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Tenured Gerotherapists: Factors Contributing to Career Longevity

13 July 2018


The older adult population is growing rapidly. By 2030, 1 in every 5 USA citizens will be over the age of 65 (United States Census Bureau, 2018). When compared to the general population, rates of psychopathology range from 2-3% higher for community dwelling older adults to 60-80% higher for those receiving long-term care (American Psychological Association, 2014; National Institute of Mental Health, n.d.); yet, less than 5% of psychologists specialize in working with older adults (American Psychological Association [APA], 2014). To examine the gap between rates of psychopathology and accessibility of mental health providers serving older adults, this phenomenological qualitative study queried: What factors contribute to career longevity for gerotherapists? Research participants were recruited via email from 2 organizations serving older adults, one in the state of Washington and the other nationwide. Inclusion criteria required participants to be licensed psychologists or counselors primarily working with older adults in a psychotherapeutic capacity for 10 years or longer. The primary researcher conducted 60-90-minute interviews. Five measures of trustworthiness were utilized to ensure methodological rigor and creditability. Eight themes emerged from the data: Social-Cultural Factors, Practice Opportunity and Reimbursement, Intrapersonal Factors of Gerotherapists, Older Adult Factors, Setting Characteristics, Professional Connection, Effective Perspective, and Internal Motivating Factors. Similarities and differences were identified between the existing body of burnout and compassion fatigue literature and the findings in this study, suggesting some potentially unique qualities specific to the tenured gerotherapist subpopulation.


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