Archive for My Continuing Education

Jan
06

Positive Journaling – an Example of Positive Psychology

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Positive Psychology Seminar, Anda Jines LCPC (right) with Dr. Lynn Johnson (left)

I recently attended an interesting seminar on positive psychology, which is very much in line with my interest in wellness.  Whereas clinical psychology puts the emphasis on correcting what is wrong, positive psychology puts the emphasis on prescriptions for happiness.

Dr. Lynn Johnson, presented us with the latest research on the effectiveness of positive psychology, as well as a collection of positive interventions, including methods for improving:

  • gratitude
  • strengths
  • lifestyle (sleep, nutrition, exercise, fulfilling work)
  • mental discipline and meditation
  • kindness and compassion
  • optimism
  • connecting with others
  • savoring

He shared a lot of information and ideas… too much to go into here.  But one that especially stood out to me was the positive journal.

Positive Journal

People have a tendency to focus on the things that are bothering them, precisely because they are uncomfortable, painful, overwhelming or require our attention.  The things that go right, however, are often overlooked and taken for granted, simply because they don’t require us to do something about them.  If you feel that you’ve been focusing a lot on negative things lately, it can be helpful to deliberately bring your attention to those things that are positive, even if they’re not very big.  Developing a habit of noticing the positive can help you to boost your mood, feel better about yourself, and feel more motivated.

Instructions:  For each day, write down some positive experiences or thoughts.  The categories below can help you to think of examples.  You don’t have to write something down for every category.  It’s okay to just fill in a couple for each day.  But try to write down as many as come to mind.

  1. Some things that made me smile today are:
  2. Some things that I’m grateful for today are:
  3. Some things that I accomplished today are:
  4. Some kindnesses that I gave or received today are:
  5. Some experiences that I savored today are:
  6. Some things I feel optimistic about today are:
  7. Some ways that I was strong today are:
  8. Some ways that I encountered beauty today are:
  9. Some good self-care choices that I made today are:
  10. Some ways that I connected with others today are:
  11. Some things that I like about myself today are:
  12. Some other positives today are:

This can become a soothing routine, a beautiful ritual, and a healthy habit.  You have several options for continuing this positive journal:

  • You can write your answers on blank sheets or in a notebook.
  • You can incorporate it into a journal that you have already started.
  • You can keep a digital version of this journal, in programs like Word or Excell.
  • You can “journal” into a digital recorder.

What would be most convenient for you?  I recommend that you go out and get a special journal for this, one that visually represents you at your best, your positive mood, what you find beautiful or positive.  That way, whenever you glance at it, it will look inviting and uplifting.  This kind of journaling will help you to more readily notice the positive.  You can also review your previous entries when you want to cheer yourself up.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.  Click here for more about Hoover & Associates.  To make an appointment, call 708-429-6999.

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Anda Jines with Dr. Toni Tollerud, Professor of Counseling at Northern Illinois University and Training Director for the Center on Child Welfare and Education in DeKalb, IL

Anda Jines with Dr. Toni Tollerud, Professor of Counseling at Northern Illinois University and Training Director for the Center on Child Welfare and Education in DeKalb, IL

I attended another interesting workshop this week in dowtown Chicago.  This one was on advanced clinical supervision.  Having an LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor) degree qualifies me to supervise LPCs (Licensed Professional Counselors) and interns.  Therefore it is important to understand how the supervision process differs from the counseling process.

What is Clinical Supervision?

In clinical supervision, one mental health professional trains another, less experienced professional and supervises their clinical work.  Therefore, supervision is more like teaching and less like treating.  Rather than processing emotions and uncovering core issues, the supervisor offers “how to” guidance to their supervisee.

