by Gauri Savla, Ph.D.
Dear SDPA Members and Guest Readers,
I am thrilled to debut the online edition of The San Diego Psychologist. As the new editor of this beloved newsletter, I had the daunting task of not only carrying on the legacy of past editors, but to do it in an unprecedented medium. Putting together this issue has consisted of numerous hours of research, trial and error, eureka moments, and consultation with friends and colleagues who have more experience with online media than I do. I am grateful to have had the guidance of Kenny Leepier-Freemen, SDPA’s intrepid office administrator, as well as that of Ellen Colangelo and Brenda Johnson, current and past presidents of the SDPA, respectively, who looked through many early drafts of the website and shared their feedback.
One of the many changes to The San Diego Psychologist is the introduction of themed issues. I wanted to begin my tenure as editor with a topic close to my heart, so the theme of the Spring/Summer 2016 issue is Aging. We solicited some of the articles from experts in the field, and other contributors reached out to us at an opportune time. We selected the six best articles to include in this issue. In addition to the articles, each issue will also have a Community Resources section, relevant to its theme. We invite you to contribute to this section so we can make it as comprehensive as possible.
Aging is a universal experience; we begin to age the moment we are born. As medical breakthroughs and robust lifestyles are prolonging lifespans in the developed world, more and more people are living into their 80s and 90s. There are currently 40 million people over the age of 65 years living in the United States (www.census.gov). That number is projected to nearly double to a staggering 72 million by the year 2030. With age, comes physical and mental slowing, loss, and, sometimes, the resurfacing of old psychological issues or the emergence of new ones. Resources for emotional and mental health are neither ubiquitous nor sufficient to meet the needs of this population.
San Diego has always been one of the hubs of research with older clinical populations (e.g., University of California, San Diego housed the only research center in the country focusing on older adults with primary psychotic disorders for over 20 years). More recently, there have been multiple efforts to study other general medical, neurological, and psychiatric conditions in aging populations spearheaded by UCSD, San Diego State University, and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Yet, as a former researcher who worked with seniors, and now clinician in private practice, I find myself struggling to find appropriate referrals for older patients. There is a nationwide dearth of geriatric psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as allied professionals, especially those who accept Medicare.
The goal of this issue is twofold; (1) to shine a spotlight on the unique needs and characteristics of the seniors who live among us, so that we are aware of the resources that are available and those that are not, but necessary, and (2) to encourage early career professionals to consider serving this specific population, and obtain the training necessary to do so.
Personally, working with seniors has been the highlight of my professional career; I am humbled by the wealth of life experiences they bring to each session, and honored that they come to me for help. As the author of one of the articles in this issue writes, serving seniors is mutually beneficial to both, client and therapist.
Each contributor to this Aging issue has expertise in his or her field, and the passion for and experience with working with older adults. Dr. Tayer has written a passionate essay on why there is a great need for therapists in geriatric psychology and has shared her wisdom in the hope that it will not only guide new therapists in the field, but also encourage more practitioners to work with seniors. Dr. Uslander is a trained emergency room physician who changed career paths to serve older adults who are terminally ill and in the last stage of life; he discusses the needs of these individuals to achieve peaceful, “good” deaths and indeed, the need to open up the discussion about end of life issues. Ms. Chappell Marsh is a licensed marriage and family therapist and an expert in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT); her article uses a case example to highlight the conflicts experienced by older couples and the effective use of EFT in helping them achieve emotional closeness. Dr. Nunnink is a clinical psychologist, also an expert in EFT, who has penned a thoughtful essay on sexual intimacy among older couples and the role of EFT in helping couples regain an often-neglected but important aspect of their relationship. Dr. Pates, a veteran clinical psychologist and currently on the board of the SDPA has written about the unique approach to establishing therapeutic alliance with older adults in skilled nursing facilities. Dr. Bangen (in collaboration with Dr. Palmer and myself) has written about the role of neuropsychology in clinical practice.
I hope you find this issue educational and insightful.
We welcome your feedback. You may leave a comment in the comments section below, or email us at TheSanDiegoPsychologist@gmail.com. Please contact us if you are interested in joining the editorial team. As always, we encourage contributions from members of the SDPA; to submit an article, please refer to these submission guidelines.