Therapists for Older Adults

Parent Q&A

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  • I’m looking for someone to help redirect my mom’s stuck thinking. She is in her 70s, under a psychiatrist’s care for meds but not her thoughts.

    Her intense belly gazing negativity causes her suffering. Years of being her only outlet / her “therapist-designate” takes a toll on me. She expresses her fear & anxiety to me multiple times a day. Every evening, to her, is likely her last.

    She won’t change meds, doctors, hire a companion/helper, or join a group/church etc.  

    I’d love for someone to talk to her everyday for a few  minutes. Someone willing to get an old brain to practice a few moments of thinking positive. Also perhaps she wouldn’t need to unload on me constantly.

    (Is this pathologic?) Anyways, appreciate your input.

    -drained, numbed (sad & stressed) 

    Helping an older parent is really challenging, especially if you don't have siblings to pitch in. My job was to call, which worked until my mother needed to go to a memory care unit -- then calling became really difficult because the home didn't really facilitate that. I know someone who hired a "visitor/reader" for her father, mainly because he needed more attention. My thought would be if you could get her to accept a visitor/helper that would take a lot of the pressure off of you. There's a woman who does this for older people in my community. She's around 70 herself, so she understands the problems of that age group. If your mother lives in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito you can email me for her contact info.

    Maybe it would be helpful to you to enter therapy, where the therapist can support you, and help advise what you can do to protect yourself.  Your mother won't help herself in any of the ways you mention, and you mentioned a lot of ways.  

  • Therapist for later-in-life issues

    (1 reply)

    There are lots of books and groups for new parents, parents of teens, midlife crisis folks, and empty nesters, but not for those of us past midlife.  Not "how to have a happy retirement"; rather, how does one process the transition into a time when there are more years behind than ahead?  I would love to find a therapist who can work with me on the issues this stage of life is presenting.  Maybe it's someone good with grief (accepting the loss of certain hopes and dreams).  If anyone out there has had these issues and worked through them with the help and support of a wonderful therapist (male or female), I'd love to know.

    Patricia Cavanagh specializes in this.  patricia!     I had a few sessions with her to work through my fears about retirement, aging, etc. and found them helpful. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Counseling for my depressed 80-y-o mother

March 2010

I am looking for recommendations for individual counseling/psychotherapy for my 80 year old mother. She has been dealing with depression for the last several years, and now that my father has had a stroke it is clear she needs more help than I feel qualified to give. Does anyone know of someone who specializes in counseling for the elderly, who she might feel comfortable with? Appreciate any names or resources where I might start my search. Concerned Daughter

There is a very experienced counselor in Albany: Allan Grill, MFT. He is a colleague of mine. He works with seniors and with their adult children. His number is 510.232.1630. Good luck. anon

I would highly recommend Dr. Melinda Ginne, a psychologist with a geriatric specialty, in Oakland - (510) 717-2012, She is very knowledgeable about elderly psychological issues and is a great resource. Mirjana

My elderly mother-in-law saw Peter Opperman (925) 937-9707 for several years. He's very patient and kind. He was helpful to us, as well, in dealing with her dementia and other difficulties. He has a lot of experience with the elderly, is based in Walnut Creek but also has an office in Montclair.

Help with Mom's recent dementia diagnosis

Feb 2010

My mom, who is in her mid-eighties, was recently diagnosed with mild dementia or Altzheimers. She's had an MRI and is working with a Neurologist. She has become very sad about the diagnosis, worried, and depressed. It might be a normal reaction, but I am worried about the depression and of course don't want her to be hurting. I'm thinking some talk therapy might help. Does anyone have a counselor they could recommend who would be good with this sort of issue? Thank you. Sad

Family Caregiver Alliance offers recommendations for Elder Issues Counselor. It is a non-profit based in SF but serves surrounding counties.- Monica

