Are You Ever Too Old to Benefit from Therapy?

Senior adult with short hair sits at table, face resting on hand, looking into distance thoughtfully

“With aging, you earn the right to be loyal to yourself.” —Frances McDormand

“I don’t mind aging. I’m glad to be aging. I’ll never die young.” —Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Our culture’s great fear of aging or looking old can be devastating, but talking with a therapist is one way you can work to ameliorate its effects. Exploring your past and imagining a future that feels right for you are only two of the many ways therapy can be helpful.

But many people over 60 think they are too old to benefit from therapy. They may be too scared of change, too afraid they might try and not get the desired result. Some even fear that changing could alienate their family.

The deeper question is:

Are you ever too old to benefit from psychotherapy or counseling?

No.

You are never too old to benefit from someone truly listening to you and hearing your story with compassion.

You are never too old to shift gears and change your perspective.

You are never too old to behave differently.

You are never too old to invoke deeper awareness, understanding, and wise action.

You are never too old to enjoy the process of self-discovery, self-compassion, and acceptance of life on its own terms.

It is all too easy to think you are set in your ways: to believe life has already had its way with you and this is how you are. Luckily, just because you think something doesn’t make it true.

With people living into their 80s, 90s, and beyond, getting therapy in the last third of life can be incredibly helpful, supportive, and illuminating.

Until you take your last breath, you are capable of change. What an amazing concept: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral shifts are all still within your grasp, maybe even more so than when you were younger.

I know that is counter to what our culture seems to think, with its perennial focus on youth and high energy. But so much of aging is one’s perspective. If you have always focused on your looks, aging can be a real struggle. Even if you haven’t, our culture’s focus on youth can easily wither your self-esteem. Therapy can help you explore your thoughts and feelings while shifting some cognitive-emotional gears. It can even help you achieve what Frances McDormand spoke of: being loyal to yourself.

One of the great joys of continuing to live in a body on this spinning blue planet is the potential to evolve until you quit this mortal coil.I believe as we age we become more concentrated versions of ourselves. That can also mean our behaviors and habits are more obvious to us than ever before, and they may be easier to work with as a result.

Paradoxically, that work doesn’t always feel like work. It can often feel like liberation from the shackles of old ways of thinking, behaving, and believing. Just knowing you have the freedom to change until you die opens up an amazing expanse of possibilities.

Is therapy with someone who is 70 different from someone who is 27? Of course! That is its beauty. After all those years living on Earth, you can be readier than ever to do truly deep and effective work. In some ways, you can more fearlessly look at your thoughts, behaviors, and relationships to see what serves you and what doesn’t.

On a more prosaic level, having somebody in your life with whom to process things as they come up, so they can be worked through and not allowed to fester, is an amazingly supportive experience.

What stops older people from seeking therapy? Is it a resignation to life as it is? Is it a bias toward thinking they can’t change? Is it not wanting to unearth things from the past? Is it thinking nobody can really help them feel better? The reasons are different for everybody. But all those possibilities share one thing in common: they could all be misguided.

Creating a trusting, open therapeutic relationship can help you accept life as it is without becoming cynical or hard-hearted. It can also help you develop self-compassion, something I believe is sorely lacking in our culture.

I’m not suggesting it is always easy to change, but it is certainly possible. One of the great joys of continuing to live in a body on this spinning blue planet is the potential to evolve until you quit this mortal coil. These changes may even lead toward greater self-acceptance and inner peace.

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Nicole Urdang, MS, NCC, DHM, LMHC, therapist in Buffalo, New York

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS

    Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS

    February 25th, 2018 at 3:10 PM

    Physical therapy can benefit anyone of any age but the patient must participate in the therapy fully. That means the prescribed home exercises assigned by the therapist need to be done every day! You may not get much benefit if you only do your exercises when the therapist is with you!

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