Reflections on the Existential-Humanistic Approach to Eldership

by Rochelle D'Silva-Suri

Poster at the APA Humanistic Psychology Conference
Humanistic Psychology in Practice
The 2nd Annual Conference of The Society for Humanistic Psychology
Sponsored by the Division 32 of APA
August 11-13, 2008
Boston, Massachusetts

Literature on the employment of humanistic existential psychology with the elderly is scarce. This paper aims to investigate the application of existential humanistic psychotherapy with the geriatric population or the elderly as Pacific Institute in San Francisco encourages clinicians to do. The author examines the efficacy of existential humanistic therapy with one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. Ideas of self-actualization, therapeutic relationship, self-development and finding meaning, as explicated in the writings of Yalom, Frankl, Bugental and Maslow, are explored within the context of psychotherapy with the elderly.

Drawing from theoretical frameworks of humanistic existential psychology, as well as supported by case studies, this paper brings to light some of the means and approaches of working with the geriatric population. Loneliness, dealing with death, dementia, grief due to loss of family and friends, and the aging process in and of itself, are some of the many life issues that the elderly are faced with. The reader is exposed to a myriad of challenges that are encountered by this population, as well as the humanistic existential approach in working with these life challenges and many of the so-called gero-psychiatric issues in older adults.

This paper will afford the reader with the following: (1) the opportunity of obtaining a deeper insight into the utilization and significance of existential humanistic psychotherapy with the elderly; (2) an exploration of the effectiveness of existential humanistic therapy with the geriatric population; (3) a new model from the existential and humanistic perspective to listen to the message of the forgotten ones -those elders labeled as "gone", "demented" or else.

Implications for treatment within a clinical setting, as well within other settings such as skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities are also discussed.