Resource Center / Health and Lifestyle / Therapy for Seniors in the Bay Area

Therapy for Seniors in the Bay Area

Get tips on how to find therapy for seniors in the Bay Area. Seniorly can offer some insights into finding counseling for seniors in our hometown.

By Emma Rodbro · Updated Aug 08, 2022

Therapy is a relatively new concept, an idea that developed out of early 20th century psychology that has shifted and progressed substantially since the days of reclining on a doctor’s fainting couch and talking while he takes notes in the corner. Fortunately, today counseling and therapy can take a number of forms, and it is much easier to find one that works for you. You can even find counselors and therapists that specialize in helping people with certain types of issues (couples counseling, for example) or people in certain stages of life. While some therapists might specialize in helping teens, or new mothers, others are trained and experienced in helping older adults and seniors handle the bumps of later life. 

Therapy for seniors might feel like a foreign concept for some older loved ones: they probably grew up in a time and place where therapy was relatively rare, or even something to be afraid of (after all, the ethics of medicine have changed for the better in the last century). But seniors can benefit from therapy just as surely as anyone else: talking to an unbiased third party can be a great way to get a new perspective on events long past or current, or on personal habits and emotional challenges. 

It might be tempting to think that after retirement, when children are grown and our other family duties are discharged or passed down to the next generation, that we should just enjoy our golden years as a stress-free time of life. But in reality, this, like any other phase of life, can come with its own unique ups and downs. 

We have some tips on how to find the right counselor or therapist for older adults in the Bay Area. Remember that it might take a few sessions with different professionals in order to find the right fit for you or your loved one. To start, consider what you and/or your loved one might discuss in therapy.

  • Relationship counseling: Not just for married couples or partners, you can also find family counseling that can help you explore and strengthen your relationships with adult children, siblings, caregivers, and more.
  • Grief counseling: Losing loved ones is part of life and grief counseling can help sort through the sometimes complex process of mourning. Also, grief isn’t just reserved for loss of loved ones; an older adult might be grieving the loss of their mobility or their family home, after moving into senior living.
  • Living with chronic pain or adjusting to physical disability: Our bodies can change dramatically as we age, sometimes limiting the ways we move in and interact with the world and each other. These changes can be difficult to adjust to, and talking about it with someone, especially someone who understands this particular struggle, can help.
  • Depression or anxiety: Common mental health issues don’t necessarily abate with age. If you or your elderly loved one felt the effects of these conditions in earlier years, there’s every chance they might intrude on your golden years as well.

If you’re seeking therapy because an elderly loved one seems to be struggling rather suddenly, you might want to consider consulting their doctor. Sudden changes in personality or disposition can be a sign of an underlying health issue, or even a side effect of a medication. Even if these changes came on gradually, there may be a physical rather than a purely mental or emotional reason. Hearing loss, for example, can cause seniors to become withdrawn as they avoid situations they cannot hear in for fear of being embarrassed or a reluctance to get a hearing aid. Treating hearing impairment can go a long way to improving connection, socialization, and depression.

A note on counseling vs. psychotherapy

Although many professionals use these terms interchangeably, as well as “therapy,” keep in mind that psychotherapy is a licensed practice, while counseling is not. That doesn’t automatically mean a life coach or counselor might not be licensed to practice therapy, or that they may not be a great fit even if they are not, it’s just a delineation that might help you sort through your options.

Things to consider as you search for Bay area therapy that’s right for you/your loved one:

  • Price: Your loved one might balk at the price of therapy. Try to persuade them that it’s well worth the investment to live a more peaceful and fulfilled life. You can also ask therapists if they provide their services on a sliding scale, according to what patients can pay.
  • Proximity: Especially if your loved one is hesitant to try therapy, lower the barrier to entry and try to find one as close to home as possible. Alternatively, remember that especially now, several years into the pandemic, many therapists offer online services. If an older adult isn’t familiar with technology, you could set it up and then leave the room to give them privacy. Depending on your location, you may even be able to find therapists or counselors who are willing to make house calls.
  • Fit: It’s okay to meet with more than one therapist to get a feel for one your loved one will feel comfortable opening up to. You won’t offend anyone if you don’t set up a second appointment. Although you should probably try to focus on finding counselors with experience helping older adults, a counselor who does not have this specialization, but with whom your loved one feels comfortable, might be your best option.

Some Bay Area senior therapy resources

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are some established senior advocacy organizations that can either provide or help you find counseling/therapy for seniors in the San Francisco Bay area. These non-profit organizations are one way to find mental health services, especially if price is a concern for you, but there are also many private practices in the Bay area that specialize in helping seniors. You can search online for private practices, or ask your primary care physician for a referral.

Institute on Aging: The Institute on Aging (IOA) is a San Francisco-based community service organization that strives to serve and support Bay Area seniors. They offer psychotherapy services for seniors that include cognitive behavioral therapy, supportive therapy, reminiscence therapy, bereavement therapy, and more. In some cases, they can come to your home for sessions.

Seniors at Home: Seniors at Home is a program provided by Jewish Family and Children’s Services (JFCS). Some of the many care services it offers are counseling and grief support to seniors in the San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin, and Sonoma counties.

Felton Institute: The Felton Institute serves the Bay Area and offers geriatric outpatient mental health care services as well as a senior full service wellness program, which includes counseling for various issues and situations.

Crisis Support Services of Alameda County offers counseling for seniors both in seniors’ homes and in their North Oakland office.

Living a more balanced life

For some seniors, growing older may have brought about a lot of change very quickly, which can be challenging for anyone of any age. For others, mental and emotional health may have been something they were never able to make time for in the past. Fortunately, seniors in these and other situations can seek to improve their quality of life by addressing friction and hurts both old and new. Therapy can help us understand ourselves and those around us better, or lend new perspective to old routines and thought patterns.

Addressing mental health as carefully as one would address physical health might take practice, but it is important to our well-being at any age. Older adults, for example, have an increased risk of depression, a condition that is often misdiagnosed and under-treated in their age range. There’s a difference between “having the blues” and depression, and a licensed professional can help you or your loved one with either.

If you or someone you care about is in crisis, please seek help immediately by calling 911, visiting a nearby emergency department or your health care provider’s office, or calling the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

Works consulted:

Sharpe, Rochelle. “Untreated Hearing Loss Linked To Loneliness And Isolation For Seniors.” September 12, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older.” Updated January 6, 2021.


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Health and Lifestyle
written by:
Emma Rodbro

Emma Rodbro

Head of Growth Operations at Seniorly, MA in Social Work with focus on aging from UC Berkeley.
View other articles written by Emma

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