Important Topics for Supervisors

This workshop focused on advanced skills used in supervision in dealing with difficult supervisees and the issues they bring to supervision.  It addressed several topics including:

  • prevention strategies that can help to avoid difficulties
  • typical problems encountered
  • a due process procedure for when problems arise
  • impairment
  • burnout

We discussed our own experiences in supervision, as well as several interesting video vignettes.  Additionally, we examined several legal concerns in supervision, and how to respond when a supervisee has violated professional ethics guidelines.

Workshop Review

This was a very interesting workshop, and brought up important questions to consider and situations to prepare for.  Dr. Tollerud was an engaging presenter and kept us involved in discussing the material.  She helped me to understand the importance of supervision training to our profession, and shared a lot of useful information. I would definitely recommend this workshop to anyone who does supervision or who is interested in doing supervision in the future.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Dr. Tollerud for coming to downtown Chicago despite the hazzardous road conditions that day, and the impressive -20 degrees wind chill in this windy city of ours.  Much appreciated!

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Nov
09

The Mind Body Connection Discussed at Conference

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Me and my mom at the Conference

Me and my mom at the Conference

The Mind Body Connection

Last week I attended the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in Las Vegas.  The focus of the conference this year was “Treating the Whole Patient – The Mind Body Connection.”  This was perfect for me!  It fits right in with my interest in treating emotional and relationship issues related to physical illness and injury.  It also fits well with my interests and experience in improving wellness, healthy lifestyles, pain management and stress management.

Treating the Whole Patient

I believe it is important to treat the whole patient even when they don’t present with obvious pain or physical problems.  Often people’s physical routines and lifestyle choices have a profound impact on their emotions.  Not to mention that people’s emotions can significantly impact their self-care and physical wellness.

This is also why I routinely collaborate with my patients’ primary care providers, psychiatrists, and/or other relevant doctors (with each patient’s permission of course).

Dr. Dorota Rytwinski, Dr. Baiba Ercum (my mom), Anda Jines (me), and Dr. Celina Nowakowska at Psychiatric Congress Lunch

Dr. Dorota Rytwinski, Dr. Baiba Ercum (my mom), Anda Jines (me), and Dr. Celina Nowakowska at Psychiatric Congress Lunch

Networking at the Conference

It is interesting to hear and talk with other mental health professionals at conferences.

My mom (a psychiatrist) and I  happened to meet two psychiatrists from Poland who now practice in the US.  We had a lovely lunch together.

I also had the pleasure of running into Dr. Modali, a psychiatrist whom I know through my previous work at the Southern Illinois University Wellness Center as well as through my previous work at Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, in Carbondale, IL.

My Continuing Education

There were many interesting workshops to choose from.  Here is a quick list of the ones I attended:

  • Treating the Whole Patient: The Mind Body Connection, Day 1
  • Treating the Cancer Patient with Cognitive Therapy
  • Cognitive Therapy to Aid Adjustment to Cancer
  • Treatment of Premenstrual and Perimenopausal Psychiatric Disorders
  • Collaborating with Primary Care Physicians in Pain Management
  • Fibromyalgia – An Update
  • Insomnia:  A Healthcare Gap That is Growing
  • The Spiritual Meaning Interview: CHaMB
  • Addressing ADHD Issues Across the Life Span
  • Hypoactive Sexuality Desire Disorder in Women
  • The Quest for Happiness:  Unstalling Stalled Treatment
  • Happiness:  New Insights from Social Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Minds on the Edge:  Facing Mental Illness
  • Tourette’s Syndrome:  A Trinity of Symptoms
  • Depression and Pain:  Advances in Neurobiology and Treatment

I’d like to send a warm thanks to my mom for inviting me to join her at this conference.  I enjoyed the workshops as well as your company very much.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines.

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Jun
18

Lack of Specialists in Geropsychology

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Workshop on Helping Older Adults

Anda Jines MS LCPC and Lynda Behrendt PsyD, IPA Director of Professional Affairs and coordinator of the recent series of workshops on geropsychology

Anda Jines MS LCPC and Lynda Behrendt PsyD, IPA Director of Professional Affairs and coordinator of the recent series of workshops on geropsychology

I once more had the pleasure of attending a workshop on geropsychology (psychology of aging) in downtown Chicago.  This was the last of six workshops aimed at training psychologists and counselors like me to effectively help older adults.

