Psychotherapy is an effective vehicle for making you happier but the destructive impact of depression and anxiety on one’s personal finances is often overlooked. Depression and anxiety can be financially devastating.
As a psychiatrist, it gives me great satisfaction to see how patients grow through their therapy, develop richer relationships, and become more content. I also observed, however, that many of my patients become both happier and richer.
The ways that therapy can lead you to a path of financial stability and wealth acquisition is not often discussed in psychiatry but I think it’s an important topic. That’s is what prompted me to write this post.
Here are five ways that therapy can make you richer.
1. Turning Depressive and Anxious Thinking Into Realistic Optimism
Depression and anxiety often result in withdrawal, pessimism, and paralysis from catastrophic thinking. Overestimating risks and underestimating your ability to deal with life’s challenges leads to being overcautious and timid.
When depression and anxiety melt away, they are replaced by more rational thinking and better problem-solving. Self-esteem is strengthened.
Old assumptions such as there is nothing I can do, I am stuck here, no one wants me, I am too old to change directions, are challenged and discarded. There’s a greater willingness to experiment and take reasonable risks. Hope permeates the air. Relationships are stronger.
From this stronger foundation, it’s a short jump to the question, why can’t I be richer too? It’s seeing that you have the potential for something greater than accepting the status quo that is key.
And because good therapy fills you with creative energy, it’s now easier to put your finances into gear and figure out how to get richer. By this, I don’t mean that therapy promotes a get-rich-quick scheme. On the contrary, a stance of realistic optimism leading to quiet achievement are the mindsets that good psychotherapy promotes.
2. Changing Work Unhappiness
Many are unhappy at work, underpaid, stagnant, suffering under a capricious boss, or mired in conflict with co-workers. People often tolerate being miserable for years, performing below their true potential and being underpaid.
Work is the pinnacle of our studies, the vehicle by which we safeguard our families, and the basis for stability in old age. We often spend more time at work than we do at home, so it’s important to get it right.
This is where therapy can help. With increased self-confidence and the ability to externalize, the so-called third eye, comes the realization that the status quo is both intolerable and changeable.
Past attitudes from your childhood can also keep you poor.
Examples are being afraid of succeeding, being too willing to please others, being overcautious or consumed by worry, being unable to commit to strategic decisions, and worrying excessively about perceived criticism. These types of patterns can contribute greatly to misery at work.
By contrast, when work unhappiness is successfully analyzed and addressed in therapy, there is a great release of realistic optimism and creativity that can be channeled into wealth creation.
3. Smarter Divorce and Divorce Avoidance
It’s a fact that about 40% of marriages end in divorce and divorce is one of the top five reasons for bankruptcy. Divorce can make you poor. It can make your kids poor. It can deprive subsequent generations of financial stability.
But divorce is not really a legal problem. It’s an emotional issue that involves the dissolution of one family and the rebuilding of two new families.
Improving the emotional angst and building good communication with your co-parent are the quickest ways to hold onto your wealth and to build more.
It’s worth repeating: dissolution of anger is the most robust predictor of better divorce outcomes.
That’s why the smartest way to divorce is via mediation where the couple agrees on how they will co-parent and divide the assets. Anger is processed appropriately and quickly set aside in the interests of communication and rebuilding.
Couples therapy can also be enormously helpful to understand how to move forward with co-parenting beyond the symbolism of a signed divorced contract. The divorce contract is, in essence, a false endpoint because divorce is less about the breakup, which only lasts a year or so, and more about rebuilding and co-parenting, which lasts a lifetime.
Contested divorces wind through the courts, generating enormous legal fees. Legal bills of greater than $100,000 are common nowadays, even among middle-class families. Plus, there are weeks of lost income due to court hearings under the bland gaze of a judge who likely has no interest in emotions and may not care about your family or finances.
By contrast, couples therapy is cheap and parenting coordinators are a bargain. At say, age 35, a sum of $100,000 in saved legal expenses compounds to $432,000 by the time you retire at age 65, assuming a conservative return of 5% PA.
The cost of not messing up your children? Immeasurable.
As an aside, the realization that a happy divorce involves similar skills to staying married justifies the investment in couples therapy to save the marriage. You would be surprised how many couples divorce without ever trying couples therapy. Couples therapy really works. I think it’s one of the top inventions of the 20th century.
4. Promoting Physical Vitality
Depression is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease: heart attacks, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes. Just how much money does a heart attack cost?
CBS News estimated that the cost of treating a heart attack was $1 million in direct and indirect costs, which amortized over 20 years is $50,000 per year. Now that’s a lot of money. A stroke can be even more expensive depending on its severity.
Considering that depression is a cardiovascular risk factor as strong as smoking, there’s a strong financial argument for treating depression and promoting self-care.
In addition to the cost of avoiding physical illness, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Exercise promotes self-confidence and a mindset of rising to challenges. There are many similarities between training for a 5 km race for the first time and working out how to increase your salary by, say, $5,000.
It starts off with an analytical approach. Can I do it? Have others done it? What tools do I have and what do I need? What’s a realistic timeframe? What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the most likely outcome?
Good psychiatric treatment should, therefore, promote physical vitality and this is the approach that I incorporate in my practice.
5. The Richness of Wisdom
There are many that, despite sitting on a pile of money, look back on their lives and feel malcontent.
One way of considering non-monetary richness is through the lens of Erik Erickson, the famous psychologist who studied how to feel whole and satisfied with life.
He said that in our 30s and 40s we generally focus on career and generativity, enabling us to feel fulfilled at work, feel financially secure, raise children to the best of our ability, and contribute to the community. Managing this phase of life poorly can result in a sense of failure and uselessness.
In retirement or old age, we often look back and review our lives. Erickson observed that, if we have been reasonably successful, we feel a sense of wisdom. If, however, we feel that our lives were wasted, a poverty of despair can set in.
The non-monetary richness of wisdom and contentment at a life well-lived is one of the most extraordinary gifts of successful psychotherapy. If psychotherapy can help you live a more successful and meaningful life, people should be willing it invest in such a promise.
It’s hard to put a price on it, but if pushed, I am reminded that it takes about 12 to 20 sessions of CBT to treat depression and anxiety. If you multiply that by an hourly rate, you have a reasonable cost for the accumulation of a modicum of non-monetary richness.
To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.