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'Not A Normal Part Of Aging': More NC Psychotherapists Are Making House Calls

A picture of Godfrey with thank-you cards.
Rebecca Martinez
Geriatrics Social Worker Bryan Godfrey hangs thank-you cards from clients in his office.

The population of older adults is surging, and they face an increased risk ofdepression and anxiety. Now, more mental health professionals are filling a growing need by offering in-home psychotherapy sessions.The patients who visit Social Worker Bryan Godfrey at the UNC Geriatrics Specialty Clinic are going through major life changes. Some are downsizing their homes, grieving a loved one, or dealing with chronic pain or loss of mobility.

"I think it's very reasonable to experience sadness when things change, and in particular when there's loss. But there is that difference between sadness and depression," Godfrey cautions. "There's, of course, all the clinical markers, but, just in simple terms, if sadness is interfering with your ability to do the things you usually do, then it could be depression. And that's not a normal part of aging."

Interventions such as psychotherapy can help, and Godfrey can recommend a long list of counselors who work with seniors. But he says generational and cultural differences make some clients wary of mental health professionals. And then, there's the issue of actually getting to their offices.

"In particular, the transportation can still be very common barrier. You're talking about people with mobility impairments a lot of the time. They may also have cognitive impairments so they can't take a bus," he said.

A growing number of therapists now offer  the option of psychotherapy sessions in clients' homes. Ann Marie Sochia runs Silver Linings for Seniors. It's a Cary-based business that employs licensed clinical social workers across the Triad, Triangle and Sandhills who can visit clients' homes nearby.

"They would talk, then, about whatever issues the client would like to talk about. The therapist would help goal-set, plan, do an assessment and help the client feel at ease in talking," said Sochia.

The business works to make the best therapist/patient match. They also take Medicare, insurance and private payment, but Sochia says there's no additional fee for travel. She says home visits can help clients feel more comfortable doing emotional work toward healing and coping.

"People start to realize, 'Oh my god, she's not scary.'  'He's not scary.' 'I can talk to this person, and they can make a difference," Sochia said. "That's really what it's about, is making a difference with one senior or one family at a time."

Sochia says Silver Linings has grown 200 percent per year, for four years, and it's not showing any sign of slowing down.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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