Tag Archives: money

Therapy: Not Just For Problems

Therapy: Not Just For Problems

Why do people come to therapy? Therapy, on the surface, can seem like a very strange thing to do (What! Tell my problems to a therapist??) and it is surrounded with misconceptions. It involves a commitment to show up at a certain time at a certain place and pay money to talk to someone you don’t know about things you may have spent years of your life avoiding. It can feel uncomfortable and can stir up things you have tried very hard to ignore. To make matters worse, having made that commitment to spend all that money to talk about things you don’t want to talk about, you will probably put pressure on yourself to change something in your life. After all, if we are taking up time and spending money, we expect something to happen, right? This doesn’t exactly sound like something most of us would sign up for. So why do it?

Ok, Sometimes, Therapy IS For Problems…

Many people see therapy as a necessary evil; as a place to go to talk about a problem that needs solving. Usually, the person coming to therapy has tried a lot of things before picking up the phone or getting on the internet. For example, she or he has likely talked with friends, thought about the problem, tried some possible solutions or distractions, and maybe read some books that might be relevant to their situation. After exhausting everything they can think of to do and discovering that the problem is not resolved, therapy might start to sound like a good idea.

Often, these people come to therapy with a very specific issue and a very specific goal. Coupled with this might also be a very specific time frame in which they would like to accomplish the work and arrive at a solution. This approach can work very well in cases where the problem is well defined and the person has already made some progress with respect to resolving the problem.

Unfortunately, our minds and our problems don’t always work in a linear fashion and, much like a home remodel, it is a good idea to have some room for unexpected things that may surface. At first glance, a problem may look like a problem, but looking under the hood, so to speak, may reveal underlying causes that require deeper investigation. In such cases, the problem may actual be a symptom of another problem.

For example, a couple may come to therapy to look at the way they argue. Helping them find ways to argue less will be helpful to a point, but understanding that they each come from families where every conversation turned into an argument will create a level of understanding that can lead to lasting change that feels more authentic than memorizing a script on how to argue less.

But Sometimes, It is for Personal Growth…

For another group of people, however, therapy is not specifically about solving a particular problem, but about looking at the problem of being human in a complex world. There are very few places where our inner life can receive such careful and gentle attention.

For these people, therapy is a place where the noise of their day to day life is quieted, at least for a short time, and they and their therapist become absorbed in the intricacies of observing something that is not always visible. Like a scientist observing the world through a microscope, looking at your life through the lens of psychotherapy can open up worlds that are fascinating and enlivening and can lead to a richer and fuller human experience.

Have you thought about what it might be like to take an hour out of your week to look at yourself? What might get opened up for you? What thoughts and dreams do you

And, Often, Therapy is About Not Having to Do It Alone.

For a third group of people, therapy may not be as much about problem solving as about problem management. Sometimes, things just are what they are and the solution is not necessarily about trying to find a fix to an unfixable problem, but in learning to accept the problem as it is, or having a safe and confidential place to talk so that it doesn’t feel like you are holding onto the problem alone.

People who fall into this category are often similar to people who come to therapy to look at their inner life, but, for people in this third category, there is a specific topic or issue that remains at the center of the therapy work. Talking about it with another person can create the space to manage the problem and let go of some of the overwhelm that may accompany it.

While most people come to therapy with the goal of fixing something or feeling better about their lives, therapy is not always something that needs a goal. Like Zen, the process of being in therapy can, in and of itself, create rewards that we could not have anticipated.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com.

The Buck Stops Here: More Thoughts about Money and Relationships

The Buck Stops Here: More Thoughts About Money and Relationships

You have decided that the way you and your partner are handing finances is not working for you. Or perhaps you would like to take a step forward with respect to combining finances. Now what?

When Things Aren’t Working the Way They Should…

If the way you and your partner handle finances is not working because you are concerned about how s/he is spending money or for another reason that makes you want to take a step back, you might want to first, consider whether it is even  possible to talk with your partner about his or her spending habits. If the answer to this question is Yes, it can be helpful to think about what you might want to say and to pick a time when other stressors are most likely to be absent. This is not a good conversation to have after a difficult day at work or while you are preparing dinner for your in-laws.

During the conversation, try to stay away from anger and frustration. When we become angry and frustrated, the parts of our brain that are logical and reasonable turn off. The conversation can quickly disintegrate into an argument where no one feels heard or understood. Instead, consider turning your concerns into a collaborative effort to find a solution. Rather than telling your partner how angry you are about how s/he spends money, you might want to ask how you might work together to agree about how the two of you spend money.

