PSYCHOTHERAPY, SPIRITUALITY, AND AGING

Jan 18 22:00 2002 Dr. Dorree Lynn Print This Article

As I work with people fifty and over, I am aware that no matter how ... the ... related issues of their personal lives may be, it is rare when ... doesn't become an issue fa

As I work with people fifty and over,Guest Posting I am aware that no matter how important the psychologically related issues of their personal lives may be, it is rare when spirituality doesn't become an issue fairly early in our work together. As my patient, Jamie, a tall, shy, sixty-three year old woman said: "Although I entered therapy to try to come to terms with so many possibilities that I have never considered before, such as my failing health, my dislike of my body which no longer holds its shape, my fear of being alone, wondering what I would do if my husband Sam dies before me, and, of course, dealing with my own potential death, the truth is that I never really expected to feel so peaceful and serene as I aged. I think it has to do with my new interest in spirituality and what meaning it holds for me. I have found myself going to church again after a lapse of many years. I'm still not sure I believe in God, but I do seem to believe in something greater than myself." Quietly she looked at me, a question in her lovely blue eyes. Finally, she asked: "Do you believe in God?"

Somewhere in mid-life many people begin to realize they are not going to live forever. Often, as with Jamie, they enter psychotherapy to deal with very real life issues only to find that they flow easily between talking about their personal dynamics and their cosmic beliefs. A 1995 Gallup poll found that the older a person is, the more important the rituals of religion were likely to be. Also, findings are consistent that older people who use religion to cope do better psychologically and physically than those who do not.

As we age, the concept of spirituality —whether through or apart from religious ritual — takes on greater significance. Since our population is aging and for the first time in our history seniors will outnumber youth, perhaps there will be a change in the ways our society views both age and spirituality. Ultimately we need to move towards the ultimate answer, which is as old as time: We need to give back and to love.

This column's for you,

DR. D

Dorree Lynn, PH.D

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About Article Author

Dr. Dorree Lynn
Dr. Dorree Lynn

Dr. Dorree Lynn is co-founder of the Institute for the Advanced Study of Psychotherapy and a practicing clinician in New York and Washington, DC.
Dr. Lynn served on the executive board of the American Academy of Psychotherapists and she is on the editorial board of their publication, Voices. She is also a regular columnist for the Washington, DC newspaper, The Georgetowner.
Dr. Lynn is a noted speaker and well known on the lecture circuit.

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