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Do Treatment Attitudes and Decisions of Psychotherapists-in-Training Depend on a Patient's Age?

Objective: The objective of this study was to analyze how psychotherapists' treatment attitudes and decisions depend on a patient's age.

Methods: A sample of psychotherapists-in-training (N = 97) responded to questions concerning a naturalistic case vignette of a female patient with symptoms of depression and anxiety. The patient was described as being either 79 or 47 years old.

Results: Results revealed no evidence that psychotherapists-in-training had more negative treatment attitudes towards an older relative to a younger patient. However, the patient's age had an influence on participants' therapeutic approach. Specifically, psychotherapists-in-training recommended short- as opposed to long-term therapy, considered motivational clarification less important, and viewed clarifying techniques as less appropriate for an older patient.

Conclusions: The stereotype of the rigid and resigned old person appears to be an important and potentially problematic factor in psychotherapy. Interventions to help therapists to reflect on their individual representations of aging may increase the likelihood of successful psychotherapy.

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