Shannon Jones, a Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Regina, has adapted an existing online therapy program for General Anxiety Disorder to treat seniors with anxiety issues.
Jones, who works with Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos and a number of other students and individuals in the online therapy unit, is studying online therapy for her dissertation and has discovered that this type of service delivery has never been tested with adults aged 60 years and older.
“I have a specific interest in older adults,” explained Jones, “so people 60 years of age or older, and my interest in that age group mainly stems from the fact that they tend to not be looked at, especially in terms of an online therapy service, because there’s a kind of idea that most older people don’t know how to use the computer.”
This program is shorter than the regular GAD program with just 7 modules instead of 12, and is designed to take about 7 weeks to complete. It also involves the guidance of a therapist who is contact with clients on a weekly basis. The program is currently being provided at no cost.
“I think this is a really important direction that we need to go with our growing population of older adults,” Jones said. “I think that there’s also recognition that more people are using the computer, more people are being more comfortable with the Internet, at the workplace or with family members, and so I think this is still a method that requires investigation for older adults as one way to reach them for mental health services.
“It’s very similar to the process that would normally take place in our regular program. The only difference is that people who are eligible to take part would be randomized, and either receive treatment right away or they would be placed on a seven to ten week wait list, and that’s how we’re going to be comparing how effective the service is.”
Jones has been working with clients since the program was launched in March, and is hoping to generate more interest through the media.
The types of issues vary, but there are a few major areas of concern, including family, health, retirement and finance.
“I have some people who have a lot of anxiety about family members, so it may be about grandchildren, and about certain situations they’re grandkids are faced with, whether health problems or other more serious issues like drugs. Sometimes their own siblings, because their siblings are coming up to the age where they may be experiencing signs of dementia or cognitive impairment, or their own spouses may be dealing with things like that. That’s one area.
“Another major area is their own health. Sometimes individuals have been faced with a life-threatening or serious or chronic disease or illness, so there are concerns about treatment, how they’re managing, their ability to leave the house and be able to go out in public, depending on that particular concern.
“Some have difficulties with retirement, in the sense that they’re more isolated, have a little bit harder time adjusting to not having structure in their lives, so as soon as they were taken out of the work force, they started to worry more because they just have less to do and less people to be around.
“Financial concerns is a big one. People who have retired recently or are approaching retirement and perhaps their investments haven’t worked out with the recent crash of the market, so there’s a number of things.
The program includes audio content, pages that can be downloaded and forms to complete. Those who don’t have access to a computer at home might be able to access a computer at a library or through a family member.
“There’s various audio content, things that they can download and forms that they can fill out, so some people feel comfortable enough if they were to go to a local library or if they have family members that they can visit frequently,” said Jones. “People will regularly print off materials so they can look at them and they don’t have to be at the computer all the time.”
She said the program attempts to fit individual lifestyles.
More information is available by calling Shannon Jones at 306 585-5369, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or from the website at www.onlinetherapyuser.ca. Mouse over ‘Programs’ in the top menu to see a drop down menu, then click on ‘GAD for older adults’.