Breaking the Stigma

CJE Counseling Services Promotes Healthy Aging and Well-Being

When Sylvia retired from her job as a medical assistant nearly a year ago, she started to feel depressed. As a widow with few responsibilities to occupy her time and mind, she found that she just didn’t have the same zest for life. She felt sad and lonely, and had trouble sleeping. Her children were busy with their own lives and though she loved to travel, she now found that it made her severely anxious. Sylvia’s doctor ruled out any medical causes, and told her she was having panic attacks and was depressed. She was then referred to CJE SeniorLife for counseling.

CJE Counseling Services team.png
The CJE Counseling Services team.

After meeting with a CJE licensed clinical social worker for about six weeks, Sylvia’s panic attacks began to subside. She practiced the helpful relaxation techniques that her CJE clinical social worker taught her and learned how to reduce the negative thoughts that had often caused her anxiety to spiral in the past. Sylvia was able to grieve the loss of her husband and her career, and eventually started to enjoy life once again.

According to Rosann Corcoran, Manager of CJE Counseling Services, “When CJE opened its doors in 1972, mental health counseling was one of the first services that the fledgling organization provided to elderly community members. This was at a time when few providers recognized the importance of providing these services to older adults. While older adults actually experience mental health problems at lower rates than younger adults, those who are having difficulties are less likely to get help than their younger counterparts. According to a Texas A&M University study, older adults are three times less likely than younger adults to receive outpatient mental health care.”

Today, our highly experienced Counseling Services team remains committed to increasing the well-being of older adults by striving to decrease symptoms that can reduce a person’s quality of life. We work with hundreds of seniors, their families and caregivers at our Chicago and Deerfield office locations as well as in the homes of those who are homebound. We have therapists who provide clinical services in English, Russian and Spanish.

CJE’s psychotherapy services, offered to adults 60 and older (and in some cases, 55-plus), are covered by Medicare and private insurance. Many individuals seek out counseling because they are experiencing:

  • Depressive and anxiety disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Caregiver stress
  • Difficulty coping with changes in cognition, function and mobility
  • Adjustment reactions, including transition to retirement, health issues and financial stress
  • Interpersonal conflicts and relationship issues

Ms. Corcoran continues: “To participate in individual psychotherapy, clients must be open to receiving counseling services, and appropriate for weekly outpatient counseling. As needed, we also collaborate with geriatric psychiatrists and primary care physicians who provide medication monitoring for our counseling clients.”

Group Support and Therapy

In some cases, support or psychotherapy groups, all of which are facilitated by experienced CJE professionals, are a better option than individual therapy, or can be a useful adjunct to individual treatment. Groups—generally free of charge or billable to insurance—are offered at several CJE locations and address a variety of needs relating to older adults. CJE has groups serving those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, for seniors with adult children with disabilities, and for Holocaust Survivors (both Russian and English speakers).

We also have a variety of Support Groups for caregivers. Caring for an aging family member who is struggling with illness, dementia, loss and life transitions can be overwhelming and lead to a number of health issues for the caregiver. Caregiver Support Groups can help to ease that stress and improve one’s capacity to cope with caregiving challenges.

A new 8-week psychotherapy group, based on the principles of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, will help participants establish coping skills and problem-solving strategies to deal with the challenges of aging. Group members will have the opportunity to learn that there are others who are dealing with similar issues who also share similar thoughts, feelings and concerns.

If you are reading this article and are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to know that depression and anxiety are not a normal part of aging. However, the National Institute of Mental Health explains that depression, in particular, “…can coincide with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. And because many older adults face these illnesses, as well as various social and economic difficulties, health care professionals may mistakenly conclude that depression is a normal consequence of these problems — an attitude often shared by patients themselves.”

Take a lesson from Sylvia, and talk to a professional and experienced mental health counselor at CJE SeniorLife. As she says: “I am so relieved to have found the help that I needed at exactly the time when I did not know how I was going to go on. My therapist was able to assist me in the most caring and knowledgeable way possible. Now I understand how to control my panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms and feel so much more in control of my situation.”