Using Positive Psychology & Telehealth To Improve Mood in Older Adults
Occupational therapists are instrumental in the care of people living with dementia. Occupational therapists have a holistic understanding of how cognitive functioning impacts activities of daily living. They can provide cognitive stimulation therapy to help maintain areas of cognition and delay the gradual cognitive decline that occurs with dementia. Because there is no cure for dementia, the success of occupational therapy interventions, including cognitive stimulation therapy, is measured by the maintenance of certain cognitive functions that are expected to decline over time.
Telehealth is a method of delivering therapeutic services to people using communication technology. Telehealth services can be delivered via phone calls, video-conferencing, or through interactive web-pages. While many methods exist for providing telehealth, many people, both therapists, and patients, are hesitant to believe that telehealth can help improve mood and psychological well-being.
Research has shown that using telehealth to deliver positive psychology interventions is effective for improving emotional well-being and depressive symptoms in older people. Common positive psychology interventions are: practicing gratitude, thinking of three good things, thinking of three funny things, and identifying signature strengths.
How you can help your client practice positive psychology through telehealth:
- Practicing Gratitude: Have your client think about what being thankful means and what things they are thankful for in life. Encourage them to think of anything, big or small that they are grateful for.
- Thinking of Three Good Things: Encourage your client to take time and think of three good things that bring them joy or have given them happiness. Have them write them down or tell you what they are.
- Thinking of Three Funny Things: Have your client think of three things that make them laugh. They can be anything (appropriate!).
- Identifying Signature Strengths: Ask your client what their favorite characteristic of themself is. Try to have them focus on personal strengths rather than physical traits.
Why and how does this work?
Positive psychology aims to help people thrive. Many people feel that aspects of their lives are out of their control. By having clients focus on positive aspects of their current situations while helping them identify areas of their lives that they can manage, you can help break the depressive states they circulate in. Helping your clients find positive attributes of themselves may help them reshape their perception of themselves and the world around them.
In a world filled with chaos, people may feel as though they will never get better. Likewise, people with chronic health conditions may also experience feelings of helplessness. Positive psychology may help your client reduce or avoid experiencing depressive symptoms. The techniques practiced in positive psychology can teach your client helpful cognitive-behavioral strategies that they can use to handle life obstacles. Life happens, but it continues on. The key to helping your clients thrive is to help them focus on the good, manageable, and acknowledge the fleeting experience of discomfort or a life obstacle. By doing this, you will help your client keep focused and keep going forward.
Even if you cannot physically see your older adult clients, you can provide positive psychology and counseling services using telehealth methods. The practice of positive psychology can benefit your older adult clients. Having your clients practice positive psychology techniques both during sessions with you and on their own can help them manage their emotions and feel in control of their lives.
Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2014). Positive psychology interventions in people aged 50–79 years: long-term effects of placebo-controlled online interventions on well-being and depression. Aging & Mental Health, 18(8), 997-1005.