Mental Health Medications for Seniors

This time we focused on the very important issue of psychopharmacology with the older adult population.  In other words, we got information about the use of mental health medications for seniors.  As complicated as medication issues can be for the general population; drug interactions, changing metabolism, memory problems, sleep problems, pain, and age related illnesses can make it even more complicated for older adults.

We also discussed delirium, dementia, and psychological (rather than medication) approaches to helping individuals who face these issues;  We discussed Medicare rules, as well as stereotyping of older adults.

Lack of Specialists in Geropsychology

Through the course of these six workshops, one point was made over and over again.  There is a lack of specialists in geropsychology!  Most young psychologists and counselors entering the field are simply not interested in it.  Therefore there are few graduate programs which offer it as a specialty.  Those of us who are interested in helping older adults therefore need to seek out training opportunities like this series of workshops, or seek out the few post graduate training programs available.

This has become a great concern, especially because the baby boomers, who make up about a third of our population, are entering their senior years.  Not only that, but people are living longer than ever before.  For example, the average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 years.  Today it is approximately 77 years in the US.  Big difference! Additionally, today’s young seniors are much more familiar with and receptive to psychological services.

Currently there are various efforts in the psychological community, to prepare us for the increased demand for older adult services.  That is why this workshop series was organized.

The Basics of Geropsychology

Counselors can be effective with most older adults even without specialized training.  But to ensure quality care, it is important for therapists to be familiar with the following areas of information:

  • Adult Development and the Aging Process
  • Neuropsychological Considerations in Geriatric Mental Health
  • The Aging Body
  • Assessment of Older Adults
  • Promoting Self Care Behavior in Older Adults
  • Community Resources for Older Adults
  • Home, Residential and Office Based Practice Models for Working with Older Adults
  • Ethical and Legal Issues Related to Providing Services to Older Adults (e.g.:  health care agents, powers of attorney, guardianship, incapacity)
  • Dementia and Delirium
  • Substance Abuse and Dependence in Later Life
  • Mental Disorders in Later Life
  • Psychotherapy Issues and Interventions with Older Adults
  • Billing and Medicare
  • Loss and Grief
  • Caregiving
  • Psychopharmacology for Older Adults
  • Stereotyping and Cultural Issues

These are the areas that we covered in this six workshop series.  Clearly this is a lot of information, much of which overlaps with previous training that I have had.  Admittedly, there are some areas (of those listed above) that I do not consider myself an expert in.  However, I am now more aware of many factors related to counseling older adults.  And I know when to screen specific problems, and when to refer out for specific testing or treatment.

If you are an older adult, are concerned about an older adult, or if you are a caregiver; and you are in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, feel free to give me a call to set up an appointment or ask about services.  If I cannot help you personnaly, I will help you find someone who can.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Oak Forest, Orland Park, Mokena, and Frankfort.

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May
10

Problem Solving Therapy

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Once again I got hop on the train to downtown Chicago, for a workshop on psychotherapy with older adults.  This was the fifth in a series of six workshops I am attending on geropsychology.  This time, we discussed research findings about various approaches to psychotherapy, and how effective they are with seniors.  I would like to take a moment to tell you about just one of these approaches, called problem solving therapy.

Problem Solving Therapy

Erin Emery PhD, presenting at IPA Geropsychology Workshop on 5/8/09

Erin Emery PhD, Director of Geriatric & Rehabilitation Psychology at Rush University Medical Center, presenting at IPA Geropsychology Workshop on 5/8/09

We all make an effort to solve the problems we encounter in our lives.  But some people are more successful than others.  Psychologists studying problem solving have found that there are two factors affecting how likely you are to be a successful problem solver.

