The mental health of older people is often overlooked, with much depression and anxiety in older adults across the UK unrecognised, undiagnosed and untreated. Research shows that the likelihood of being prescribed medication and not referred to therapy increases with age.

We believe that age should not be a barrier to receiving treatment and support whenever it is needed and that’s why we have developed our older people strategy.

Working with BACP members, a range of partner organisations and across the full range of BACP functions, we are exploring ways to:

  1. increase the numbers of older people who access therapy
  2. increase the availability and provision of counselling to older people

We’re taking a broad view of the definition of ‘older people’ and are focusing on the life events and transitions that happen more frequently (though not exclusively) to people aged 50+. This covers a large number of issues, age-ranges and experiences, including long-term conditions, end of life and bereavement.

Updates - June 2018

Nottingham ‘Making Connections’

We introduced the BACP older people strategy to members at our ‘Making Connections’ event in Nottingham in May. Discussion with members about their work with older clients highlighted the barriers that many older people face in accessing therapy and the need for flexibility in service planning and delivery to engage with older people who may be reluctant to talk and often prefer to focus initially on practical rather than mental health problems. BACP members across the UK are invited to share their experiences and examples of good practice at upcoming Making Connections networking conferences.

Older people a priority in new manual

Addressing some of these barriers to therapy for older adults is one of the themes in a new manual published by NHS England for commissioners and providers of Increasing Access to Psychology Therapies (IAPT) services in England. Although data shows that people aged 65 and over achieve recovery rates of 60.4% (compared to 46.3% of those under 65) older people remain under-represented in IAPT. The manual includes recommendation that IAPT services take a flexible approach to offering appointment times, session length and venue, including home visits.

Promoting working with older people to BACP members

We're still inviting members to join our older people expert reference group to support our work to increase access and provision of therapy to older people. If you're interested, please register through the BACP volunteers scheme.


If you would like to share your experience on working with older people or to receive a bi-monthly update on the work within the BACP older people strategy, please email