Workforce Analysis of Psychological Practice With Older Adults: Growing Crisis Requires Urgent Action

Train Educ Prof Psychol. 2019 Feb;13(1):46-55. doi: 10.1037/tep0000206. Epub 2018 Oct 8.


As the proportion and sheer number of older adults in the United States continues to increase, we need to plan for their behavioral health care. Access to accurate data about current workforce characteristics in psychology can provide essential information to inform workforce planning. In this paper, we present results of the American Psychological Association's Center for Workforce Studies survey of psychologists, with a focus on older adults. Participants (N = 4,109) were doctoral psychologists identified through state licensing boards. Only 1.2% of those surveyed described geropsychology as their specialty area, although 37.2% reported seeing older adults frequently or very frequently, most often from the specialties of rehabilitation psychology, clinical neuropsychology, and clinical health psychology. Frequent providers of aging services were more likely to be older, nonethnic minority, working in independent practice as their primary work setting, and self-employed as compared to other respondents. In addition, frequent providers of services to older adults were more likely to be in practices colocated with medical professionals and to accept Medicare as payment. Low reimbursement rates were cited as a reason for not accepting Medicare by those who did not. There was strong interest in further education in aging from all psychologists in areas including adjustment to medical illness/disability, depression, bereavement, dementia, anxiety, psychotherapy, and caregiver stress. The results of this survey suggest a continued urgent need to train psychologists across subfields in foundational geropsychology competencies that all psychologists should possess to be prepared for the rapidly growing and increasingly diverse population of older adults.

Keywords: aging; geropsychology; workforce.