The world’s people are growing faster than ever with longer life expectancies, generating unpredictable new challenges that require adaptation on individual, organizational, and societal levels (Bloom et al., 2011). It is because, as they grow older, they begin to develop mental decline, leading to disorders, like depression, paranoia, and anxiety, as well as inability to distinguish the advancing-age-consequences of mental illness (Aging and Geriatric issues, 2016). Group counseling is a way to cope with these problems, by promoting the capabilities of the elderly in controlling the feel of their lives and decision making powers (Capuzzi & Fillion, 2016). This essay, therefore, analyze the various aspects of Group Counseling to understand whether it is really helpful to overcome the mental impairments of the elderly people.
Group Counseling is a kind of therapy, by which people having similar experiences or problems, group together with a therapist, who runs the therapy session. The members of the group listen to others or talk themselves, thereby contributing towards solving their problems, such as addiction, bereavement, or mental illness (Group counselling, 2017). Groups can become helpful for those members who are troubled with loneliness, social discomfort and conflicts, neglect feelings, eating disorders, trusting issues, offending natures, reassurance needs, relationship and intimacy problems, traumatic experiences, and several other concerns. Many research studies and clinical evidences have already sanctified the effectiveness of Group counseling in alleviating impairments in the older people (UIOWA, 2017).
Mostly, in group counseling, the treatment is initiated by a single therapist for more than one client at the same time. Sometimes, more than one therapist may lead the group session. Ideally, the strength of the group is put anywhere between 6 and 12, and during the session, the members listen to each other and give feedback in open. Such free expressions inspire each member to recreate the interaction patterns that have been challenging them outside the group. The environment of each session ensures a safe place to experiment the different options of treating in a more satisfying and effective way (Discover the Advantages of Group Therapy, 2015).
The participation in the talk-listen-and-imbibe process will fix the responsibility of each involvement in the concerned member, who thinks what others say truly applies to him or her also. Group counseling affirms the participants that they are not alone, since other people also face the same problems, and there is always the opportunity to avail support. The receiving of the help is an essential part of a broader therapeutic alliance, while the act of giving itself is a matter of growth and learning. Group counseling helps sharing one’s experiences, thereby developing communication and socialization skills in them. By virtue of this, they can improve the self awareness for withstanding any criticism from others (American Addiction Centers. (2017).
Though the inexpensive Group Counseling removes inhibitions and perceived weaknesses of the group members, through their copying successful behaviors and actions of others, it involves certain negative aspects too. Its major flaw is the possibility of lack of attention of the older clients and their inability in keeping the confidentiality in groups. The chances of social loafing are also higher in this therapy, due to the presence of unmotivated individuals in the group and their avoidance of accountability. Moreover, group therapy will not be an appropriate treatment for persons, who are aggressive, psychotic, and extremely antisocial (American Addiction Centers (2017).
Aging is a challenge for many individuals as they move into their later years, dreading the inevitable mobility and mental issues of old age. Older adults are confronted with the fear of mortality, when their friends, partners, or spouses die. The situation can become unbearable, making them vulnerable to isolation, leading to several illnesses, both physically and mentally (Aging and Geriatric Issues, 2016). Studies show that depression alone affects more than half of the world population over age 65. The elderly who are in the grip of depression usually view the situations only in a negative way, even when there exist positive interpretations that are valid and overriding their pre-notions (Zerhusen et al., 1991).
The elderly’s physiological decline affects the body’s normal functioning, which can lead to memory loss and other functional issues relating to vision, hearing, eating ability, and other chronic conditions. Change in socioeconomic status and lack of employment will create a feeling of low self-value in them. The result is total dependency on others, and the predictable neglect by the family members. Therefore, there is a need for counseling centers to meet the physical and psychological needs of the elderly (Lena et al., 2009), considering that 15% of adults who are aged 60 and above are suffering from mental conditions. The following statistics are an eye opener to the concerns of older adults (Aging and Geriatric Issues, 2016).
The above challenges can be overcome only through the interventions of professional people, who can make the older counterparts distinguish the changes from serious health conditions. Counselors and care givers can influence the thinking habits of the elderly, by using strategies to reduce the impact of the above problems. Though there are limitations, such efforts can induce the elderly to acquire the ability to adapt to the changes towards enjoying a quality life in their life ending years (Aging and Geriatric Issues, 2016). Several recent researches on the problems faced by the elderly have unequivocally established that most elderlies are easily exposed to physical and emotional issues, as well as economic insecurity in their life’s fag end. Many of the contingencies that are associated with ageing can be either prevented or delayed through willful interventions of therapists (Kalra, 2012).
Life issues in the elderly are the problems they face in managing relationships, self esteem, and coping with loss, grief, and surviving disabilities. Due to the several changes in the physical, psychological, and social aspects, their self esteem and capacity to live are threatened, causing a feeling of loneliness and depression in them. Most often, such situations originate when they are left alone, without having any connections with community activity. As they grow older and older, they lose contact with their friends, and are unable to create new ones. Since aging is the closing period in the lifespan, a person will think of the past achievements before the life ends. In order to adjust to the accompanying changes, older people need to become flexible and adapt to such changes (Singh & Misra, 2009).
