doesn’t drive anymore, make sure you have a ride option set up for them. If you can’t drive them yourself, see about finding a friend to help or providing them with information on local rideshare options or public transportation.
Make the decision as easy on them as possible so they don’t come up with a list of excuses to avoid it. The first step to getting better through therapy is actually getting out to an appointment. Help them take step one and the rest is up to them (and their therapist).