Mental Health Nursing

The present description gives a brief summary of the importance of Supportive Psychotherapy in dementia written by Ola Junaid & Soumya Hegde.

There has been a growing interest regarding a variety of therapies aimed at alleviating dementia as its management has become a complicated issue. Since there are cost and safety problems associated with the drugs considerable research interest was centered on cost-efficient evidence-based applications that are mostly non-pharmacological.

However, there is some sort of unacceptance and discouragement among the public when such practices of psychotherapy are applied to elderly people. It was of opinion that there is a need to better educate health care professionals to make available the use of psychotherapy to elderly people. Despite all these concerns, some light was shed on the importance of supportive psychotherapy as an exploratory treatment option. The main aspect of this therapy is to strengthen and enable the patient’s attitude to adapt to environmental challenges by inspiration, reassurance, suggestion, persuasion, counseling, and re-education.

The patients would ultimately gain self-esteem, self-confidence, and awareness of real-life circumstances and the most essential ego function. Some of the approaches like cognitive–behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and cognitive analytic therapy have been suggested for dementia and other psychiatric problems in elderly people. These tasks may be only accomplished when there are better contacts between the organizers and health care professionals in psychiatry departments.

But supportive psychotherapy may depend on the sole role of the therapist, whose objectives may be examining the relationships, patterns of emotional response, and behavior, helping the patients improve social functioning and coping skills. Therefore, it was inferred that supportive psychotherapy may have better advantages over other psychotherapies, raising hopes for patients with dementia.

The intervention of the psychodynamic concept for supportive psychotherapy proved to be beneficial as it mainly aimed at strengthening ego functions and improving adaptation.

It is well known that patients with certain mentally challenged disorders like dementia may require the dependence of carers. In such cases, the psychodynamic approach could better assist in building and strengthening the carer relationship.

Certain techniques of supportive psychotherapy could be readily applied to elderly people with dementia if the therapist becomes familiar with the required modifications. Most of the techniques like encouragement, reassurance, praise, interpretation, education, environmental change, and cognitive restructuring are intended to improve patient’s ability to withstand real-world tasks.

In addition, this therapy would encourage the individuals to focus on their earlier success stories and confines them to supportive social dealings. The article further stresses the therapist the need to accommodate common adaptational responses in elderly patients with dementia such as withdrawal, physical and affective isolation, somatization, and/or hypochondriasis obsession with past memories and lost opportunities.

Further, when the patient has concomitant dementia, the process of psychotherapy may get affected in three areas like therapeutic relationship, therapeutic contact, and therapeutic operations, and other required adjustments would be slowing the pace of therapy, reducing the demands on the individual, simplification of patient-therapist communications and expanding the repertoire of techniques used to achieve goals. The successful implementation of these therapeutic aspects would strongly rely on nurses apart from other health care professionals. The large period of stay possibly required in the hospital for the patients with dementia would easily enable the nurses to better analyze the situation and put into effect all the principles of supportive psychotherapy.

Hence, the public should become aware of the efficacy of supportive psychotherapy and avoid expressing unnecessary dissatisfactions or concerns which would otherwise dishearten elderly people with dementia. Psychology professionals need to better understand the significance and take steps to implement all possible techniques of supportive psychotherapy by passively collaborating with the patients. Since previous case studies may prove vital in providing the clues, the article also suggests the importance of reviewing the available literature with the objective of strengthening the existing supportive psychotherapy modalities and providing a better remedy to elderly patients with dementia.

Finally, additional studies may enhance the utility of this much neglected psychotherapeutic tool.


Ola Junaid & Soumya Hegde (2007).Supportive Psychotherapy in dementia [Electronic version]. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 13, 17–23.

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