Group counseling can support the aging adults, who face difficulties in managing their emotions and finding new meaning in life. It can steer the affected older individuals to overcome their fears about death and grief over the lost friends or family members (Singh & Misra, 2009). It provides advantages in psychosocial care, with elements of social support and cost effectiveness. The therapeutic benefits of Group Counseling differ from the other form of therapies, to inculcate hope and socialization in the elderly people. While it imparts information and altruism, it also recognizes the psychological experience of universality, offering corrective actions, interpersonal learning, imitative behavior, and group cohesiveness (Supiano & Luptak, 2014).
However, regarding the groups that include persons with trauma, there is a need to establish safety and trust, with particular interventions required for trauma, especially psycho-education. In order to address the special needs of the grieving older persons, group counseling is apt to give emotional support for coping loss and bringing back the persons to a comfortable setting. This will reduce isolation and induce relationship mentality for building up common bonds. Group Counseling can act as a platform for the older adults in sharing their experiences, such as listening and learning. It also provides them with the coping skills, while they earn and extend support to other members of the group (Supiano & Luptak, 2014).
Thus, group counseling can enhance the goal setting, skill building, and emotion self-monitoring in these people to fight away their grief and depression, displaying motivational cues of becoming supportive to the group members. In resolving grief and isolation, the counseling is an exemplary intervention for improving relationship issues between the participants and the deceased. The group therapy effectively addresses the feelings of attachment of the elderly people (Supiano & Luptak, 2014).
Group counseling is an efficient form of counseling, with observable and predictive positive outcomes. In Group counseling, there is an involvement of simultaneous interaction of members with other people, within the physical environment of the session, which is intentionally outside the social network of family and friends. Most often, the members of the group experience the same issues, but at other times, the group may consist of members having different backgrounds and distinct problems. Generally, the therapist or facilitator will be a trained person in conducting group therapies, though they may lack any state or national licensing to perform such tasks (Tomasulo, 2010). The therapeutic alliance in group counselling is a binding between the counselor and the group members, and involves working of different therapeutic factors, including interpersonal feedback from the peers (Wesson, 2013).
The facilitators of group counseling observe and guide only the dynamics that are present at the counseling time within the given environment, reflecting on the ongoing issues relating to the life of the members. These interactions between the members display only the performances that have evolved out of the family of origin and other relationships, but does not represent any interpersonal settings. The facilitator deciphers the interactions and derive the members’ feedback on their behaviors for initiating a corrective strategy. With the help of this strategy, the facilitator corrects the interaction of the members. The support groups do not always evaluate the elements of interaction, but only focus on the themes projected by the members. The group counseling is cost effective and the outcome is more or less equal to an individual counseling (Tomasulo, 2010).
In individual counselling, the involvement is between a counselor and a single client to form a therapeutic alliance. There is full attention of the counselor, which is given at a scheduled time, and the client does not have any worry about any personality clashes, unlike group counseling. The client also gets more time with the counselor for resolving the problems, during the sessions. However, individual counseling is costlier than the group counseling, and the chances for the counselor’s additional advice or ideas are less. The type of feedback given depends on the ability of the counselor, while the interaction between the client and the counselor remains personal. The dynamics of the relationship will not be spontaneous and the therapeutic effect will not be immediate (SCRIBD, 2017).
In order to address the elderly’s life issue of isolation and depression the intervention strategy of Psychoanalytic counseling, based on Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis can be employed. By using this technique, the unconscious mind of the older adult can be explored for knowing how the unconscious mind controls the thoughts and behaviors. This insight will derive a resolution to the elderly, who is seeking the treatment. It involves looking at the experiences from the early childhood of the person to understand whether it has affected the life of the individual, becoming conducive to the present concerns. This is a prolonged type of treatment, for making deep rooted changes in the personality and emotional development of the person (Psychoanalytic therapy, 2017).
The assumption is that the psychological problems are lying in the unconscious, and the cause to symptoms are dormant in the hidden disturbances, like the unresolved problems evolved during the growth process. The treatment digs out the repressed conflicts and bring them to the surface, so as to make the person understand the past events, which are affecting now. During the course of the counseling, the person will be allowed to talk freely to the counselor, in a safe environment. The counselor will listen to the problems and look for the critical events deciding the behavior, by employing the techniques of free association, therapeutic transference, and interpretation (Psychoanalytic therapy, 2017).
The longer life expectancy in the elderly is making them vulnerable to increased physical impairments and mental hardships. The most common mental problems they experience are isolation, relationship issues, depression, grief, stress, and fear of death. In order to alleviate these sufferings, the elderly must be allowed to participate in group counseling, as it can influence their thinking habits and behaviors, through employing appropriate strategies and techniques. Among the several clinical approaches, Freudian psychoanalytic theory-based-approach can resolve disorders, like isolation and depression, because it can act as an inside-out mechanism in the unconscious. The underlying past events of conflicts when revealed, the individual can realize the root causes and mend their ways, accordingly, to real calm and tranquility.
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