October 19, 2019

Couples & Money: Financial Social Work to the Rescue

In the May/June 2011 issue of Social Work Today,  Financial Social Work experts discuss relationship issues relative to the stresses from financial difficulties.

Money is one of the big issues that bring couples into therapy. Learn about a relatively new social work specialty that is offering solutions.

With the divorce rate in the United States hovering around 50%, combined with an economic recession that has affected all demographics, it should come as no surprise that more couples are turning to social workers for financial therapy. While financial difficulties may not be the root of all relationship strife or marital demise, they certainly play an important role—one that therapists are addressing.  . . .

While disclosing financial stressors is paramount in couple’s financial therapy, a term being bandied about these days is “financial infidelity.” As Bill Frederick, LCSW, PC, of Solution Therapy Center in Muncie, IN, explains, many couples often employ the “this is my money and that is your money” approach—with the implicit understanding of who buys the groceries, who pays for the truck, who covers the electric bill, and so on. (read full article)

Mental Health and Money

Everything we do seeds the future. No action is an empty one. Joan Chittister

As a mental health therapist, I have advantages of many opportunities to learn and grow. I learn from peers, clients, reading, teaching and attending workshops. I have done this work since 1977; there is much evidence of effective work. Yet, I often skimmed the recurring theme of money. In hindsight, I now recognize that many couples had a central concern on how they would handle finances. They had avoided talking money. He had his checking account and she had hers; often there was too much debt with secrets of spending. Similarly many depressed or anxious individuals reported filing for bankruptcy and had serious credit card debt. I listened and while job or debt, was included in the work, it was often in a broad sense and not specific.

Enter Reeta Wolfsohn. Reeta essentially started the field of Financial Social Work. I met her in October 2009. Her work is highlighted in the article “When You Clash over Cash” for Women’s Health Magazine, September 2010 issue (www.womenshealthmag.com). The article notes the most frequent argument that couples have is about money. It further states that people who “fight more than once a week” about money are “30 percent more likely” to split up. A couple’s views of money are often grossly different, thus can raise questions of trust on a daily basis. There is frequently secrecy involved. The other side of this coin is that cooperation on money can increase trust and intimacy. When couples can learn to openly talk of their differences in points of view and come to reasonable cooperative plans, relationships, of course, improve. Similarly individuals, who improve monetary aspects of their life, can significantly improve their mood.

In April of this year, I completed Reeta’s coursework and received Certification in the field of Financial Social Work. This extended work provides more in depth understanding on the recurrent importance of money issues with couples and individuals. In working with clients, “listening financially” brings added value to them. While money is unlikely to be the only concern, it is often major, being a symptom of a marriage or depression that can be addressed. It also can provide specific outcomes that couples can agree on (i.e. eliminate credit card debt or fund an IRA), that both can understand and work to accomplish.

Talking about financial concerns is different than working with a financial planner and different than consumer credit counseling though referrals to either might be indicated. The essence in Financial Social Work is addressing thoughts, feelings and attitudes regarding money, facilitating sustainable, long-term financial behavioral change while working towards specific attainable outcomes. Financial Social Work is a welcome and needed addtion to the field.

If you are struggling with your marriage or struggling with depression and also with money, consider finding a Certified Financial Social Work expert. You can contact me through this blog or at 765.288.7939. Or you can contact Reeta at 800.707.1002 or reeta@financialsocialwork.com.

Bill