I'm sorry to hear your mother has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's, but rest assured, her reaction of feeling depressed is quite normal and appropriate. To be told you will lose your memory, at some point not know those close to you, and not be able to care for yourself can be very devastating and send one right into depression. I've been a geriatric SW for several years and think having your mother see a therapist could be a good idea - if she is open to it. It could really help her process all the emotions and feelings that are swirling around in her and may help her feel have some control over her future. In addition, I think you should contact the Alzheimer's Assoc. to find early stage Alz. groups for your mother and caregiver support groups for yourself and maybe other family members. I don't know where your mother lives, but some local resources for eldercare support include:

1) San Francisco - Institute on Aging (IOA): they are an umbrella organiz. that have many different programs for older adults

2) Oakland / Berk. - Center for Elders Independence (CEI) - the IOA of the East Bay

3) Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) - helps w/support & respite of the caregivers/families

As for therapists, I would recommend Carol Nabori, LCSW w/Elder Care Consultants. She is in Oakland (near Summit Hospital) and has a very gentle, sweet approach. I don't know how much she charges or what insurance she takes, but just a thought. Good luck and kudos to you for reaching out for support early on....... anon

Roberta Tracy is director of program for seniors in Oakland and contact for family support- 601-1074. She will have referrals for you as will Alta Bates Psychiatry 204- 4405 and Family Caregiver Alliance -1-415-434-3388. Monica

Therapist for Depressed Elderly Mother

Nov 2007

Hi, I am hoping someone can make a personal referral to a good psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist, preferably no further south than Berkeley. My mother, who is close to 80, has had a very bad year. She lost her husband, had several serious illnesses, and had to move to assisted living in Pinole. She has always been prone to depression (she is bipolar), she's physically and psychologically frail, and she's given up. I believe she would benefit from some talk therapy. (She is already on medication for depression and we don't want to put her on any more, at least not until we've tried talk therapy.) She is in a difficult financial situation at present so it needs to be one of the following who are on her insurance plan. (And I can't pay for her.)

I am looking for feedback for any of the people on this list. All the following are in Berkeley except for the first two, who I've had trouble getting in touch with: Elizabeth Milnes Ph.D. (# disconnected--Richmond); Richard Bloom Ph.D. (still waiting for return call--Pinole); Patricia Hart Ph.D.,; Susan Brand Ed.D,; Robert Dolgoff M.D.; Ronald Elson M.D.,; Peter Freedman M.D; Stuart Gold M.D. Bonnie Kahane Ph.D.; Peggy Kelly Ph.D.; Catherine Lee Ph.D.; Arlene Marcus Ph.D.; Joel Marcus M.D.; Christopher Michel M.D.; Patricia Miller Hart Ph.D.; Meshulam Plaves Ph.D.; Robert Roller M.D.; Rick Trautner M.D.; Richard C Unger M.D.; John Rosenberg M.D.

I know many of the people on the list are doctors rather than ''talk therapists'' but I have to work with the confines of her insurance (grr!!). I feel it is important to hook her up with someone good--she has had poor experiences with Dr. Stamford in Berkeley and Dr. Frank at Herrick Hospital (psychiatric wing).

Can anyone help? She's in bad shape. I hate to just pick someone off a list. lk

I have been seeing Dr. Lisa Lancaster (in Berkeley 510-841-2525) for about 6 months and have been extremely happy. I have suffered with depression for a number of years and am finally starting to make progress. I am in my 70s. anon

I'm not familiar with the particular doctors you're asking about, but I wanted to share my experience with my mother-in-law who has many similar issues (almost 80, physically frail, coping with recent losses, lifetime of depression). After almost half a century of on and off talk therapy, my MIL has just started seeing her first female therapist. It has made a HUGE difference for her to be talking to a woman. Apparently she's been self-editing in her therapy sessions for all these years, but now that she's seeing a woman she feels safe enough to really open up. Since your mother is of the same generation, she may have similar issues. Good luck!

