Tamara McClintock Greenberg, PsyD, MS


Feel entitled to an absorbing life

Pyschodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness

Second Edition

December 2015, Springer

This timely update of the bedrock text reflects what we now know—and are still finding out—about the benefits of psychodynamic psychotherapy for older adults facing chronic conditions. Expanding on the original, the author balances the physical and experiential factors affecting patients’ physical illnesses and related emotional distress while situating core psychodynamic constructs in the context of illness and aging. Special attention is paid to technique, giving therapists practical guidance on dealing with transference and countertransference issues, working with patients in cognitive decline, and navigating complexities of age, class, and culture. The book also reviews the current evidence on how and why psychodynamic therapy helps medical patients with coping, adapting, and healing.

Included in the coverage:

  • Technology, idealization, and unconscious dynamics in the culture of medicine.
  • Narcissistic aspects of aging and illness.
  • Grey areas: when illness may be particularly impacted by psychological variables.
  • Cognitive changes and implications for the therapeutic encounter.
  • The influence of psychological factors and relationships on medical illness.
  • Hope and grief: the introduction of an emotional language.

The Second Edition of Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness skillfully follows its predecessor as a powerful, plain-spoken mentor to therapists as well as medical clinicians working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and outpatient practice.


“The Second Edition of Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness is a timely and superb revision which offers health-care professionals working at the mind/body interface a paradigm shift. For far too long, the wisdom of psychoanalysis as a tool to understand the suffering inherent in aging and illness has been devalued and neglected.

“With this update, Dr. Greenberg incontrovertibly corrects this lapse. Her integration of current scientific research, alongside a user-friendly discussion of the theory and practice of psychodynamic psychotherapy, is an important contribution to the psychology of medicine. Several topics are elaborated; the constructs of hysteria and somatization, the biology of stress, the impact of attachment history on coping with sickness as well as the experiences of trauma and grief.

“As with the first edition, the idea that the patient’s experience of illness cannot be understood without including the subjectivity of the practitioner who provides care is considered and done so with more awareness of this complexity. Each chapter now contains a section on ‘Suggested Techniques’ that succinctly presents a guideline for applying the ideas set forth. Other notable aspects of the book are its reflections on the culture of medicine and the insights about the influences of contemporary Western life on the manifestation and adjustment to illness.

“This edition is, above all, essential for those practitioners dedicated to providing collaborative and interdisciplinary health-care which is both biologically and psychologically informed. As with the First Edition, it will continue to be required reading.”

Marilyn S. Jacobs, Ph.D., ABPP

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

“A wonderful, well-researched, and important book that proves to be as much about humanity and resilience as it is about human psychology.”

Lee Daniel Kravetz

Author, Supersurvivors: The surprising Link Between Suffering & Success

“Tamara McClintock Greenberg is one of the leading health psychologists of our time. In this second edition of her classic text, she corrects the much overlooked interface between the psychodynamics of aging, illness, and the doctor-patient relationship offering insights that no other practitioner or theorist has accomplished to date.

“Combining her training and expertise in psychology and behavioral medicine, she facilely navigates the turbid waters of how medical illness and aging is informed by unconscious dynamics, childhood familial relations, somatisation, coping and recovery, and the convergence of mind and body. Healthcare practitioners of all types who work therapeutically with chronically ill and older adults will find this to be a perspicacious and indispensable approach to clinical praxis.”

Jon Mills, PsyD, PhD, C.Psych., ABPP

Professor of Psychology & Psychoanalysis, Adler Graduate Professional School, Toronto

“In the second edition of Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness Dr Tamara Greenberg makes a remarkable contribution to those who treat patients with medical illnesses as they age. Her psychodynamically informed approach to patients in later life couldn’t come at a better time as our population becomes older.

“Challenging the field’s dogma that older patients are too set-in-their-ways to make personality changes, Dr Greenberg demonstrates in this book how wrong that notion was. We are all a work in-progress until the very end. This is a must-read practical book for therapists, nurses, families, physicians, family and estate lawyers, and health care navigators.”

Louann Brizendine, M.D.,

Professor and Author of “The Female Brain” and “The Male Brain”, Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Professor of Clinical Psychiatry; Founder, Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic, UCSF


“Tamara McClintock Greenberg provides the medical and psychological community with an exceptionally incisive and truly groundbreaking tour de force. Dr. Greenberg has illuminated the factors implicated in health and illness with a clear and concise perspective culled from the best of contemporary psychoanalytic psychology in a manner not previously accomplished. This work will be valued by all who come into contact with illness, suffering, pain, aging and death. With clearly elucidated concepts, vivid clinical examples and the benefit of her own personal narrative, the book is both compelling and educative. For those who work in medical settings, especially in health psychology and consultation liaison psychiatry, this text presents the definitive study of the nature of the experience of caring for sick people in our society. It will be required reading for a long time to come.”

Marilyn S. Jacobs, Ph.D., ABPP

David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

“Presents keen insights for understanding your parents feelings and behaviors.”

Dr. Hendrie Weisinger

Huffington Post, 2009

“This is a straightforward read, offered to present-day medical practitioners and mental health professionals to help with the art of treating older people. It examines this burgeoning population with a wide lens, taking in every feature, especially its impact on all the professionals providing therapy: psychiatrists, psychologists, internists, and neurologists, as well as nurses, caseworkers, and personal caregivers.

“The author addresses the technical and conceptual challenges, the major dynamics in these treatments, and the role of medical conditions…Psychodynamic Perspectives on Aging and Illness will provide the essential optimism, confidence, and technical proficiency needed for clinicians coping with referrals from the aging population.”

Anna Burton, M.D.

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2011

“Now comes Tamara McClintock Greenberg to point out that our rapidly aging population has a host of mental health problems. Among other conclusions, she disputes Freud, who said psychoanalytic treatment is useless for people 50-plus.”

Orange County Register

Reprinted in Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Baltimore Sun, 2009

“This book applies a fresh, contemporary application of psychodynamic theory to the complex issues of aging and declining health.”

Psych Critiques


“The book is very well written… is highly relevant and important to many areas of practice (and research).”

Lisa Hollis-Sawyer, Ph.D.

Activities, Adaptation and Aging, March 2012

“Tamara McClintock Greenberg has written an important book on aging and the medical community. …gives readers much to think about.”

Minding Our Elders


“The book begins with a discussion of the effects of aging and illness, and the emotional changes that occur in response. It also shows how psychological factors affect various illnesses such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer. The author is honest about the limitations of traditional psychodynamic approaches in helping the elderly, which prompted her efforts to adapt the theory to make it more helpful to patients, without forsaking the basic foundation.

“She believes that using a more modern psychodynamic approach has greater explanatory power and will enhance the treatment process. She talks about the “hypomanic culture of medicine,” a fast-paced, pressured culture where doctors have limited time to see each patient. The book also addresses how medical illness can be seen as adult-onset trauma and creates a narcissistic injury. Transference and countertransference are still very important concepts in this adaptation of psychodynamic theory. The book includes important information on self-destructive behaviors and cognitive changes that occur as a result of aging and/or illness.

“It ends with an understanding of therapeutic action, especially dealing with alexithymia or psychic detachment. This is a great book for clinicians who want to use psychodynamic therapy with the elderly. The author has formulated a more modern approach while keeping the basic concepts intact. The case vignettes are excellent. This book will given clinicians useful tools from a theoretical foundation that has great explanatory power.”

Gary B. Kaniuk

Doody's Review Service, June 2010