What is Money Therapy and How Can it Help?
Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.
Some years ago, early in my private practice as a psychologist, a friend presented me with the unique gift of a lovely calculator, saying he wanted me to add large numbers on it and implying the wish for my financial success. Feeling uncomfortable with the well-meaning gesture I retorted that I considered myself foremost a healer, and success would mean being able to help my patients live more peaceful and satisfying lives, not just “ adding large numbers on the calculator.”
In that moment I became aware of my own complicated money issues. Clearly I had ambivalence about being entitled to earn my living while also helping my patients to heal. (Not uncommon among women of my generation.) I subsequently met and began to collaborate with Deborah L. Price, financial planner and author of the books MONEY THERAPY: Using the Eight Money Types to Create Wealth and Prosperity and MONEY MAGIC: Unleashing Your True Potential for Prosperity and Fulfillment. The combination of our friendship and her development as a money coach led to a transformation of my own money consciousness, and ultimately my enhanced experience in being able to help my patients with these issues. Both individuals and couples were opened to greater understanding of how past issues gleaned from families and sub-cultures were impacting them in present relationships and career choices.
In this article I intend to provide information about money therapy, and delineate various applications of the process. It has become clear to me as a clinical psychologist who is also trained in the money therapy specialty, that the current volatile economic climate has greatly increased the need for this information. Going through the process of learning about our relationship to money, and the deeper meaning of money from internal as well as external perspectives can be freeing.
Borrowing from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (1943), basic needs need to be met first, then awareness of our formerly unconscious attitudes about money can enhance all aspects of our lives. Or, more simply, without physiological and safety needs being met, the needs of love, affection and belongingness rarely are met. Following this line of reasoning, the needs for esteem and finally, self-actualization are not activated until basic, instinctual needs are satisfied. In this regard, the beauty of money therapy is that it can be implemented to meet a client's need at any level.
We live in a society that places an emphasis on making and spending money, but talking about the subject is difficult for many. Until recently, generations of parents have been unclear about how to teach children and young adults how to handle money effectively. Self-esteem issues are generally tied to earning power in our culture; these reactions can permeate relationships and often contribute to problems with intimacy issues. This is a particularly difficult problem these days, with many hurting from job loss or uneasiness over career, business, or home security, creating added tension in families. The people who come to my office these days are eager to discuss these issues now, and are searching for guidance.
What Exactly is Money Therapy?
Money therapy, as with any aspect of psychotherapy practice, can be as varied as the individuals utilizing the modality. While there is no "cookbook" approach, there is a structure using the exercises in the book MONEY MAGIC. That process proved to be a powerful agent of change for me and others I have known, and is the approach I recommend to my clients. When difficult financial issues are presented and clients are interested in some focused work in that area, I suggest reading the first three chapters, then writing a "Money Biography", which involves accessing memories from the earliest possible to the present time. Bringing greater awareness around money histories enriches therapy work as connections between past and present begin to emerge, bringing insight into present issues. When each partner of a couple engages at that level powerful changes can occur rapidly. An example of this type of awareness took place recently with a couple that took turns reading their money biographies to one another, while the partner listened attentively. It wasn't long, with a few interventions on my part, until it became clear that within each family of origin there were opposing assumptions about the energy of money. Her family was casual about money, assuming we live in a "universe of plenty" and that another job opportunity would present itself as needed. (It usually did). His family, conversely, held onto the fears from the Great Depression gleaned from grandparents and lived as if in a "universe of scarcity". Those fears resulted in not taking risks, not spending (or circulating any money), and not living a joyful life, which was passed onto the children. One could speculate about "self-fulfilling prophecies", but the point here is that the couple began to empathize with the background of their partner, and find ways to forge compromises in their money decisions.
This is but one example of money therapy at work. With further reading the various exercises evoke even greater awareness and deepen understanding of both oneself and one's partner if they are part of the process. The "Mother/Father Mirror" looks at those who have influenced and taught us about money; or who may NOT have taught us through silence and contributed to our naiveté. Which leads us to a major, unique aspect of the work: finding our own "money type", akin to Jungian archetypes. An example would be the untaught, naive person who may be predominately an "Innocent", while the fearless risk-taker may relate to the "Warrior". The most balanced of all the eight money types would be the "Money Magician", who truly can learn to transform their energy around money towards prosperity, creativity and contentment. Additional exercises help separate out self-worth from net-worth, help to build a calmer relationship to money, and for those who are interested, there is a spiritual focus available.
Money therapy is not financial advising or guidance; that is neither the training nor my expertise. There are times, however, when clients who have gone through this process will seek help with changing money behaviors, and wish to learn basic financial management skills, or seek help for creating financial wellness. This is consistent with the training from The Money Coaching Institute and my own Certification as a Money Coach. One example is the painful story of a young woman who was deeply in credit card debt, paying unconscionable interest rates to several companies while also unable to curtail frivolous shopping. Our money therapy work uncovered a connection to past deprivations, resulting in overspending (and overeating), in an unconscious effort to fill the empty places inside. I have encountered this dynamic many times over with people in this age group, whereas other age groups may present with different dynamics.
