Firstly, a disclosure. I know I have had issues around money in the past. I’ve squirmed at the thought of upholding parts of the working agreement that address money. And I’ve felt hesitant and torn around what I feel I want to charge, and the thoughts that I couldn’t possibly charge that much- especially because I’m relatively speaking, newly qualified. There are also plenty of other therapists who will reinforce this belief.
Therapy, quite rightly, is also seen as altruistic. Often we’re giving our client a kind of relationship they’ve never experienced before, one that is full of genuine warmth and care – on both sides, so then charging for this can feel deeply uncomfortable. On some level it’s almost as taboo as charging for sex. It seems beyond money, as if money somehow taints it, and devalues is.
This again makes me come back to the question. What are we saying about money? That it is inherently evil? And yet that we still need it? And why is it okay if we don’t get so much of it? These unanswerable questions can leave us stuck, and the whole profession stuck.
On top of this if we feel we are being spiritually in service to our client, then there’s the idea the sacred (the relationship, and emotional and spiritual insights) and the profane (money) can’t mingle. We see this idea in religions where one person takes the money and another person delivers the spiritual sustenance. For example, the Vinaya (the framework for the Buddhist monastic community) forbids monks from handling money, and in Buddhist countries monks need a Kappiya (attendant) to handle the money for them. A therapist is in the tricky position of needing to take money, and give spiritual sustenance.
I think there’s also something around therapists having an issue charging, or charging well, for therapy because of deeply entrenched societal norms around not valuing the emotional, intangible, inmaterial aspect of human beings.
We see this in the way the NHS funds mental health. Research by Community Care and BBC News has shown that funding to provide mental health services in the NHS has actually fallen by more than 8% since 2010.
You also only have to look at how mental health difficulties are treated at work in comparison to physical health. Just look at how you would feel in comparison to asking for a few days off for a physical illness, or doing the same for stress or depression. Which one feels more legitimate and acceptable to you?
Therapists are experiencing, if you like, the countertransference of society, and they are acting it out all over the place. They are drunk on it.
If we don’t address issues relating to money with our clients we also miss out on important issues in the field that are often entangled with money, such as trust, self worth, love, security, and power.
If you’d like to ask us a specific question, or you just want to share your experience as a therapist around money please do so in the comments section below.
If you want to learn how to consider tackling these issues, and going from unease and hesitancy around money in the therapy room, to confidence, then take a look at our next event.
If you’d like one-to-one attention, then check out our mentoring work.