Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do you talk money with your therapist?

Back in the grad-school days, when I was just Masters Degree Jeff instead of Doctor Jeff, there were a handful of things that our professors told us over and over. Therapy is based on a good relationship with the client. Self-disclosure tricky. No, you can't have an A on that paper just because you remembered to single-space this time. And, they stressed, there are some topics that are just difficult for therapists to approach with their clients no matter how hard schools try to teach otherwise.

They told us that therapists do not like to talk religion with their clients. They said that sex was something that we pretended to be comfortable with, but that we avoided in session. And, said our teachers, we seemed to avoid politics like the plague for fear of breaking that important therapeutic bond.

Atlanta psychologist Joe Lowrance would like to add another topic to the list. He says that most of us don't like talking money with our clients, and he thinks we should. He makes the point that a growing pile of clinical evidence and research shows that there's a strong correlation between money worries and mental health issues, especially in these days of the "financial crisis."

I'll admit it: we therapists are just like the rest of the people in the world - like other social taboos, talking about money can make us initially a little uncomfortable. This is NOT to say that we can't overcome that gut-reaction feeling, or that you should avoid talking about anything in therapy based on a worry that your therapist is squeamish about it. We are trained to deal with that kind of thing, and we're good at looking at our reactions and opening ourselves up to what our client is dealing with. We deal with a number of power differentials in therapy, starting with the basic fact that people come to us seeking help. That puts the power in our hands from the start. Add to that the fact that we're perceived as "experts," that there is often an income difference between us and our clients, and the result is that we have to be really aware of where our blind spots are, and willing to address and overcome them in order to best help our clients.

So, Dr. Lowrance, I will pay (ha! see what I did there?) heed to your admonishment, and do my best to make sure that my client's finances are on the table and as easily accessed as other topics.


  1. i have always talked money with the dockles.
    in my case, they kind of always reciprocated, "hey, i'm broke, too"

  2. Therapists are one of the only professions that still resists taking payment with credit cards. I think right there, that says it all.

    Nice post!

  3. So very true. When I was last on the edge of suicide, finances were a HUGE part of why. And they're still one of the top reasons that I still fall into hopelessness on occasion.