System of Advanced Training

Introduction to Advanced Training

Throughout the 80s, the Psychotherapeutic Institute Bergerhausen Duisburg in Germany has played a crucial role in the development of gerontotherapy as a means of advanced qualification for psychosocial professions. It was the result of the steadily rising need for therapeutic care for the elderly.


The training qualifies the participants to work therapeutically with elderly people in outpatient, as well as in stationary facilities. With regard to the growing number of elderly people in our society, specializing in the counseling and therapy of elderly clients can lead to new perspectives. The challenges to come and new forms of care for elderly people make vocational training with a special focus on gerontotherapy more important than ever.

The individual therapeutic qualification of advanced training’s participants is therefore paramount. It is based on extensive professional knowledge of gerontological, geriatric and geronto-psychiatric content. Through study sessions and practical training, the participants are being prepared for the actual therapeutic work itself.

For those who already work with elderly people voluntarily or even in a professional environment, we offer the possibility to meet their questions that may have surfaced during their work with a theoretical concept, in order to develop new possible actions. One’s own perception and ability to act within the work with elderly people will be expanded, leading to an improvement in the participants’ personal and professional qualification and enabling the participants to tap into new areas of work.

The advanced training enables the participant to:    

  • Encourage autonomy and independence in elderly people
  • Help elderly people to overcome mental and emotional barriers that prevent them from taking their lives into their own hands
  • Accompany elderly people in burdensome situations and help them effectively in crises
  • Actively help elderly people and their social environment in specific problematic situations
  • Counsel the elderly person’s families and their social environment in critical situations in order to enable them to intervene in emotional crises
  • Support patients, nurses and the patient’s social environment during the time of terminal care

The basic approach is based upon a resource-oriented view of the human being and also aims to correct the deficient image of old age in general. Acknowledging the individual’s resources makes it possible to support competence and independence in elderly people. New means of action are being tested in order to realize them in the daily life of the elderly. Therapeutical work, in general, is always an invitation to discuss cumbersome beliefs and fixations on certain experiences, in order to reassess and change them for the better. Therefore our work is solution-oriented, without restricting the necessary space for experiencing current, important emotions. Therapeutical care for the elderly also serves as a possibility to take care of “unfinished business” and to process the many different bodily and social losses the people have experienced throughout life.

Our integrative approach with its goals and interventions is adjusted to the abilities and needs of the elderly.

Humanistic Psychodrama serves as the therapeutical foundation and it is further complemented and extended with conversational therapy, behavioral therapy, and gestalt therapy.

The combination of these different methods creates a holistic concept that includes flexibility and individuality. That means that the participants of our advanced training will acquire the necessary skills to select the best individual approach from a variety of therapeutical concepts and use them for their specific areas of work.

As therapists, we are always participating observers. Our methods are based on our participation, our perception, and our emotional presence. That is why self-awareness that enables us to experience who we are and how others perceive me a vital factor in our advanced training. Discords between self- and outside perception can be identified and reflected upon, setting into motion changes in one’s own personality.


The main focus lies upon counseling, helping and supporting elderly people, as well as acquiring personal competence. Each lesson is practice-oriented and leads to an integrative approach of counseling, that takes into account different therapeutical schools and counseling-specific opportunities. The methods learned within the course of this advanced training will steadily be connected to the context of working with the elderly and complemented with gerontological expertise.

Furthermore, different therapeutical methods are being taught and practiced, that are adjusted to the needs of the elderly. Here, it is also crucial to not only gain specific qualifications for the therapeutical work with elderly people but also improving one’s own personal competence. The inclusion of the family context, the knowledge about family systems, generational transition, and multi-generational perspectives serve as another addition to the advanced training.

Finally, by steadily reflecting upon theory and practical application in group-work with peers, the whole process of the advanced training is being complemented with single aspects.

The advanced training takes 2 1/4 years to complete and participants that pass the final exam conclude their studies as gerontological therapists.


  • At least 25 years old
  • University degree in psychology, pedagogy, social work, social education or medicine
  • or completed vocational training in a psychosocial, educational or nursing profession
  • personal interview
  • structure of the advanced training

The advanced training includes 208 lessons of organized studying, 40 lessons of supervision and 80 lessons that deal with theory, presentations and exercises.


Section 1: Gerontological basic knowledge

  • psychological gerontology
  • social gerontology
  • geriatric psychiatry
  • lifecycles, farewell, dying
  • care for the elderly and institutions for the elderly

Section 2: Advisory qualification

  • training self-awareness and outside perception
  • theories and concepts of counseling
  • client-centered communication skills
  • gestalt-therapy based interventions in consulting for the elderly
  • implementing relaxation techniques
  • integrated consultancy approach

Section 3: Gerontological knowledge

  • Psychology of aging
    • theories of aging
    • mental capabilities during the process of aging
    • learning abilities of the elderly
    • development during the course of life
    • aging as a process and task of development
    • problems in later stages of life
    • biographical work
    • dying and death
  • Sociology of aging
    • social conditions and dimensions of aging
    • the elderly in society
    • old age and poverty
    • old age in different cultures
    • women in old age
  • The elderly in their social environment
    • the elderly in their family
    • old age and relationship
    • the social network
    • housing situation (in old age)
  • Geriatrics
    • normal and pathological aging
    • specific disease patterns
    • typical symptoms in old age
    • pharmacology
    • prevention and rehabilitation
  • Gerontopsychiatry
    • introduction to psychiatry
    • systems of classification
    • psychological disorders and conditions
    • psychological disorders and conditions in old age
    • addictive disorders in old age
  • Organizational knowledge
    • tasks and functions of organizations
    • the individual and the organization
    • forms and structures of organizations
    • legal matters
    • possibilities and problems of social organizations
    • organizations and care for the elderly

Section 4: Therapeutical qualification

  • Therapeutical concepts
    • the behavioristic approaches
    • psychoanalysis
    • the depth psychological approaches
    • humanistic oriented approaches
    • system-oriented approaches
    • trans-personal approaches
    • relaxation techniques
  • resource-oriented diagnostics
  • crisis intervention
  • specific intervention with conversational therapy, behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, and humanistic psychodrama
  • family systems
  • multigenerational perspective
  • integrated gerontotherapy
  • the end and farewell
  • therapeutical attitude and ethics

Section 5: Self-awareness

  • using methods of the humanistic psychodrama

Section 6: Supervision

  • reflection on one’s own advisory and therapeutical actions

Exam, Graduation

  • proof of participation (seminars)
  • a certificate for 80 lessons of peer group-work
  • a written thesis about a geronto-therapeutic topic (at least 15 pages)
  • a written report about one’s own development and qualification
  • exam about gerontological knowledge