Seeking Counseling After 50 - The Hows and Whys

redefining after 50 self-care Jul 05, 2020
Seeking the services of a counselor can be beneficial after 50

Seeking counseling at any age or stage of life can be very beneficial. There is less stigma around mental health counseling overall. However, many may still see ourselves as weak if we need the services of a therapist or counselor.

In reality, mental health support is no different from going to any doctor and getting help with a physical ailment. And, often, emotional issues and stress actually LEAD to physical illnesses. Seeking counseling is a healthy, proactive, self aware step.

Why Counseling After 50

There are issues that are specific to women over 50.

Issues Around Grief

As we age, we begin to lose people at an increased rate. Spouses, parents and extended family members. Friends. Dealing with the feelings around this loss can be very difficult. Seeking the help of a mental health professional to give you coping tools is a positive and proactive step. Often, part of the treatment involves engaging in a support group. This can be challenging for some, but can offer a great sense of community with people that “get” what you are dealing with. Some real friendships can evolve from this.

Increased Anxiety

Many of us have struggled with some level of anxiety throughout our lives and find that it is increasing as we get older. We tend to “find” things to worry about and it feels like at this stage, there are more things to find. Issues that center around aging and physical health. Many of us are living with chronic pain daily. We are experiencing more loss. We are often caring for senior parents which can lead to stress and strain on our relationships, depending on the level of care required. Our bodies are changing. And we are starting to be faced with our own mortality.

Counseling can provide us with tools to manage this anxiety and help keep it from interfering with our daily enjoyment of the journey.

Life Changes

Many of us are faced with major life changes after 50. We might be looking at leaving our current job but not ready to stop working or volunteering. We may be facing divorce or widowhood. Even positive changes can leave us unsure of next steps.

Counseling can help walk us through what’s next. It can provide us with the confidence we need to move forward making the most of the many years ahead of us.

Finding the Right Counselor

A good fit between client and counselor is key for a successful outcome. Following are some tips as you search for the right counselor for you:

Know the Type of Counselor That Would Be Best

There are three main categories of mental health professionals:

  1. Psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and is thus able to prescribe medications. Psychiatrists typically do not do psychotherapy. Most people seeking therapy would not start at this level. However, if the person you choose feels that you would benefit from meds, they may recommend co-treatment with a psychiatrist.
  2. Psychologist. A psychologist has a doctorate in psychology and does psychotherapy.
  3. Licensed professional counselor/Clinical social worker. Both of these have Master’s Degrees in either counseling or social work and have thousands of clinical hours of experience behind them before they are able to practice.

Know Your Reason for Going and Google People In Your Area Who Specialize in That Concern

If you’re looking for professional help because you are newly divorced or widowed, find someone nearby who specializes in those issues. If you are looking to make a career change or do that thing you’ve always wanted to do, search for good career counselors. Read the reviews.

Reach out to your insurance company to find out who is covered in order to minimize your costs.

Get referrals from your primary care physician.


Don’t be afraid to interview different therapists. You have to be comfortable and “click” with whomever you choose in order to reap the benefits of the client/counselor relationship. If you don’t feel safe and comfortable opening up to the person, it’s a waste of time and money. You should be able to do a brief phone interview with someone before making an appointment with them.

You will have to pay for a “get to know you” appointment, even if you don’t end up going with that person. But it’s well worth it to find the right fit.

The Nicest Person May Not Be the Best Person

While you want someone who you are comfortable with, you don’t want someone who’s going to coddle. That’s what friends and family are for. Good therapy involves real work along with taking a hard look within. You want someone who knows how hard to push and when to let up. Someone who won’t let you “chicken out” when the questions and insights become difficult to face.

Look for a therapist who instills confidence without being intimidating.

A therapist who gives homework is a good sign, as well. You want to be able to have a way to practice what you are learning in therapy out in the “real world” and to report back on what worked and didn’t work.

Seeking the services of a mental health professional is beneficial to all at any stage of life. However, there are issues that surface after 50 that are often new and different. Being proactive and getting help and direction with these can help us enjoy the journey as we move forward.