Retirement Counseling: Case Study

Here is a typical scenario:  Joel is a 65-year-old man who recently retired from an executive position in a large corporation. Although he says he looked forward to retirement, he never developed any interests or relationships outside of work. He complains of feeling "tired" and "bored." His wife, Joan, has always been a homemaker. Now that Joel is home during the day, he tries to show her ways to be more efficient in doing the household chores. Joan describes frustration with his "supervision," and the difficulty of finding time for herself or her friends when Joel is underfoot all day.

As a counselor here is how I can provide individual psychotherapy to Joel and to his wife and also identify the themes with which I can hypothesize Joel is struggling and what would be the benefits of Joel attending group therapy for retired men?  I may also answer, how would intergenerational couple's therapy benefit Joel and Joan?

My observation:
Joel is suffering from a mild depression brought about by a change of pace from previous 9-5 drudgery of being an executive “supervising” his employees in a large corporation into a slow and less pressure lifestyle. Not all and sundry reacts the same way to retirement, some will be looking forward to seeing a chance to relax or relief from the stress of working in a large corporation, particularly those who don’t have many perks and excitement of an executive.
For men, retirement is a concern that can affect the very essence of their lives. Many men derive an almost single-minded identity from their work. Many develop no diversified interests outside their employment and are caught up in a narrow definition of who they are and what they are worth as people. Work and life become so interconnected that the loss of a job can eliminate the reason for living (Butler, Lewis, & Sunderland, 1998).

Now what Joel needs is to refocus out of his previous lifestyle to his new life and to “seize the day” of being at home enjoying other activities other than “supervising” as the executive boss of Joan so Joan can find more time for herself. Counselors need to help Joel reevaluate his transition through individual psychotherapy. Joel and Joan must first admit to the counselor of having some type of psychological concern and intends an answer. The counselor will conduct an individual therapy for the first session through narrative or life review.
Davis and Degges-White use the term life reviews as a naturally occurring process in which individuals share their stories through written or oral means. Individuals depend on language to make sense of mental images and on constructed symbols to communicate ideas and intents to others (Davis and Degges-White, 2008).
A narrative or life review counseling would be a very appropriate technique to know and bring out questions and answers individually like:

1. What are the things you miss being an executive? (Question for Joel)
2. Is there any activities you have done in the past 5 years that helped you not to feel depressed? (Joel)
3. When and how did you feel that Joel don’t understand you or you feel like he supervises you like one of his employees? (Joan)
4. Have you tried doing something fun together since you (Joel) retired? (Both)

As his counselor, I would also propose to have Joel and Joan try to write down their daily events either through a journal for their own exclusive readings. Have them individually review anything they write and observe themselves and get back to the counselor for a follow-up.

Davis and Degges-White continues their studies: Comparing participants' earlier writings with their later writings and asking participants whether they thought the life review activities improved their ability to view themselves gave a more comprehensive perception.
Davis and Degges continues in their research: Overall, the participants viewed the activity as one that provided personal analysis rather than pure description of past activities or relationships. They generally believed, they did deepen their understanding of themselves, and they felt that looking back did provide opportunity to find connections (i.e., self-actualization). Their comments revealed that the experience encouraged them to undertake a personal search for meaning (Davis and Degges-White, 2008).

Joel and Joan is going through a transition and together, they should be counseled as a couple and also within a group of an adult who is going through similar circumstances as they are who has an impact in their individuality.

Adults continuously experience transitions. Adults’ reactions to transitions depend on the type of transition, the context in which it occurs, and its impact on their lives. A transition has no end point; rather, a transition is a process over time that includes phases of assimilation and continuous appraisal as people move in, though, and out of it (Goodman 2006).

Transition counseling through individual and group is a process that they both must go through formal counseling. Also, would advise Joel and Joan to have activities together and join a group like the Association of Retired Americans and other local community group of seniors or couple. This will keep Joel’s mind out of his previous lifestyle and transitioning both towards being a normal couple and they may see this through other people in a group including inter-generational.

In groups, clients have opportunities to hear about a variety of sources of support and coping strategies used by others. When we ask adults, what has helped them survive, we most often hear about a sense of humor, support from special people, and faith (Goodman 2006).


Butler, R. N., Lewis, M. I., & Sunderland, T. (1998). Aging and mental health: Positive psychosocial and biomedical approaches (5th ed.). Austin: Pro-Ed, Inc.

Davis, N. and Degges-White, S. (2008, Fall2008). Catalysts for Developing Productive Life Reviews: A Multiple Case Study. Adultspan: Theory Research & Practice, 7(2), 69-79. Retrieved November 24, 2008, from Academic Search Premier database.

Goodman, Jane. Counseling Adults in Transition : Linking Practice with Theory (3rd Edition). New York, NY, USA: Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, 2006. p 53 and p 250

Last written: November 30, 2008 8:24 AM


  1. Subject: Re:Week 8: Counseling Retired 65-Year-Old Joel and his wife Joan by Tony Astro Topic: u08d1 Case Analysis
    Author: Jeannette Coaxum Date: November 30, 2008 6:46 PM


    I enjoyed reading your post. Do you think that Joel has been treating his wife Joan as one of his employee or since his retirement he has to re-evaluate his life?

  2. Subject: Re:Week 8: Counseling Retired 65-Year-Old Joel and his wife Joan by Tony Astro Topic: u08d1 Case Analysis
    Author: Tony Astro Date: December 1, 2008 8:08 AM


    I would think so and even my wife and not being retired, she thinks that i do the same thing to her, supervising. I have to start refocusing and separating work from home by education (through Capella), start planning for a business in 5 years before retiring from the Navy and maybe find a second career that will help both my family and myself and us doing together (small family business is a good one).

  3. Subject: Re:Week 8: Counseling Retired 65-Year-Old Joel and his wife Joan by Tony Astro Topic: u08d1 Case Analysis
    Author: Bryan Funk Date: November 30, 2008 8:59 PM


    Your post was very interesting and different than most others. It appears that you mix individual and couple therapy with Joel and Joan. I really like your emphasis on the transition rather than on this being a problem. Labeling it a transition helps make it something that can be gotten past.

    Bryan Funk

  4. Subject: Response to Tony from Edrena Topic: u08d1 Case Analysis
    Author: Edrena Walker Date: November 30, 2008 11:43 PM

    Hi Tony,

    As you mentioned related to some men work and life become so interconnected that the loss of a job can eliminate the reason for living. In addition, men should be encouraged to take a more active part in all aspects of life, a sharing responsibility for financial support with wife, so that there is more leisure time throughout life for rest and study and active involvement in cultural and social activities. A call for male liberation is in order, if men are to escape the crushing burden of over identification with work and problems of stress, retirement shock and shortened life expectancy that are associated with it. The most successful retiree is those who take reasonable precautions for their old age but enjoy living in the present rather than expecting some future golden age. The institution of retirement is barely 100 years old and is a consequence of the lengthening of the life span for vase numbers of people. Our present lack of structured and meaningful rites for retirement has led to anomic nonparticipation of many people in American life (Butler, Lewis, Sunderland, 1998).

    Thank you for sharing! Great discussion posting!


    Butler, R. N., Lewis, M., Sunderland, T. (1998). Aging and mental health: Positive: Psychosocial and biomedical approaches. Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed International Publisher, Inc.


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