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Why I Went into Therapy at Age 69

For weeks now, I had a feeling of foreboding. I felt stuck. I was burdening my friends with the same old rants. I was ruminating too much. I couldn’t forgive things from my past. I was filled with fears around the future. Could it be I needed to “talk to someone?” Did I really need to go to therapy? The thought of it was not appealing.

What could I possibly figure out at my age? Hadn’t I lived enough to make sense of the things that life was tossing my way?

New questions had arisen. How do I be old? What is old? What is my sexuality at this age? How do I let go of regrets? What do I make of the “mistakes” in my life? How do I forgive myself and others? Why am I disappointed in my children? In my friends? How can I create the old age I want? What, really, do I want? I realized yes, I needed to talk to someone who wasn’t a friend.

The Hardest Thing About Therapy Is Finding a Therapist

I consulted with a friend who is a retired psychiatrist. How does one find a therapist these days, I asked her. To start, she said, ask all your friends if they know a good therapist. Get into the grapevine. It might take several tries and appointments to find a therapist you can relate to.

But these days, she said, the first decision you can make is: do you want to go in person, or online. The new thing, the less expensive option, was to do it like everything else these days, online. Virtual shrinking.

Since people date online, so I guess therapy online is a natural conclusion. She referred me to a site that she had heard good things about from her psychiatrist colleagues. I opened my laptop and started to investigate.

I thought it was weird, but investigating wouldn’t hurt, I thought. And it’s free to investigate. If I felt uncomfortable, I could tap delete on the situation at any moment.

Compassionate and Easy to Use

The site she referred me to was intuitive, and easy to use. It was sensitive to an inquiring person’s doubts and friendly to a tentative, delicate soul who’s seeking help. I filled out questions about age, sexual orientation, and then came a menu of ills/feelings/conditions I could choose from. It wasn’t like choosing flavors at an ice cream parlor, I’ll tell you that.

You could click depression, anxiety, fear, trauma… you get the gist. Then there was a menu of things that asked you what you would like to work on: career, old age, past trauma, love, self-confidence, sexuality, etc. But more complicated than what I’ve listed, of course. I was glad to see there was “life review” and I clicked on that amongst others.

Finally, some questions about the type of therapist I would like: old, young, male, female, specialty, etc.

And I Clicked Send

A day or so later, I received an email that said I had been paired with a therapist. Included was the name and a bio of the therapist, her training, experience and areas of expertise and interests. At this point, no money had changed hands.

I was invited to create an account, pay and contact the therapist by message to see if we were a good fit. Alternatively, I could look at more bios of suggested therapists and see if I found someone who might be a better match.

Just like finding a pair of shoes you like, or the perfect black sweater, it takes work to find a therapist you mesh with, whether in person or online. Don’t get discouraged.

On the platform, I could choose between phone call or video session. I chose video sessions because I needed and wanted to see my therapist. And I didn’t want to be just a voice.

What’s Different Today About Therapy

The therapy platform I’m using allows communication with the therapist anytime, via text or voice message or email. The lines of communication are definitely open 24/7. In the old therapy days, contacting my therapist out of the session was not encouraged.

Therapy is definitely different today. It is focused on goals and results. There seems to be an emphasis on faster: in and out. This seems good to me. No more hanging on, interminable, strung out dramas… It’s more like having a psychological coach.

I Guarantee Your Therapist Will Be Younger Than You

In my youth, my therapist was older and wiser than me. I looked up to her for her wisdom and experience.

But at my age, there are basically no therapists still working who are older and wiser than me. They want to retire too! I asked my therapist her age and she is in her 30s. I took a breath, thinking, okay, how is this going to work? How did I feel about having a therapist who was in her 30s? What could she possibly offer me in navigating my issues on aging?

But as it’s a brave new world, I decided to continue. I love young people, I love their new values and the way they are navigating the difficult world they inherited from us. They have amazing solutions that we can’t see.

Sure, they don’t have our life experience, but they do have new techniques and understandings. So, I let go of my expectations and dove in. I wanted to see what new perspectives she could offer me. I would give this a chance and see what I could learn.

This is part one of a two-part article on going into therapy at age 60+.

What is your experience with therapy? Have you thought about needing someone, other than your friends, to deal with your unresolved issues as you face the final, best years of your life?

Author’s note: If you, or someone you know, are in crisis or any other danger, please seek professional help immediately. This article does not deal with serious trauma or life/death incidents, but rather, with more typical “light” issues of depression and anxiety.

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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