Don’t Panic - Plan
I wonder how your second week of online practice has been? NCS Registrant Suzie Mosson, a director of Online Training for Counsellors, has some expert advice for practitioners making this move. Whethe...
We all know that money matters can be stressful. What you may not realise is that there is a strong link between financial problems and mental illness.
Our financial situation does not just govern our ability to buy the basic necessities. It goes a lot further than that. For many people, the amount they earn (and how they earn it) is connected to their self-image and their self-esteem. The practical problems which arise when someone is suffering from financial issues are bad enough - but the fallout is often a lot more complex than a bit of belt-tightening.
People who are experiencing troubles with money or money management could benefit a lot from meeting with a therapist or a financial counsellor. An accredited professional can not only advise on effective money management techniques - they can help with any mental health or relationship issues which may have arisen in the wake of financial problems.
MONEY AND MENTAL HEALTH
Finding a counsellor to help with money issues is not just about putting your finances in order. It’s also about getting to the heart of your relationship with money.
There’s a strong correlation between financial issues and mental health problems. Sometimes poor mental health may contribute to poor financial health. However, it works the other way around, as well. Financial pressures have been associated with an increased risk of:
• Substance abuse
• Psychotic episodes
• Suicidal ideation
The link between monetary troubles and mental health is complicated, and depends a lot on individual circumstances. Often, financial and mental health issues feed one another in a vicious cycle. For example, people with alcohol abuse issues may struggle to hold down a job, which can in turn have a negative impact upon their self-esteem, which may make them more inclined to drink. A similar vicious-cycle effect can crop up with a number of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.
MONEY, SURVIVAL, SELF-ESTEEM, AND STRESS
Money is an essential for life in the modern world. Problems with money threaten our survival, and threats to our survival are extremely stressful.
With financial instability, families may lose a lot. They frequently lose material things (like treasured possessions), but they can also lose emotional things (like their sense of security or their faith in one another).
What’s more, many of us measure our success as members of society by our ability to earn and manage money. Financial issues threaten our social status, and this can take a toll on our self-esteem. All of which can put a lot of strain on our mental health.
MONEY AND LIFESTYLE
Financial hardship can also result in lifestyle changes. Poverty is associated with poor diet, poor sleep patterns (often due to the stress of money problems), and lower standards of hygiene. These are not due to a lack of will to eat healthily, sleep well, and maintain one’s personal standards – they’re due to a diminished financial ability to do so.
A poverty-induced unhealthy lifestyle not only causes shame, it can also have a significant impact upon health. It’s well established that a healthy diet and regular sleep patterns play a vital role in maintaining good mental health. Money problems can therefore play havoc with every aspect of one’s life – especially one’s mental health.
However, it’s not just a lack of money which can contribute to poor lifestyle. Lottery winners, celebrities, and other very wealthy individuals often complain that their money has had a negative effect on their mental health, including:
• Feelings of lacking in purpose
• Negative lifestyle changes (for example, overindulgence or substance abuse)
• Social stress (for example, worrying that friends only ‘like’ you for your money)
Getting help for these feelings is not as simple as sorting out spending patterns and learning to budget (although that can make a difference!). It is about uncovering the roots of your concerns, your stresses, and your relationship with money.
LEARNING MORE ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY
People’s issues with money are often related to their own attitudes, worries, and upbringings. As we’ve explored above, money is central to our lifestyles, survival, and sense of self. This means that money problems and mental health problems are often not only bound up on one another, they’re also embedded deep within our psyches and characters. Gently trying to unpick these tangled strands, and learning more about where they came from and how they operate can make a bigger difference to both your financial and mental health than you may think.
For example, many people form their attitudes towards money in their childhoods, by observing the ways in which their parents use money. This has a long-term impact on their spending habits and relationship with finance in the future. So, someone who grew up in a household where money was tight may retain some anxiety around spending, while someone whose parents used expensive gifts in place of affection may grow up with an exaggerated idea of the importance of possessions.
Delving into these histories gives people more awareness of their financial decisions, and a greater understanding of how their spending patterns intersect with their emotions. While learning where the problems are coming from isn’t an immediate ‘cure’, it can give people a lot more control over their habits. Knowing why you might be tempted to make a bad choice, and understanding the consequences for yourself if you do gives you more control over that choice than you may otherwise have had.
HOW CAN COUNSELLING HELP WITH MONEY TROUBLES?
If you’re struggling with money, it may seem like an odd idea to spend more money on counselling. But therapy is an excellent long-term investment into a healthier future – financially, mentally, and physically.
Getting therapy for money issues can help you to take a deeper and more objective look at your earning and spending habits. A therapist can help you to unravel the psychological and emotional roots of your relationship with money. Gaining a better understanding of these things will help you to make better financial choices in the future, and to use your financial resources to benefit (rather than detract from) your mental health.
Some counsellors specialise in financial advice, while others will work more generally with money-related mental health issues. The right kind of counsellor for you depends on your own individual circumstances, as well as the way in which you connect with your counsellor. Don’t be afraid to try out many different counsellors until you find the right one for you.