Public Description of Professional Geropsychology

Professional Geropsychology is a specialty in professional psychology that applies the knowledge and methods of psychology to understanding and helping older persons and their families to maintain well-being, overcome problems and achieve maximum potential during later life. Professional geropsychology appreciates the wide diversity among older adults, the complex ethical issues that can arise in geriatric practice and the importance of interdisciplinary models of care. 

Specialized Knowledge

  • Adult development and aging: normal aging-related biological, psychological, social change and sociocultural factors (e.g., gender, ethnicity) 

  • Behavioral and mental health in late life: medical illnesses, psychopathology, neuroscience and functional changes 

  • Foundations of geropsychological assessment: theory and research informing multiple assessment domains (e.g., mood, cognition, decision making and functional capacities) 

  • Foundations of intervention and consultation: theory and research evidence about geropsychological interventions, aging services, prevention and health promotion, and models and method of interdisciplinary collaboration

Problems Addressed

The specialty of professional geropsychology addresses many biopsychosocial problems encountered by older adults and their families, including: 

  • Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety 

  • Dementia and related behavioral/lifestyle changes 

  • Changes in decision making or everyday living abilities 

  • Coping with and managing chronic illness 

  • Behavioral health concerns such as insomnia, pain 

  • Grief and loss 

  • Family caregiving strains 

  • Adjustment to aging-related stresses including marital/family conflict, changing roles 

  • End-of-life care

Populations Served

Professional geropsychology involves services for older adults and their families, as well as healthcare social service and residential organizations. Services are delivered across a range of outpatient and inpatient medical, mental health and long-term care settings.

Skills and Procedures Utilized 

  • Assessment. Clinical interviewing; behavioral and environmental observation; self-report measures; cognitive and functional performance testing, integration of interdisciplinary assessments (e.g., medical, neuropsychological, social service); evaluation of decision making and functional capacities; risk assessment (e.g., suicidality, elder abuse) 

  • Intervention. Individual, family and group psychotherapy; utilization, adaptation and integration of evidence-based psychological interventions (including, but not restricted to behavioral, cognitive, interpersonal, problem-solving, environmental, and systemic approaches); health promotion; intervention across diverse settings of care 

  • Consultation. Consultation with families, professionals, service agencies, communities, legal systems; interdisciplinary staff and paraprofessional training; participation in interdisciplinary teams; program development and evaluation