This book covers the essentials of psychotherapeutic work with older adults, discussing how contemporary psychodynamic thought can be applied clinically to engage the older patient in psychotherapeutic work of depth and meaning, work that not only relieves suffering but also promotes growth.
It describes the way the difficulties accompanying older age can affect psychological functioning and it examines the unique psychotherapeutic needs of this age group. Using clinical vignettes for illustrative purposes, it explores the psychotherapeutic challenges, tasks, techniques and accomplishments involved in the treatment of older adults. Topics discussed include the reemergence of earlier developmental challenges; the concurrent treatment of late life and revived early trauma; transference and countertransference; the functions of developing an enriched life narrative in restoring the self; existential issues; and mourning. Throughout, the focus is on what psychotherapy can do to help.
The demand for mental health services for older adults is growing alongside increasing life spans, but the psychodynamic literature has neglected this population. Blooming in December: Psychodynamic Psychotherapy with Older Adults fills this gap, offering a clear guide to effective work with older adults for all psychotherapists and psychoanalysts.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction 2. Developmental Tasks of Later Life and the Resurrection of "Ghosts" 3. Trauma and Trauma Redux 4. Transference, Countertransference and the Therapist’s Personal Equation 5. The Narration of Life Stories and the Self 6. Existential Anxieties 7. Endings
Amy Schaffer, PhD, is a faculty member and supervisor at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy and the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Study Center. A psychologist/psychoanalyst in private practice, she also has a background in psychological research and psychodrama in mental health settings. She has worked with older adults in her practice for 40 years.
"This wise, readable book finally rectifies the psychoanalytic community’s shameful inattention to – and devaluation of – psychotherapy with aging patients. As we boomers confront a life phase for which neither the dominant culture nor our countercultural ideologies prepared us, we look to psychotherapists for help (after all, one of our generation’s achievements was to destigmatize therapy). But before Schaffer’s contribution, otherwise well-trained psychoanalytic clinicians were ill-equipped to help us face the challenges, losses, and insults of getting old – not to mention its gratifications and rewards. All therapists should read this scholarly, insightful, clinically invaluable work." - Nancy McWilliams, PhD, ABPP, Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied & Professional Psychology
"Amy Schaffer’s new book is a distinctive contribution to a frequently overlooked area—working psychoanalytically with the older adult. Schaffer convincingly challenges the agism inherent in the assumption that older patients are unable to engage in deep psychoanalytic work. She points to the limitations inherent in aging—choices have been made and cannot be un-made—yet reminds us of how much can nevertheless be done. Addressing a range of issues relevant to clinical work in general and aging in particular, Schaffer’s book is book in rich with clinical experience and wisdom. A must-read for all of us." - Joyce Slochower, NYU Postdoctoral Program
"This seminal book is a welcome arrival that counters the psychoanalytic bias against the elderly concerning their potential for growth and change. Schaffer does not minimize the pain of aging. In fact, she deepens our appreciation for the ways in which physical, cognitive and emotional losses of later life impact the self. What is remarkable is her ability to acknowledge the reality of her patients’ experience while also helping them to know themselves better and find ways to grow. Her clinical illustrations expose the false dichotomy between supportive therapy and deep work, reflecting a humanity that is inspiring. Schaffer’s voice has the potential to empower the therapist of aging patients who encounters their plight with a sense of helplessness and despair." - Martin Stephen Frommer, Ph.D. Faculty, Stephen Mitchell Relational Study Center, Associate Editor, Psychoanalytic Dialogues