The first factor that determines success is your “problem orientation.”  In other words: whether or not you believe that you can succeed, what attitude you have, and how you feel about problem solving. Having a positive attitude about problem solving helps you to be an effective problem solver.  However, if you have struggled with problem solving in the past, you might feel pretty pessimistic about your abilities.  If this is the case, then problem solving with the help of a Chicago therapist can help you become more confident.

The second factor that determines success is your problem solving style.  There are three general styles:

  • Rational Problem Solving Style:  thought out, systematic, planful, and constructive (recommended)
  • Impulsive/Careless Style:  impulsive, hurried, and careless attempts at problem resolution (not recommended)
  • Avoidant Style:  procrastination, passivity, and over-dependence on others to solve your problems (not recommended)

Problem Solving Steps

In therapy, I would start by exploring your problem orientation (how you feel about problem solving), and discussing how you got to feel that way, and how that may be affecting you now. We may also discuss how to change your feelings.

Then we would start identifying a variety of problems that may need your attention, and specifically define one that you want to focus on first.

Next, we would brainstorm solutions to this problem, and weigh their pros and cons to help you decide which solution might work best for you.  We would plan how to implement this solution by creating a SMART action plan.  SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timebound

Once you had implemented this plan, we would review how well it worked, and make adjustments as necessary.  Usually you would need to implement an action plan several times, and probably making adjustments each time, until you feel you have solved the problem.

Problem solving therapy typically lasts 8 to 16 sessions, unless of course you decide to address more than one significant problem.  This therapy has been shown to be effective with the general population as well as with older adults.

If you are interested in problem solving therapy in the Tinley Park area, or if you are concerned about the emotional health of a senior, please feel free to call me at 708-429-6999.

Anda Jines offers mental health counseling services in south Chicago, including Tinley Park (60477), Oak Forest, Orland Park, Mokena, and the surrounding area.

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Apr
11

Depression in Older Adults

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Yesterday I attended the fourth in a series of six Illinois Psychological Association workshops about counseling older adults.  As usual, I will share a few highlights from the extensive materials that were discussed at the workshop.  In this post, I will focus on depression in older adults.

The workshop presenters included Timothy McManus PsyD, who presented on dementia; Joseph Troiani PhD, who presented on prescription drug abuse, misuse and addictions; and Sally Ryan PsyD, who presented on mental disorders in later life, focusing primarily on depression and anxiety.

Sally Ryan PsyD, Joe Troiani Phd, and Anda Jines MS LCPC at Geropsychology Workshop on 4/10/09

(from left) Sally Ryan PsyD, Joe Troiani PhD, and Anda Jines MS LCPC at Geropsychology Workshop on 4/10/09

The Good News

The good news is that older adults (as a group) have fewer problems with depression and anxiety, compared with the general population.  They are relatively happy and well adjusted. This runs contrary to the image many people have of old age.

Indeed, these research findings support the notion that there are advantages to age.  According to my previous reading, seniors have had a chance to learn from life experiences, have had time to reflect on what they believe, want and value, and tend to be more direct in pursuing what is important to them.  It is no wonder that elders are respected for their wisdom in many cultures.

How To Recognize Late Life Depression

But what if you’re worried about a senior you know?  How can you tell if they’re depressed?  It can be hard to tell because depression symptoms can overlap with medical symptoms or normal reactions to life changes.  Dr. Ryan suggests the following:

Which symptoms best distinguish depressed from non-depressed older people?

  • loss of interest
  • lack of energy
  • disturbed sleep
  • suicidal thoughts
  • feeling blue

However, fatigue and changes in appetite and sexual activity may be due to physical problems or normal aging.  As always, it is important to first rule out physical causes of depression symptoms.

Treatment Is Available

If you, or someone you know, have the above symptoms, then you may want to set up an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist who can make a correct diagnosis and provide treatment if necessary.

