Perspectives on Training Needs for Geriatric Mental Health Providers: Preparing to Serve a Diverse Older Adult Population

Jin Hui Joo, Daniel Enrique Jimenez, Jiayun Xu, Mijung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


An increasingly diverse population of older adults requires a diverse workforce trained to address the problem of differential healthcare access and quality of care. This article describes specific areas of training to address health disparities based on ethnic differences. Culturally competent care by mental health providers, innovative models of mental health service delivery such as collaborative care, and expansion of the mental health workforce through integration of lay health workers into professional healthcare teams offer potential solutions and require training. Cultural competency, defined as respect and responsiveness to diverse older adults' health beliefs, should be an integral part of clinical training in mental health. Clinicians can be trained in avoidance of stereotyping, communication and development of attitudes that convey cultural humility when caring for diverse older adults. Additionally, mental health clinicians can benefit from interprofessional education that moves beyond professional silos to facilitate learning about working collaboratively in teams, in interdisciplinary, team-based models of mental health care. Multiple factors contribute to differential access and quality of care. Conceptual frameworks categorize factors at three levels; the micro level, involving health provider and patient interactions, the meso level that includes healthcare organizations, lay sectors and communities, and the macro level that involves health care policy and environmental context. 1 These factors can manifest as a person's self-stigmatizing attitudes regarding mental health conditions that prevent help seeking for emotional problems or be due to limited communication training among mental health providers. Systems level barriers such as lack of health insurance coverage, an inadequate geriatric mental health workforce to meet current mental health needs, and lack of tailored interventions aligned with patient preferences are also important. 2-5 To overcome these barriers, tailoring and extension of mental health services “beyond clinic walls” to meet patient needs have been recommended. This can entail providing culturally competent treatments in the preferred language of the patient, eliminating obstacles such as transportation by offering alternatives to in-person treatment, offering innovative models of health service delivery such as collaborative care and expanding the mental health workforce by training and supervising non-professionals such as community health workers and peers to deliver mental health services. 2,6-8 Finally, familiarity with how lay health workers can be integrated into professional teams and training to work and supervise them are needed. A growing and diversifying population of older adults and the emergence of innovative models of healthcare delivery present opportunities to alleviate mental health health disparities that will require relevant training for the mental health workforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • cultural competency
  • geriatric
  • healthcare
  • mental health
  • paraprofessionals
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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