If it doesn’t seem possible to talk to your partner about money, you might want to take a deeper look at yourself and/or your relationship. Is there something about you that might be getting in the way? How was money handled in your family? How was conflict handled in your family? Do you have concerns about the relationship or your commitment to your partner that makes it difficult to talk about sensitive issues? Therapy is one way to create a space where difficult topics can be discussed. A competent therapist can help the two of you look at the problem and find ways to talk about it in without resorting to the same old arguments and patterns.

When Things Are Working Well…

On the other hand, you might be looking for ways to create more financial connection with your partner, hopefully because your relationship feels solid and is moving forward. Connecting financially has a number of potential pitfalls. It may create an unanticipated legal bond between the two of you, e.g., if you purchase a house together and both of your names are on the mortgage, failure to pay the mortgage can ruin the credit of both parties. Putting money in a joint bank account can create financial vulnerability if someone gets mad and withdraws the funds. Opening up a credit card together can also be risky if your partner doesn’t recognize the consequences of running up credit card balances. Many forms of financial connection will also create a situation that ties the parties together for a time period that may be greater than initially intended. For example, if you buy a house together, yes, you can sell it if things don’t work out with your partner, but it may take months before you receive your share and the financial pieces can be picked up. Destroyed credit can take years to repair.

Before moving forward with creating more financial connection, it might be wise to evaluate both the solidity of the relationship and how responsible your partner is with money. For that matter, it might be wise to evaluate your own level of responsibility with money. What do you already know about your partner’s relationship to money? What about your own relationship to money? How solid is your relationship with your partner? Is your relationship able to withstand any potential disagreements about money? Like having a child to save the marriage, creating shared financial responsibilities is not a good way to save your relationship. It can make your relationship stronger, but only if your relationship was already strong.

Making Talking About Money Fun! (Yes, it is possible…)

Talking about money with your partner does not have to be drudgery. Do it on a regular basis and try to make it fun. Pick up a pizza before going over the receipts. Reward yourselves with a movie or a walk. Congratulate each other on a job well done. Look at it as a way of spending time with your partner, growing together, and learning more about her or him. The process can be enlightening and the rewards are priceless.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com.

Thinking about Money in Your Relationship

Thinking about Money in Your Relationship

When it comes to the subject of money and finances, people are often far more comfortable talking about their sex lives than about their financial lives. Talking about how to deal with money in your relationship can feel awkward, unnecessary, and like something you would rather avoid. Unfortunately, disagreeing about money is one of the primary reasons for discord in relationships.

As a Therapist Who Works With Couples, This is What I Think About…And You Should Think About This, Too

When I work with couples, or, for that matter, with anyone who is in committed relationship, I am always wondering about how money is being handled. How did the couple come up with whatever system they are using? Is money kept separate or is everything combined? Something in the middle? What does this say, if anything, about how the members of the couple view the relationship? Is the current situation working for everyone involved? Why or why not?

Combining Funds Is Not For Everyone

Before we consider this issue further, it is important to recognize that there may be many excellent reasons for finances to remain separate. For example, there may be business reasons, children from a prior relationships, debt, or concerns about credit scores. Each situation is unique and you may want to consult with an attorney or tax accountant for advice. This article assumes that there are no legal or accounting reasons to choose a particular approach to handling money.

If each person keeps his or her finances separate, does this say something about the commitment to the relationship? Does it imply a lack of trust in the other person or that the relationship will last over the long haul? Will it provide a convenient exit strategy that could make ending the relationship easier? On a day-to-day basis, how does having separate finances make things easier or harder? How would you handle finances if one person lost his or her job or became ill? If you currently have children or decide to have children, how would you handle who pays for what expenses as they relate to your children? How did you decide this?

Some Ideas for Sharing Money

Separate funds can also bring up numerous logistical challenges. A couple could decide that each person contributes a percentage of his or her income to a joint account; or perhaps the percentages vary depending on the income level(s). Sometimes, each person contributes a set dollar amount each month. Maybe payment of expenses is alternated, or one partner pays the bills while the other partner pays the rent. Often, the partner earning more money may pay more of the expenses. Navigating these questions requires honesty and solid communication skills.

What about couples that have decided to combine their finances? For some people, this can seem like an easier road, however, it can bring up numerous concerns. Combining finances can be a way to try to keep a relationship glued together by creating a financial bond in the absence of an emotional bond. Joint finances can also bring up difficult questions: what if I don’t like the ways my partner spends money? What if s/he spends too much money? Do I need to ask my partner before I buy anything? What are the limits in terms of how much money I can spend without consulting with my partner? Will it feel comfortable to combine our finances if I make more/less than my partner? If I make more/less than my partner, am I keeping a mental accounting about how much I contribute or how much s/he contributes to our household? What feelings does this bring up? How will you handle money that you had before the partnership? What happens if the relationship ends?

The list of issues that can arise when we talk about money is endless. In my next article about money, I will talk more about these issues and consider some ways to talk about money with your partner.

Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at info@marlacass.com.