This is especially important with seniors, because although they are less frequently suicidal than the general population, they are much more likely to succeed at suicide if they attempt it.  But even if the situation is not quite so dire, therapy can do a lot to help improve an individual’s quality of life.

If you have questions about depression or treatment, feel free to call me at 708-429-6999.  I will be happy to answer your questions, whether or not you decide to make an appointment with me.

Helpful Links

Here are few helpful links to more online information about depression and older adults.

Depression and Older Adults: What It Is and How to Get Help (FamilyDoctor.org)

Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly: Recognizing the Signs and Getting Help (Helpguide.org)

Facts about Depression in Older Adults (American Psychological Association)

If you’re looking for counseling and mental health services in Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Orland Park, and the surrounding area, please call 708-429-6999 to set up an appointment or to ask questions. Tinley Park counseling service, Oak Forest counseling service, Orland Park counseling service. Call today.

Anda Jines MS, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Offering counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

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Yesterday I completed phase three of the six workshop series on geropsychology.  This time we focused on community resources, legal issues, and practice models.  I won’t review everything here, but I do want to pass along some very useful information about community resources.   This is a topic I have been looking forward to.  It definitely helps to know the resources and services that are available to older adults and their families.  Now I can feel much more confident in directing my clients to the right resources, saving them time, and helping them obtain the right services.

Where to look for help and information:

If you are an older adult living in Illinois, or are helping one and need resources, the best place to start is by contacting your area agency on aging.  Here are some additional sources of information:

  • Illinois Senior Help Line at 1-800-252-8966.
  • Illinois Department on Aging
  • Listing of agencies and organizations serving seniors
  • Cities, villages, and townships often have additional resources provided through their own budgets and organizations.  When looking for help on this most local level, you will want to ask for your city’s department of human services or department of senior services.
  • Additional information on programs, activities and supports, is abailable through park districts, senior centers, libraries, faith communities, hospitals, and associations dedicated to specific illnesses.
  • Your doctor or psychologist can also be a source of information and help.

What types of help are available?

It is hard to give a comprehensive list of the types of help that are available, because it often depends on local organizations.  However, here is an overview.

Health Programs and Illness Prevention: There are exercise programs and subsidies available, wellness and health screening programs, hospital based education programs, chronic disease self management courses, congregate meals and home delivered meals, as well as programs and subsidies available through the YMCA.  Private duty care providers, like Bright Star, can provide home health care, including visiting nurses.

Social Programs: There are senior and community centers, park district outings, as well as social programs through non-profit organizations and faith communities.  Some specific organizations devoted to helping seniors live rich and fulfilling lives include Mather Lifeways, CJE Senior Life, the Center for Creative Aging at Harold Washington College, Chicago Life Opportunities Initiative, Senior Corps Volunteers, and Executive Corps (the last two offering volunteer opportunities for seniors).

Transportation Services: This is probably the highest need area, and unfortunately the resources are limited.  However, in the Chicago area, multiple programs are available.  These include: the RTA Reduced Fare Permit/Free rides program, ADA paratransit Services, Medicaid funding for transportation to medical appointments, as well as volunteers, city based services, and private pay caregivers like Bright Star.

Social Services: Social services include psychological services such as assessments, therapy, and support groups.  Also, a therapist, counselor or case manager can help you find resources or information on in-home care, housing, legal help, access to benefits, and other services.  Private pay geriatric case management has become a specialty, and can be especially helpful in cases where caregivers live far away from the senior they are caring for.

Caregiver Programs: These are programs that help manage the impact of caregiving.  They provide information, respite care, support groups and referrals.  Examples include the Illinois Caregiver Support Program, various diagnosis-specific support groups (e.g.: the Alzheimer’s Association), Website courses (e.g.: Powerful Tools for Caregivers), as well as national organizations and websites (e.g.: Family Caregiver Alliance, National Family Caregivers Association, and National Alliance for Caregiving).