Young people with affluent families are often hard-pressed to find the motivation to delay gratification and work towards a meaningful professional or work life, when the external (or internal) drive is around materialism, and there is fear of not meeting expectations. Divorced or widowed women who have not prepared for the future are grateful to have a confidential setting to work out thoughts on the details, or learn how to manage inheritances if that is the issue. Older couples often have not thought of comfortable ways to will their assets, and are intimidated to have the first conversation about these matters with an estate-planning attorney, or may even be seeking trusted referrals. Blended families who struggle with fairness issues regarding division of assets to children and stepchildren often seek clarification of feelings before making those complicated decisions. Couples seeking help where either he or she has lost a job, putting a strain on the marriage, and needing a neutral person to help support and guide them, all of these are examples of money therapy sessions, and symptomatic of our times.
The applications for this work are endless, and are as individual as the clients seeking help. But the goal of developing new awareness and peace of mind through creating a more balanced personal and financial life can be rewarding for a lifetime.
©Copyright by Sandy Plone, Ph.D. 2009
Dr. Sandy Plone, Clinical Psychologist and Certified Money Coach specializes in helping others work through blocks towards prosperity and creative fulfillment. For information or confidential questions call (310)-979-7473.
Money Coaching and the Business Environment
by Robert Coleman
Money is a symbol for survival, self-worth, power, and productivity within our culture. As such, it is inevitably a "hot button" within families and the upbringing of children. It is very common for children to adopt negative viewpoints regarding themselves, their own value within society, and the nature of money itself from their early family experiences. When these children become adults and enter the workforce, they often bring their negative beliefs and behavior into the workplace.
In theory, the world of business is supposed to be separate from the personal lives of employees. Employees are expected to leave their personal lives at home when they step through the doors of the enterprise. However, while employees may be able to isolate their personal interests and family activities from their jobs, they can't readily leave behind their attitudes and patterns regarding money.
The reason for this is that all for-profit business activities represent a group effort to provide goods and services to the public in exchange for money. This shared purpose automatically connects every employee within a business ultimately to money somehow. From the highest executive to the lowliest clerk, all employees have their beliefs and behaviors regarding money in play.
The interplay of money issues within a business can be very subtle. A sarcastic remark by a service representative to a longtime customer could stem from the employee's unresolved hostility towards power figures and sources of money. A sales representative may fail to close that big sale because deep down he suffers from feelings of low self-esteem regarding accepting money. The President of a company may reject valid suggestions from subordinates off-hand due to a hidden sense of insecurity. The various manifestations of negative money issues as expressed within a company can be complex and varied.
Negative money issues held by the employees will undermine and oppose the success of the enterprise. The company might have restricted productivity, discordant employee relationships, failed projects, inhibited sales, restricted cash flows, dissatisfied customers, and countless other problems. The individuals responsible for these issues are generally unaware that they are causing the problems. They will simply be doing their jobs from their own perspectives and life experiences. In fact, founders and entrepreneurs themselves may unintentionally limit their company's success due to their own unresolved money issues.
Executives traditionally attempt to solve business problems with standard business remedies. These are the sorts of solutions taught in colleges and universities to M.B.A. Students. Managers will conserve cash, reduce overhead, lay off employees, develop new marketing campaigns, tighten employee discipline, and so forth. These responses may indeed improve the company's circumstances. However, because the underlying money issues of the employees are never even acknowledged, they will tend to resurface as new confusions and problems to be addressed in the future.
Entrepreneurs, executives, and managers need to acknowledge that personal money issues are real factors that can inhibit the performance of both the business and the individuals within it. When difficulties fail to resolve despite the application of regular business practices, underlying negative money issues may be the culprit. When problems go away only to resurface again and again, suspect unacknowledged negative money patterns in play. And, when you are unable to get good, standard business practices applied in the first place, look for the unresolved confusions, upsets, and negative beliefs about money held by your employees.
Money Coaching is a system created for the rapid discovery and resolution of money issues held by individuals and businesses. Through communication, clarity, and insight, coaching clients learn to identify and move beyond negative money patterns that have been restricting their potential for success.
Robert Coleman is the President of Master Plan Strategies, Inc., a business consulting firm. He is a Certified Money Coach and Business Consultant with over twenty years of experience providing professional services to companies and individuals.
For more information on Master Plan Strategies, go to http://www.mplanstrategies.com.
Robert can be reached at 707-762-2170 between 9 A.M. To 5 P.M. M-F Pacific time, or at