Our attitudes and beliefs about money can have a negative impact on our mental health. To help understand how money is relevant to mental health and for tips on financial wellness, I have interviewed psychologist Joe Lowrance.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I’m a clinical psychologist working in private practice in Atlanta. My clients are typically individuals or couples. One of my areas of expertise and practice is ‘˜financial psychology’ which is an emerging area of psychology that deals with our relationship with money.
In addition to my work as a psychotherapist, I own a company, www.FinancialPsychologyCeus.com that provides education to mental health professionals related to financial psychology and money-related issues.”
Can you tell us more about ‘˜financial psychology’?
“We each have our own unique relationship with money or financial psychology, which is comprised of our attitudes and beliefs, thought processes and emotions related to money. Our financial psychology is a facet of our larger underlying psychology, and it significantly directs how we spend, save, give, earn and invest.
Financial psychology can greatly impact an individual’s self-concept, that is how they think and feel about themselves, and also the way they perceive and relate to other people. Much of our financial psychology lies outside of our awareness if left unexplored.”
How is money relevant to mental health?
“Money plays a role in so many aspects of our lives. Money holds both practical importance as well as tremendous symbolic and psychological power. It has been said that money is the most emotionally meaningful object in contemporary life. As a result, our relationship with money can often become complicated and confused, and we can struggle with money in a variety of distinct or inter-related ways.
Increasingly research studies, surveys, and the clinical literature are connecting money-related struggles with a number of mental health concerns .
Many money-related struggles people have are the result of a combination of factors that often result in mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, depression, or relationships difficulties. Financial psychology has emerged as often playing a significant and sometimes central role in this equation.”
Can you give some examples of how people get confused about or misuse money?
“Yes, for example, many people struggle to truly understanding the wisdom of creating and maintaining a proper savings and retirement strategy. These are actions that are fundamentally rooted in self-care. Instead, money may be habitually used in ways that equate to escape, distraction or efforts to bolster one’s self-concept. Money is often used to alleviate uncomfortable feelings, psychological pain , or to create and maintain an image at the expense of developing financial security.
Or others may be secure financially; having developed a budgeting plan to meet their obligations and needs over time, but find themselves dissatisfied or stressed and equate their problems with their financial and material situation. Many people in our culture hold belief systems that equate money with happiness and personal value. Those who over-rely on money in order to meet these kinds of fundamental psychological needs often feel frustrated, in pain and confused as to why their continuing efforts toward greater financial and material achievements prove to be unsuccessful.
Some may use money as a means, a tool and an instrument in their relationship with others. Money can be used to exercise control over another, express love , foster dependence, claim independence, and more in relationships. Using money as a substitute for open and honest communication or to manipulate another person is obviously problematic and doesn’t support the development and maintenance of a healthy and mature relationship. And yet money and financial issues are a very common source of struggle within many close, significant relationships.
These are just a few examples of the many ways an individual’s financial psychology can play a role in their life struggles.”
So how do people develop a healthy relationship with money?
“It’s a process that carries out over time. It begins with a willingness to be a student of one’s self, to be curious about why you may hold certain beliefs about money, why money arouses certain emotions, and why you behave as you do with money.
We each have our own unique relationship with money rooted in our history and developmental process. Exploring our history and how it shaped our relationship with money is a beginning. This process allows us to gain an understanding of our financial psychology, and in turn gives us a chance to work with attitudes, beliefs, information, and emotions that may interfere with healthy money behaviors.
This process also often includes the development of new skills and capacities. New means that allow us to get our needs met, in healthy and mature ways. Capacities that support us as individuals and in relationship with others.
The goal is ultimately to develop a process that supports ‘˜financial wellness’, financial wellness being a component of overall well-being. Financial wellness includes an ongoing attendance to one’s immediate and longer-term financial needs and obligations, as well as experiencing a high level of satisfaction with one’s financial situation and low levels of money-related stress as an individual and in conjunction with one’s relationships.
Money is a very complicated object that many people struggle with in a multitude of ways. Developing healthy financial psychology is essential to individuals achieving financial security and understanding money’s role in living a productive and satisfying life. There is a variety of books and literature that can aid an individual in this process of exploring their relationship with money, and sometimes a trained mental health professional can play an important role, lending guidance and support.”
Thank you Joe for doing the interview on financial infidelity. For more information on Joe Lowrance or his work you can check out his website on www.LowrancePsychology.com .
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