In-Home Care: An effort is being made to help people continue living at home for as long as possible.  In-home care is often provided by family.  Help can also be given by paid or subsidized professional caregivers (for listing see National Private Duty Association), adult day services, home health care (like visiting nurses), home delivered meals, emergency response systems, geriatric case managers, and respite stay at assisted living facilities or nursing homes.  The VA and some state resources can help to subsidize family caregivers.

Senior Living Communities: There are many levels of care available in senior living communities.  Retirement communities and subsidized apartments offer care that is similar to living at home with a caregiver.  Assisted Living and Supportive Living communities offer a higher degree of care.  Skilled Nursing Facilities (nursing homes) offer full care.  And Continuing Care retirement communities offer all levels, from the least intensive to the most, adjusting their services to the needs of the resident.  When looking for a living community, always ask what is included in the general fee versus what costs additionally.  Also, look for communities that advertise patient centered care or “the pioneer movement.”

Benefit Programs: Lastly, there are groups that help you reduce the financial impact of senior services.  These include online questionnaires like Benefits CheckUp, volunteer based advocacy services like Senior Health Insurance Program and Red Tape Cutters, and online guides like this one.  Of course the best known benefit programs are Medicare and Medicaid.

Whew!  That’s quite a lot of information to get familiar with.  Having worked at a community mental health center, I have always seen it as important to be able to connect my clients with the right community resources.  I intend to continue getting even more familiar with what is available, so that I can best serve my older adult and caregiver clients.

If you’re looking for counseling and mental health services in Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Orland Park, and the surrounding area, please call 708-429-6999 to set up an appointment or to ask questions. Tinley Park counseling service, Oak Forest counseling service, Orland Park counseling service. Call today.

Anda Jines MS, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Offering counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

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Feb
24

Counselors Empowering Caregivers of Older Adults

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I went to a great workshop in Lisle, IL last weekend, all about how to help caregivers of older adults.  Caregiving is becoming more and more common as babyboomers age, and I have had many clients who find themselves in caregiving roles, although it is not always their main issue.

It was an all day workshop, and we covered information about

  • statistics and demographics of who caregivers tend to be
  • how they contribute to their care recipients
  • positive aspects of caregiving
  • the financial, physical, emotional, social, and developmental impacts of caregiving
  • assessing the extent of these impacts
  • the stages of caregiving
  • five broad approaches to helping caregivers
  • and cultural perspectives on caregiving

The presenters were excellent, and there was so much useful information, I couldn’t do it justice in this short article.  Let me just mention two areas stood out to me the most.

Caregiving is not all negative

First, it struck me just how meaningful caregiving can be, especially if the caregiver is doing it out of a sense of genuine caring rather than obligation, if they have social support, and if they focus on being practical in their approach to the difficulties associated with being a caregiver.  Indeed, research has found that far more caregivers report feeling loved and appreciated (over 90%) than report feeling depressed or overwhelmed (less than 30%).

A counselor can help in many ways

Second, it is clear that the demands of caregiving can overtax a caregiver’s coping abilities.  When this is the case, counseling can help a caregiver in a number of ways.

Counseling can help caregivers overcome their barriers to adapting to the situation.  It can help them understand the importance of maintain their “identity” by continuing to work as long as possible, and by maintaining their interests and hobbies.  Counseling can help clients explore the spiritual aspects of caregiving, and to deal with a spiritual or existential crisis if one exists.  Clients can get relief from depression through cognitive behavioral therapy and other common treatments.  The counselor can facilitate family meetings, process “ambiguous loss,” and explore long standing issues that may be influencing the caregiving.  Lastly, a counselor can help you access information about caregiving, about the care-recipient’s illness, about local resources (like support groups, respite or a geriatric case manager), and about legal or financial information.

