What is Geropsychology?

David BeckerBy David Becker

Aging is a fundamental part of being human. Although we all wish to live long and prosper—as the saying goes—and to continue enjoying the good things in life, the realities of aging can be daunting. Our bodies and minds weaken as the years wear on, rendering us more susceptible to medical problems like Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. We also find ourselves coming to terms with mortality as our loved ones and the cultural icons of our youth pass away.

Geropsychologists aim to understand the aging process as it relates to mental health.  Practitioners in this area help older adults negotiate these challenges and improve their mental health and overall well-being.

Even though the aging process has been a subject of contemplation throughout human history, geropsychology itself is fairly new. Belgian scholar Adolphe Quetelet is credited as the first to write about aging from a psychological perspective in his 1835 treatise Sur l’homme et le développement de ses facultés (which translates to English as On Man and the Development of His Faculties; Birren, 1961).  However, geropsychology didn’t really start to flourish until after World War II. This rise was marked by the founding of both the Gerontological Society of America and APA’s Division on Adult Development and Aging in 1945. Only just recently, in 2010, did APA officially recognize geropsychology as a specialty area of practice. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) also began granting board certification in geropsychology in December 2014.

Some have suggested that the slow emergence of this field may have to do with pseudoscientific myths about aging that persist in the public consciousness, accompanied by the fact that geropsychology brings us face-to-face with uncomfortable realities that we might otherwise prefer to avoid thinking about (Birren & Schroots, 2000).

GeropsychologyThe most significant reason for geropsychology’s recent emergence is undoubtedly the rising population of older adults. According a December 2015 report by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), there are currently 46 million adults age 65 or older living in the U.S., which is more than a twofold increase from 1960 when there were less than 20 million adults that age. The PRB expects this growth trend to continue in the next 50 years, estimating that this figure will more than double to 98 million in 2060. This increase in the 65+ population means that mental health practitioners will be seeing more and more older clients in the coming years.

Although adults in their 60s and 70s are generally quite healthy thanks to modern medicine, clinical psychologist Patricia Areán (2015) notes that older adults still face a number of unique health issues that require specialized care and that most mental health practitioners lack the knowledge and expertise to adequately address these needs. Clinicians working with older adults are also more likely to encounter a number of unique ethical dilemmas (Bush, Allen, & Molinari, 2017). When treating clients with dementia who have limited decision-making capacities, for instance, it can be challenging to balance the need to respect their autonomy with the need to assure their welfare, especially when outside parties like family members and other healthcare professionals are involved.

The recent emergence of geropsychology, therefore, is a matter of necessity that has also been accompanied many new advances in the last decade. One of the most noteworthy contributions is the Pikes Peak Model for Training in Professional Geropsychology, which has helped define the attitudes, the knowledge, and the skills that are necessary to become a competent geropsychologist (Karel, Molinari, Emery-Tiburcio, & Knight, 2015). APA also recently revised its Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Older Adults in 2014. With this rapid expansion of clinical knowledge, mental health practitioners will be well-prepared to meet the special needs of the growing population of older adults.

 

References 

Areán, P. A. (2015). Treatment of late-life depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance abuse. https://doi.org/10.1037/14524-000

Birren, J. E. (1961). A brief history of the psychology of aging. The Gerontologist, 1, 69–77. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/1.2.69

Birren, J. E., & Schroots, J. J. F.  (Eds.). (2000). A history of geropsychology in autobiography. https://doi.org/10.1037/10367-000

Bush, S. S., Allen, R. S., & Molinari, V. A. (2017). Ethical practice in geropsychology. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000010-000

Karel, M. J., Molinari, V., Emery-Tiburcio, E. E., & Knight, B. G. (2015). Pikes Peak conference and competency-based training in professional geropsychology. In P. A. Lichtenberg, B. T. Mast, B. D. Carpenter, & J. L. Wetherell (Eds.), APA handbook of clinical geropsychology: Vol. 1. History and status of the field and perspectives on aging (pp. 19–43). https://doi.org/10.1037/14458-003

What is Telemental Health?

shh_headshot-smallBy Susan Herman

Telemental health (TMH) is the use of telecommunication technologies to provide behavioral health services such as assessment, education, treatment, counseling and consultation. It refers both to live, real-time interactions as well as data sharing via asynchronous communication.

Over the phone and video teleconferencing systems, clinicians can provide care for most, if not all, the same conditions they treat in the office. Having a distance care option can increase access and decrease costs for consumers. However, telemental health can present certain logistical and safety complications. According to David Luxton, Eve-Lynn Nelson, and Marlene Maheu in their new book A Practitioner’s Guide to Telemental Health, complications can arise in regard to:

  • establishing informed consent
  • adapting intake and assessment protocols for the long-distance environment
  • involving emergency or support services, if necessary, at the client’s location
  • handling emotionally charged conversations when the client can easily power off their device, or when there might be another person in the room out of the clinician’s view

Asynchronous communication in TMH can include messaging technologies such as text or email—say, to ask follow-up questions or to check in on how well a patient is following a prescribed routine.

Software, apps, and peripheral devices for self-care and remote monitoring are also proliferating in the marketplace. These tools are broadly referred to as eHealth, or mHealth when deployed via mobile devices such as cell phones or wearables. They can be useful adjuncts to care, but cannot be used to diagnose mental health problems.

telemental-healthSome eHealth technologies provide alerts to prompt care providers to check in, similar to blood glucose monitoring systems for diabetics. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (2016), “Such apps might use the device’s built-in sensors to collect information on a user’s typical behavior patterns. If the app detects a change in behavior, it may provide a signal that help is needed before a crisis occurs.”

