A New Approach to Money in Counseling Sessions

Contact: Kelly Chicas, a Board Certified, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Albuquerque Family Counseling, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Situation: Private counseling sessions

Who: Individual clients and couples seeking relationship counseling.

What: Use Money Habitudes cards as a tool to draw clients into conversations about the sensitive topic of money when money is identified as an issue and when other issues are being expressed indirectly through money.

Why:

  • Money and sex are two issues that couples have difficulty confronting and working through during counseling and ‘I think people are much more open to talking about their sex lives than they are to talking about money … Even if money is not the presenting issue it is nearly always a part of what couples are going through together and it needs to be brought into the conversation.”
  • Chicas wanted a method to talk about money that would not slow the counseling process or bore clients and was more effective than her own series of conversation starters.“I was looking for an activity [to talk about money] that would get people more interested than just sitting there and talking about it, something they’d be able to identify with.”

How: Uses the Money Habitudes cards as part of her sessions with individual and couples.

Outcomes:

  • Able to approach the delicate subject in a fun, nonjudgmental way.
  • Able to hasten the process and delve into money quicker.
  • “It opens up a whole new flow of conversation … In therapy, and in general, women are communicators. They want to talk about things. They want to analyze things. Guys typically don’t. And so having a hands-on activity—especially for someone who’s a non-communicator and doesn’t want to be here but was dragged in by his partner—it makes it very easy to get them going … Once they start going through the cards and identifying with some of the behaviors it’s like.. Oh yeah, that’s me.”
  • It provides a common, nonjudgmental language to discuss their habits and attitudes.
  • Clients have a methodology with which they can leave the session and use constructively at home.
  • People are motivated to make changes.

Observations and Comments:

Clients are very quick to grasp how to use the cards and what they mean. I think that’s one of their strengths: It’s simplistic in the delivery and how you manage it.

I’m comfortable using the cards because of their careful, inoffensive language. Some therapy tools inadvertently set clients off with only a small misstep in the wording.

What motivates someone to change?… that’s the crux of therapy. I do think it [what people discover through Money Habitudes] is an epiphany. And once you have that awareness and once you’re able to put a label on it and have an understanding of where it comes from, it’s the first piece of then being motivated enough to make the change to do something about it.

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