This workshop gave me a lot to think about and information about several books that I’d like to read.  I’m excited about now getting to apply what I’ve learned.

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Feb
14

Assessment of Older Adults

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I attended the second in a series of six workshops on geropsychology (psychology of older adults) in downtown Chicago yesterday.

Neuropsychological Assessments of Older Adults

The focus of this workshop was neuropsycholgoical assessment of older adults.  It was interesting to learn about, although I do not offer these assessments myself.  It gave me a clearer sense of how such assessments can be used, what they can determine, and when I should reffer my clients to have a neuropsychological assessment.  Generally speaking, these assessments can help pinpoint specific areas of functioning that may have been affected by a biological problem in the brain.  They can shed light on the source of a client’s problem, and a client’s competency, needs, risks, impairment, memory, diagnosis, and more.

As for my direct treatment of clients, I learned of several quick and simple screening instruments I can use to help me decide whether a referral for further testing is necessary.

In addition to discussing assessment of older adults, we also reviewed the basics of neurology and physiology and, more specifically, neurological and physiological changes that happen with age.  This gave me warning signs to look for, which would indicate the possibility of particular problems an aging client might face.  It helped me differentiate normal aging from illness, and also raised my awareness of the numerous difficulties older adults have to deal with (and how stressful they can be).

Overall it was an interesting and useful workshop.

Tinley Park Counseling, Oak Forest Counseling, Orland Park Counseling, Offering counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

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Jan
10

Geropsychology Training

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Counselor training in downtown Chicago

I spent yesterday in downtown Chicago at a training about adult development and the aging process.  It was the first in a series of six trainings that I plan to attend, all focusing on how to be the most effective counselor for our elders.

I have been quite interested in working with older adults for a number of reasons.

First, I respect their years of experience in life, and the insights they bring.  Time brings with it a great variety of perspectives and experiences, can bring a deep richness to reflections about life, and can result in insights that are surprisingly clear and straightforward.  However, time can also bring painful memories, losses and change; all of which can be difficult to cope with.

This brings me to the second reason that I’m interested in counseling elders:  they often face some of the most difficult circumstances, decisions and questions in life.  There are health related issues and limitations (another big focus of mine), relationship issues such as loss of loved ones or dependency, and financial stress just to mention a few.  And, in one way or another, we all eventually face the topic of our own mortality.  I guess you could say that old age often forces us to really come down to the root of the matter, and face the big questions about who we are, what we are doing here, and what it all means.

Developmental tasks in old age

For example, it is a natural part of human development to come to an age when you review and evaluate your life, in an effort to feel a sense of acceptance and integrity.  People go through a process of organizing their memories and interpreting the meaning of life events.  Elderly people who successfully accomplish this, are then more capable of accepting change, approaching things with a sense of humor, and enjoying life.  Easier said than done, right?

The challenges of geropsychology

There are some unique challenges in counseling older adults.  Time allows us to be exposed to tragedies and traumas; and all the decisions we make over time can result in some mistakes and regrets.  Although time can teach us so much, it can also cement us into unhealthy mindsets, habits or coping methods.  If a person has many unresolved issues which have added up over a long lifespan, then it may feel overwhelming to start processing them.  In other words, issues that are difficult to begin with, may become even more difficult to work through if left until the later years, and compounded one on top of another.  Of course not all elders fall into these patterns, but these are some of the risks made greater over time.

Counseling for older adults

When a person gets stuck or depressed as a result of these circumstances or questions, then a counselor can help.  Some of the goals that I would have in working with older adults would be:

  • clarifying their unique issues, symptoms, diagnosis and goals; and working on these
  • maximizing quality of life and sense of dignity
  • maintaining independence
  • increasing meaningful activities and community involvement
  • adjusting to changes and/or losses, and creatively compensating for losses or limitations

I have appreciated the older adults whom I have counseled so far, and I look forward to working with more.  I also look forward to the rest of this series of trainings on geropsychology.

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