A New Niche Practice for Psychotherapists: How to Treat Financial Fear, Stress and Angst

Written By James Gottfurcht, Ph. D. and Zoreh Gottfurcht, ICF Certified Coach

According to the American Psychological Association, money has been the number one stressor for Americans for many years.  The financial meltdown of 2008 has been a game changer by causing stock market and real estate crashes.  Over 5 million people have filed bankruptcy since then, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we still have 12.7 million who are unemployed.

We can easily feel compassion for the trauma these people have experienced and the PTSD that follows.   Many will need more than job training to overcome their financial fear, guilt and shame.   They will require psychotherapy or coaching.  Our profession will continue to be among the first responders to the psychological fallout from this crisis.

  • The challenge, however, is that very few therapists and coaches have been trained or are proficient in psychology of money and business.  Our profession is notorious for being under-informed in both areas.  Fortunately, there is a rapidly growing field of specialty practice in the psychology of money led by our colleagues who are financial therapists, coaches, financial life planners, wealth managers, estate planning attorneys, etc. who understand that financial success is an “inside job.” Who knows better than psychotherapists that prosperity is much more determined by what’s happening inside our clients’ minds rather than by what’s outside?
  • The first purpose of this article is to let you know that with your training and experience, you are ideally positioned to serve the huge market of people with financial fear, worry, stress and trauma.  Our February talk to LACAMFT demonstrated how to serve these clients by using a tool we call the “Six Psychological Money Traps.”  Although we do not have space to review that tool, the money traps’ names are:  Rationalization, Avoidance, Projection of Blame, Idealization, Denial and Splitting.  You can discover how to apply them with your clients later in the article.
  • Our second purpose is to introduce another tool to financially empower yourself and your clients, The Psychology of Money Profile.  The Profile measures seven psychological money skills associated with financial success.   We have used it with thousands of clients.
  • To give you a jumpstart in helping clients with financial challenges, we will share one of the Profile’s questions.  Then we will tell you which psychological money skill the question assesses, why that skill is important and how well you have developed the skill.
  • Please answer the question below.  It represents only a small sample of the questions the Profile uses to measure that skill.  So, your response will be only a partial indication of your true score.

Your answer may be influenced by your state of mind at the time you respond.  If something financially negative is influencing you, your score could be biased negatively. This would mean your true score could be higher than the way you score today.  If something financially positive is influencing you, your score could be biased positively.  This would mean your true score could be lower than you score today.

We want to clarify that our definition of financial success is much broader than the amount of money you have or your material possessions.  Financial success is about how healthy your relationship with money is.  It includes your security, satisfaction, fulfillment and peace of mind with money.  It’s about having enough, enjoying it and experiencing financial freedom.  Remember, you are more important than the money!

Please respond to the following item honestly rather than how you would like your answer to be.  If none of the answers fits, simply choose the response that is most true for you.

My overall financial plans are:

a.  ____ clearly stated in written form and/or in my mind

b.  ____ partially developed

c.  ____ mostly developed

We define financial planning as:

1) integrating financial feelings, beliefs and values into a cohesive set of goals and

2) identifying and taking concrete action steps that lead from your starting point to your destination.

Choice “a” indicates a high financial planning score.  This is financially empowering and accelerates manifesting financial success.  Unfortunately, not many people respond this way.  Choice “b” is a low score and implies a scarcity mindset.  Many clients and even therapists respond this way.  Scarcity responses hinder financial success.  Clients who have minimal money trauma can be treated primarily with financial CBT or coaching.  For those who have experienced more trauma, we recommend financial CBT and psychodynamic financial therapy.  We have developed many assessments, tools and exercises for our clients.

Financial planning enables you to organize your thoughts and actions in a systematic way and to develop a set of efficient action steps to reach your destination. Training, therapy or coaching will often increase your scores, your true skill levels and your financial success.  A case story of how to apply financial CBT or coaching with a client who is trapped in Rationalization can be found at the link: www.psychologyofmoneyblog.com/2009/06

We feel passionate about serving clients with money challenges and about collaborating with our interdisciplinary colleagues.  We especially enjoy exchanging perspectives with our allied professionals and sharing individual, couples and family referrals.  We hope the article stimulates your curiosity to discover more about this rapidly growing niche and the abundant opportunities it offers.

To learn about your scores on all seven psychological money skills, we are offering the first 100 readers the opportunity to take the Profile on the Internet for no cost and receive several pages of feedback at www.psychologyofmoney.com/profile

You can discover more about the Profile in a journal article describing how Dr. Gottfurcht used it to coach a couple with their certified financial planner about sudden wealth and sudden romance. (http://www.psychologyofmoney.com/download/financialplanningassnjournal.pdf)

James Gottfurcht, Ph. D., Clinical Psychologist and President of Psychology of Money Consultants, 310-828-1818, DrGottfurcht@PsychologyofMoney.com

Zoreh Gottfurcht, ACC, ICF Certified Coach and Associate Director of Psychology of Money Consultants, 310-472-6703, CoachZorehGottfurcht@PsychologyofMoney.com