Apps and wearable devices may include various coaching functions, self-monitoring, journaling, and/or stimuli (music, imagery) for help with:

  • Anxiety and stress management
  • Breathing and heart rate
  • Challenging thoughts
  • Recording moods
  • Activity, sleep, food intake
  • Meditation and mindfulness

Though it can be difficult to keep pace with innovation, providers and consumers alike should evaluate all telemental health tools carefully to make sure their data stays secure, and that actually using the technology doesn’t introduce more complications.

For a complete list of practice and ethical standards and guidelines in telehealth, including information on provider reimbursement for TMH and legal/policy issues, click here.

References

Luxton, D. D., Nelson, E., & Maheu, M. M. (2016). A Practitioner’s Guide to Telemental Health: How to Conduct Legal, Ethical, and Evidence-Based Telepractice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

National Institutes of Mental Health (2016). Technology and the Future of Mental Health Treatment. Retrieved September 30, 2016 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/technology-and-the-future-of-mental-health-treatment/index.shtml

 

What Is Disenfranchised Grief?

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

It’s clichéd but true that everyone grieves in different ways. Grief is almost always seen as a private matter that elicits widespread sympathy. But, people also grieve for losses that society is not always expecting or allowing. This is known as disenfranchised grief, as defined by the APA Dictionary of Psychology:

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disenfranchised grief: grief that society (or some element of it) limits, does not expect, or may not allow a person to express. Examples include the grief of parents for stillborn babies, of teachers for the death of students, and of nurses for the death of patients. People who have lost an animal companion are often expected to keep their sorrow to themselves. Disenfranchised grief may isolate the bereaved individual from others and thus impede recovery. Also called hidden grief.

You can read more about disenfranchised grief in Dr. Kenneth J. Doka’s chapter of Handbook of Bereavement Research and Practice: Advances in Theory and Intervention titled “Disenfranchised Grief in Historical and Cultural Perspective” and in Coping With Infertility, Miscarriage, and Neonatal Loss: Finding Perspective and Creating Meaning, by Amy Wenzel.

Reference

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

What Is the Seat of Mind?

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Is your mind inside your skull? When you’re thinking, do you “feel” or “hear” the thoughts inside your head? These questions may seem to have obvious answers, but the seat of mind, as defined by the APA Dictionary of Psychology, has been, and still is, a matter of debate:

girl-thinking-1200seat of mind: the proposed place or organ in the body that serves as the physical location of the mind (or, in cartesian dualism, the location in the body where mind and body interact; see conarium). In current thinking, the brain is the seat of the mind; historically, other organs have been proposed, such as the heart. Some theories suggest that the mind (or the spirit) is diffused throughout the body.

In fact, in their new book, Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness, Drs. Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge argue that consciousness may not be from one’s brain.

What do you think? Or, perhaps I should ask, where do you think you think?

References

Barušs, I., & Mossbridge, J. (2016). Transcendent mind: Rethinking the science of consciousness. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.). (2015). APA dictionary of psychology (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

What is Psycholinguistics?

RKelaher

by Chris Kelaher

 

Psycholinguistics is the scientific combination of psychology and linguistics. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology 2ed (Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2015):

 

Psycholinguistics n. a branch of psychology that employs formal linguistic models to investigate language use and the cognitive processes that accompany it. Developmental psycholinguistics is the formal term for the branch that investigates LANGUAGE ACQUISITION in children. In particular, various models of GENERATIVE GRAMMAR have been used to explain and predict language acquisition in children and the production and comprehension of speech by adults. To this extent, psycholinguistics is a specific discipline, distinguishable from the more general area of psychology of language, which encompasses many other fields and approaches.

Other sources frame the term more broadly, however, locating it within the wider scope of cognitive science. Dictionary.com defines psycholinguistics as “the study of the relationship between language and the cognitive or behavioral characteristics of those who use it.” And in the APA Encyclopedia of Psychology (2000), Maria D. Sera tells us that:

Psycholinguistics is the study of human language processing, involving a range of abilities, from cognition to sensorimotor activity, that are recruited to the service of a complex set of communicative functions. It is related to the traditional academic disciplines of linguistics, psychology, education, anthropology, and philosophy, and particularly the cross-disciplinary areas of speech science, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neurolinguistics, and language learning, teaching, and rehabilitation.

speech-bubblesIn his book Psycholinguistics 101 (Springer Publishing Co., 2011), H. Wind Cowles writes: “Psycholinguistics asks the question: How is it that people are able, moment-by-moment, to produce and understand language? …. How do children come to have this ability? How and why is it sometimes impaired after brain damage?”

How widely used is the term “psycholinguistics”? Well, typing the word into the Google search engine produces about 500,000 results. To give you some context, the term “psychotherapy” produces 35.5 million results while “neuroscience” produces over 41 million. So while the term is certainly not a state secret, it does not have the broad currency of many more established concepts within psychology. But it is a field growing in interest and significance, and we are excited to increase our offerings in the field of psycholinguistics.

To that effect, APA Books is collaborating with De Gruyter Mouton, a leading international publisher of linguistics and communication science, on a new book series. Language and the Human Lifespan will feature the best contemporary research in psycholinguistics. This month marks the release of the first title in the series, Bilingualism across the Lifespan: Factors Moderating Language Proficiency, co-edited by University of Alberta psychologist Elena Nicoladis and Simona Montanari, a linguist at Cal State, Los Angeles.

The Language and the Human Lifespan Series will be essential for all who work in or are interested in the porous disciplinary boundaries of psychology and linguistics, drawing on top-flight researchers from both fields. Future titles in the series will cover such topics as autism and language, research methods for studying language acquisition, and the concept of entrenchment—the ongoing reorganization and adaptation of communicative knowledge.