Group Therapy with Older Adults

As people get old, their therapeutic requirements change. Treating older patients poses unique challenges since the elderly individuals have different requirements. Group therapy refers to sessions where a therapist attends to more than one client at a time (Wheeler, 2014). This method may be important in dealing with older adults who have similar problems. Since the old people in a group will have several commonalities, it becomes peer mentoring becomes an integral part of the therapy sessions. However, dealing with the elders possesses several challenges that affect the success of the therapy sessions. One of the challenges that hinder the success of group therapy sessions is physical impairment. In many cases, elders have illnesses that affect their physical health. For instance, as age progresses, eyesight or hearing ability in some people may reduce or disappear completely. Such disabilities render the sessions ineffective (Wheeler, 2014). People with hearing problems would not understand or participate well during the sessions.

Also, old people may be unable to move by themselves affecting their mobility. Thus group therapy sessions are not very effective as some of the patients are not able to attend. This implies that although the sessions could be planned and all the facilities put in place, reduced patient attendance would hinder the success of the sessions. Another challenge that greatly affects the effectiveness of group therapy sessions with the elderly people is lack of emotional awareness. The older adults do not open up easily and share their emotions with the other members of the group. This is because they fear being judged by other individuals. This possesses a problem in that it becomes a challenge for the therapists to understand how the patient feels. Such a patient becomes difficult to handle. The success of the therapy sessions depends on successful communication between the patients in a group and the therapist involved. When the members open up and share their feelings, the health worker is able to devise the best solution for the issues affecting the elders. However, if there is no effective communication, the sessions would fail.

One of the ways to enhance the effectiveness of group therapy with the elderly people is incorporating their caregivers into the program. Caregivers are the people who live with the patient and provide for them. By incorporating them into the sessions, they would be able to provide vital information on behalf of the patients (Rice, 2015). For instance, when an old adult experiences hearing loss or visual impairment, they may be highly dependent on a caregiver. Therefore, when a caregiver is present during the sessions, it may offer additional information or clarifications as well as helping the client. Also, this may increase the trust between the patient and the therapist. With a person they know, old adults may feel comfortable and open up. This may help in dealing with the mental disorders. Another way of making the sessions successful is by establishing an effective communication (Krishna et al., 2011). The success of therapy sessions depends on the way a therapist interacts with the clients and hence communication plays an important role. With elders, there could arise communication barriers due to age-related factors such as hearing loss. They may also be unable to understand or process information quickly. Therefore, a therapist would need to establish a successful communication process to enhance the effectiveness of group therapy sessions.


Krishna, M., Jauhari, A., Lepping, P., Turner, J., Crossley, D., & Krishnamoorthy, A. (2011). Is  group psychotherapy effective in older adults with depression? A systematic review. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(4), 331–340. doi:10.1002/gps.2546

Rice, A. (2015). Common therapeutic factors in bereavement groups. Death Studies, 39(3), 165– 172. doi:10.1080/07481187.2014.946627

Wheeler, K. (Ed.). (2014). Psychotherapy for the advanced practice psychiatric nurse: A how-to guide for evidence-based practice. New York, NY: Springer.

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