Wednesday, October 15, 2008

There's therapy for everything, including "money disorders"

I was struck by a headline in the Pioneer Press this morning regarding the "money disorders" people are dealing with in light of the turbulence on Wall Street.

In our therapy driven culture, psychologists reign supreme in helping people deal with emotional problems in their lives. It's not surprising then that there would be talk about "money disorders" individuals are dealing with, resulting from bad behaviors or things beyond their control.

Certainly we all have struggles and difficulties in our lives. The problem with exclusively looking at things from a "disorder" standpoint is it tends to remove personal responsibility for one's actions. The moral dimension of right and wrong, good and bad actions are often ignored and along with it, the personal responsibility to change. If something is a disorder, it suggests being beyond one's control and hence responsibility.

Yet this is the dominant mindset in our modern/postmodern world. Morality, ethics, God and so forth are all passe.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

In six days of group therapy, they dug deep into the roots of what psychologists call "money disorders," the slew of unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors that are not as extreme as pathological gambling, kleptomania or compulsive shopping, but nevertheless afflict large numbers of people.

While it is difficult to pinpoint the number of patients or practitioners, experts in psychology and financial planning say the number of professionals offering to treat money disorders has multiplied in the past few years.


Although there are many self-help books on how to become rich, the fields of psychology and financial planning have been slow to link money and emotion. And money is still a great cultural taboo that is rarely discussed openly in this country, experts say.

"I'm still working on my money issues, and I will be for a long time," said Champeau, 57, who went to night school and eventually became a psychotherapist herself, allowing her to earn a living. But her fear of debt is still an issue: she buys much of her wardrobe at Goodwill. "I have always felt alone and a lot of shame around money," she said.

Among the problem financial behaviors identified by psychologists in recent years are overspending, underspending (aka "Depression mentality"), serial borrowing, financial infidelity ("cheating" on a spouse by spending and lying about it), workaholism, financial incest (lording money over relatives to control them), financial enabling (throwing large sums at, say, adult children who then are not motivated to support themselves), hoarding and plenty of guilt and shame around poverty and wealth.

The financial storm thundering from Wall Street is likely to force many people to examine their relationships with money well beyond their portfolios and bank accounts, some psychologists say. Even before this month's dire news, an online survey by the American Psychological Association in June found 75 percent of the more than 2,500 adults surveyed said money was the No. 1 source of stress in their lives.

"This is a dangerous time," said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist who is one of the authors of a study published last month in the journal Psychological Services that examines the state and treatment of money disorders. "And when people come for help around money, it goes so much deeper than what is in their bank accounts. It's a portal into unresolved family histories and generational history patterns."

Klontz's study looked at various money disorders and at a treatment center, Onsite, in Nashville, which was owned until recently by his father, Ted Klontz, a psychologist and life coach who still leads the "healing money issues" program there, along with a financial planner.

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