I recommend very highly Dr. Patricia Hart. She is very experienced and is practicing psychologist for many years. She has an excellent reputation in the community. W

I've worked at Alta Bates in both the in-patient & out-patient Mental Health departments for over 12 years. I have lots of experience working with Robert Dolgoff M.D.; Joel Marcus M.D.; Christopher Michel M.D.; Rick Trautner M.D.; Richard C Unger M.D.; & John Rosenberg M.D. They are all very good practitioners & I would feel comfortable recommending a family member to any of them. Mom, RN

My wife and I saw Meshulam Plaves Ph.D. one time. While we did not end up choosing him, our experience was that he is very laid back and tries hard to listen. If I had to choose from these individuals, Meshulam is the one I would recommend. Anon

Of your list, I had a very bad experience with Stuart Gold about 10 years ago. He would not return phone calls when I started to have adverse interactions with the medications. Even when I left several messages for him telling him I was suicidal, he never returned any of my phone calls.

I've had good experiences with John Rosenberg, but he is not at all a ''talk'' therapist. I've heard good things about Joel Marcus, but don't know if he's taking new patients. I'm also not sure if John Rosenberg is.

If your mother is bipolar, she'll need psychiatric, pharmaceutical intervention first and foremost, then talk therapy and eldercare, grief support second. I'd try to find a good psychiatrist first (caution: it can take several months to get an initial appointment even after you've found someone who's taking new patients). In the meanwhile, I'd try to find some social support/grief counseling for your mother, even if it's not in the form of an actual therapist. Maybe her doctor, church or temple can suggest a grief support group. There are several organizations offering elder support services in the community, even for elders who speak foreign languages. Look through the yellow pages under ''Elder Care Services.'' You could also contact the Gray Panthers or AARP for other resources. Finally, there's a therapist, Monica Nowakowski-Carlson, who offers free support groups for caregivers of the elderly through Herrick Hospital. You might contact her for more resources and support for yourself. Good luck! Been there

Therapy for my 60ish Mom

Oct 2006

My mom has asked for a referral to therapy. She is in her 60s and ready to deal with the following issues: aging parents, continued grief for first husband who died at age 43 leaving her (at that time a stay at home mom) with kids to raise and pretty much no money. Ten years later (at 53) she had a stroke. She recovered well but now must wear a foot brace and has limited mobility. It's been hard. Over the ensuring 10 years, she gained weight and I think this has caused additional epression. Mom remarried in 2000. He's a nice guy but he's a bit dopey and, the kicker: he is obese. She's worried about him but also, I think, disgusted by his lack of physical activity and his secret eating. He wants to retire soon and she is worried that she will lose her mind with him at home doing basically nothing but watch movies and eat.

This is a big, very complex job and will require the right person. Somebody who can show compassion for my mom but, when the time is right, constructively help her realize how letting go of her judgments of herself and others is the best gift she can give to herself.

She's a Kaiser member but, since last I checked, Kaiser only approves 20 sessions a year and I think she'll need to go more regularly than that thus she's willing to pay out of pocket. But Kaiser would be great economically. Thank you in advance for your ideas and suggestions. anon

I recommend Dr. Laurie Campbell in Walnut Creek. She is wise and patient and has a great sense of humor which can be exceedingly helpful in dealing with a painful past. She has 30 years of experience (much of it in the field of body image--sounds like this could help your mom) and you can feel it as she helps you. I agree, she should not get a Kaiser therapist and limit herself to a set number of sessions and a therapist who is likely to be biased towards drug therapy. Mental health is an area where it is really worth it to get someone fabulous.

Good for your mom for taking this on! Therapy certainly has changed my life. Feel free to email with questions.
Dr. Laurie Campbell 2910 Camino Diablo, Suite 200 Walnut Creek, 94596 (925) 947-2922

I think Yvonne Mansell would be perfect for your mom. She specializes in grief, family relationships and parenting. She has helped me through several deaths including my fathers, and now dealing with my aging mother. She has also helped me dealing with my own disabilities and my own aging. She works from a very compassionate and nonjudgemental heart while firm, professional and always at the right time is able to lighten up our work with humor. Her phone is (510) 528-9551, email is ymansell [at] and web-site is Best of luck to your mom autumn

Suzanne Pregerson is a mature and experienced couples counselor. She is a professional colleague whose work I respect. Diana