Psychotherapy with Older Adults

Tybe Diamond, MSW, Chair

The certificate training program is a one-year program designed to meet the needs of practicing psychotherapists and other individuals practicing in fields related to aging. This training program will prepare you to serve the fastest growing segment of the population—adults over age 55 and their families. Students who desire to expand their theoretical, clinical and community knowledge to increase their expertise in better understanding and/or treating aging adults in psychotherapy from midlife – elderly and their family members are encouraged to apply.

The program will offer a thorough overview of psychotherapy with older adults. The psychotherapy model draws on findings from scientific gerontology and life-span developmental psychology to describe how psychotherapy needs to be adapted for work with older adults, as well as, when it is similar to therapeutic work with younger adults. Within a survey perspective of issues relating to aging, the training program provides a practical account of the knowledge, techniques and skills necessary to work with older adults in a therapeutic relationship focusing on special content areas and common themes. The focus of study will also include working collaboratively with allied health, administrative, community and legal professionals.

Students will learn about current assessment and treatment methods with special attention to treatment and health care from an intrapsychic, interpersonal and systems framework. The program is designed to offer a unique opportunity for both new and experienced psychotherapists and practioneers in allied fields, to explore and think together about the many challenges encountered in treating a wide range of aging clients. A clinical focus is maintained within the context of in-depth theoretical understanding from multiple perspectives that translates into increased effectiveness in the psychotherapy session and other settings.

Aging developmental tasks for individuals from midlife to the elder years often include divorce and separation, remarriage, becoming grandparents, retirement or continued work, identity issues, declining health and medical issues, the tension between expanded creativity and physical decline and maturation, loss of loved ones, mourning, grief, death and dying, traumatic illness, cognitive impairment, caretaking for others and oneself, change in residence and institutional care.

There is an aging tsunami in this country and globally. People are living longer and healthier lives which represents one of the crowning achievements of the last century but also a significant challenge. The numbers are staggering: by 2030, almost one out of every five Americans will be 65 years or older. It’s estimated that over 20 percent of these older adults will struggle with mental disorders like dementia. Longer lives must be planned for.

Chronic mental illness and personality disorders are often exacerbated with age. Loneliness influences health and well being and it accrues with age. Issues of self-esteem and identity are lifelong. Those who can cope with tension, conflict and trauma in early life are more able to do so in late life. Some individuals have never achieved this capacity and these difficulties are exacerbated with aging.

The National Academy of Sciences documents that the vast majority of healthcare workers who provide services to the elderly do not have specific training in geriatrics. The program addresses the ways in which caretakers and family members can be assisted and responded to with psychotherapy and community supports. The focus on the emotional life of the client as well as physical, social, ethical and legal issues is particularly relevant with an aging clientele. Students will learn how to address the intrapsychic and interpersonal psychological needs of older adults and caretakers within an attuned, empathic, and relational framework. The certificate training program offers study sections which, when taken together, provide students with knowledge of bio-psychosocial functioning related to aging.

Enrollment in this 1 year postgraduate certificate program will provide a wealth of information about interventions with older clients beginning with those 55 years of age and progressing to the elderly of 80 plus years. Our graduates provide services along the continuum of care from out patient psychotherapy in private practice and clinics to the specialized needs of older adults aging in place and in special housing, rehabilitation and health care settings.

Participants will be able to:

  • Apply their knowledge of aging as a developmental process with the older adult client.
  • Conceptualize the specific problems of the client with an appreciation that it is these problems, rather than the client’s age, that determine the techniques and goals of psychotherapy.
  • Provide individual, couple, family and group psychotherapy with older adult clients who are viewed as individuals facing specific development tasks.
  • Conduct psychotherapy with older adult clients who are viewed as individuals facing specific problems within a biological, psychological and social context; often with attitudes, beliefs and values of their earlier age cohort


There are 6 Units in the Program:

  1. Aging as Part of a Developmental Process
  2. Factors Influencing the Aging Process
  3. Expressive Therapy Workshops
  4. Clinical Disorders & Confounding Medical Issues
  5. Psychotherapy: Theory and Practice
  6. Aging in America: Bio-medical and legal ethics (6 separate CEU credits that satisfy ethics requirements


All students are required to be in supervision with faculty members as well as participate in once weekly, 3 hour classes.  Students will have the option of receiving supervision individually or sharing small group supervision of no more than 3 students.

A uniquely valuable aspect of the program also includes student participation in experiential learning activities in the expressive arts therapies (Poetry, Psychodrama,, Dance, Art and Journaling) and a film series relating to aging topics. These classes are designed to immerse students in confronting their own concerns about aging and to relate to the experience of aging through various expressive modalities. As these non – verbal treatment modalities are particularly suited to meeting the needs of aging clientele, these activities enhance the students’ ability to respond creatively in addressing the challenges of working with this population.


Students meet 4-7 PM, Tuesday’s, September – May.

The classes consist of didactic material, clinical case discussion and expressive therapy workshops. Also included are special, public events that include workshops on various subjects and often a lecture by a nationally recognized expert in aging.


Students come from the professional areas of social work, psychology, psychiatry, pastoral counseling, gerontology, law, medicine, nursing, marriage and family therapy, art therapy, administrators, residential counselors and other aging related disciplines. Students are selected on the basis of experience and motivation for rigorous study, talent, flexibility in thinking, and a capacity for exploring the thinking of others through personal openness and dialogue.


Kathryn Chefetz, MSW
Tybe Diamond, MSW, Chair
Aleksandra Parpura, MD, PhD
George Saiger, MD
Anna Lake, MSW
Venus Masselam, PhD
Lenore Pomerance, MSW
Margo Silberstein, EdD

Steering Committee (All the faculty above and)
Bill Amt, MSW
Estelle Berley, MSW
Mary Welker, MSW

Visiting Faculty
Bill Amt, MSW
Linda Hill, MSW
Flora Ingenhousz, MSW
Barbara Kane, MSW
Miriam Kelty, PhD
George Kolodner, MD
Ron M. Landsman, LLB
Barry McCarthy, PhD
Julie Maggioncalda, MSW
Wendy Miller, Ph.D, ATR-BC, REAT, LPC
Melinda Salzman, MSW
Michelle Sheehan, MSW

Tuition for the academic year is $2300.
Supervision is $75 per individual session or $50 per group session.

 Videos from the Sherwin Nuland lecture.