Clinical geropsychology is a subfield of clinical psychology. It is concerned primarily with research, clinical practice, training, and policy concerning the provision of psychological services to adults over the age of sixty-five. Psychological services include diagnosis, assessment, and intervention, delivered within a wide range of service settings, including interprofessional contexts. Clinical psychologists work in many settings, including universities, health-care systems, nongovernmental and governmental organizations, private practice, and professional organizations and advocacy groups. Changing demographics leading to increases of older adults as a proportion of the population in countries across the globe has led to an increased interest in aging across policy, health-care, and research agendas. In particular, the training of health-care providers skilled in geriatric care has lagged behind the increasing needs of an aging population. Clinical geropsychology as a field has grown significantly since the 1960s, with an ever-increasing research base, increasing prominence in health-care systems, policy development and advocacy, and increasing training opportunities. Although concerned with later life, clinical geropsychologists adopt a life-span perspective when thinking about the mental and physical health of older persons, with attention paid to individual differences on the basis of gender, race, class, and ethnic/cultural considerations. Increasingly, an international perspective on research, training, policy, and practice characterizes the field.
Textbooks on Later Life
A number of textbooks offer overviews of the field of clinical geropsychology. Many are suited either for undergraduate or graduate study, depending on the student’s prior exposure to the field. Many would be appropriate also for clinicians looking to gain further competence in work with older persons. Clinical geropsychology is most often taught within a graduate or even postgraduate context, and the books in this section reflect the advanced nature of the topic in most curricula. The listed titles broadly cover the field. An early and influential text in the field that inspired many is Eisdorfer and Lawton 1973. Gatz 1995 is a text detailing issues in mental health for an aging population, and Edelstein 1998 offers detailed and comprehensive coverage of a wide range of topics in clinical geropsychology. Hersen and Van Hasselt 1996 and Nordhus, et al. 1998 were two of the first books on clinical-geropsychology topics, and the interesting Birren and Schroots 2000 provides a historical overview of the field of geropsychology. Within North America, Whitbourne and Whitbourne 2014 is a common choice for undergraduate adult and older adult developmental classes. Both Segal, et al. 2011 and Whitbourne 2000 are appropriate either for undergraduate or graduate students wishing to focus more on mental health and development in later life. In Europe, Fernández-Ballesteros 2007 provides in-depth coverage of the theoretical and practical aspects on geropsychology on that continent.
Birren, J. E., and J. J. F. Schroots, eds. 2000. A history of geropsychology in autobiography. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
The field of geropsychology was shaped by a diverse group of individuals who share their individual life stories as well as their contributions to the field. As geropsychology has developed globally, this volume reflects that international perspective as well as the continuing growth and importance of the field, both for policy and practice, in light of an aging population.
Edelstein, B., ed. 1998. Comprehensive clinical psychology. Vol. 7, Clinical geropsychology. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Midway between a handbook and an encyclopedia of clinical geropsychology, this comprehensive volume provides coverage of a very wide range of topics within the field. Written by international experts, a summary of clinical research and its practical application is provided on a number of topics, including sexuality, bereavement, anxiety, substance abuse, and schizophrenia, as well as specific neurological disorders.
Eisdorfer, C., and M. P. Lawton, eds. 1973. The psychology of adult development and aging. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
This text, one of the earliest in the field of geropsychology, had a significant influence on the field. Written as part of the American Psychological Association’s Taskforce on Aging, its chapters cover key topics in the field, including training emerging professionals.
Fernández-Ballesteros, R., ed. 2007. GeroPsychology: European perspectives for an aging world. Toronto: Hogrefe.
Europe is the continent with the oldest populace, placing its research and researchers in a unique position to offer insights on an aging population. In this volume, distinguished European experts in clinical and developmental psychology as well as gerontology put forward their views on current and future research directions for a psychology of aging. Importantly, disability, rather than aging, is posited here as the more important threat on a population level. The text discusses how psychology is well placed to address issues of addressing disability in light of increasing life-span.
Gatz, M., ed. 1995. Emerging issues in mental health and aging. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
As the population ages, the increasing mental health needs of older adults necessitate a strategic framework for ascertaining, exploring, and trying to meet those needs. The book presents a broad range of emerging mental health needs and services, from promotion of positive mental health to tackling serious mental illness. Important research and policy issues to be addressed are also explored, as are nascent solutions to meeting the mental health needs of older persons.
Hersen, M., and V. B. Van Hasselt, eds. 1996. Psychological treatment of older adults: An introductory text. Plenum Series in Adult Development and Aging. New York: Springer.
This text covers a wide range of topics in the field, including common psychological disorders of later life as well as interventions in various treatment contexts, including residential care. Chapters on historical perspectives in clinical geropsychology as well as medical-assessment issues are also included.
Nordhus, I. H., G. R. VandenBos, S. Berg, and P. Fromholt, eds. 1998. Clinical geropsychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
This wide-ranging text covers theoretical perspectives on psychological and behavioral aspects of aging, such as life-span developmental, cognitive, sociological, and physiological psychology. Specific age-related issues relating to topics such as sexuality, marriage, elder abuse, dementia, depression, employment, and retirement are described. Best-practice, practical approaches to psychological assessment, neuropsychological assessment, individual therapy, and family therapy with older adults are offered.
Segal, D. L., S. H. Qualls, and M. A. Smyer. 2011. Aging and mental health. 2d ed. Understanding Aging. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
Appropriate both for undergraduate and graduate courses, this introduction to issues in aging and mental health will also prove useful for practitioners and researchers with an interest in aging. The book reviews models of mental health and illness and empirically based assessment and treatment approaches and offers guidance on how these may be tailored for older persons.
Whitbourne, S. K., ed. 2000. Psychopathology in later adulthood. Wiley Series on Adulthood and Aging. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.
This text offers a comprehensive review of psychopathology in later life. Combining theory, research, and practice, the unique ways in which a wide range of psychological disorders present and are treated in older adults are discussed. Each chapter focuses on a specific disorder and includes a relevant clinical case study integrated into the text.
Whitbourne, S. K., and S. B. Whitbourne. 2014. Adulthood development and aging: Biopsychosocial perspectives. 5th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
A multidisciplinary approach to aging and positive images of later life characterizes this engaging text on adult development and aging, aimed primarily at undergraduates. Topics covered span developmental, clinical, health, and social-psychology perspectives on later life.
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