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Money and Psychotherapy
A Guide for Mental Health Professionals
Richard Trachtman
ISBN: 978-0-87101-421-4. 2011. Item #4214. 112 pages.

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Because of a cultural taboo against talking about money, psychotherapists and their clients avoid discussing the single most powerful cultural force shaping how people think, feel, and behave. Money and Psychotherapy: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals tackles the money taboo head-on, introducing mental health professionals to the topic of money, helping them understand how money can affect their ability to be effective in their work, and teaches them the basics of how to address money-related issues with their clients. This book also provides information about some of the problems that clients experience in relation to money and how money affects different clients in differing ways.

Drawing on four decades of experience as a social worker and psychotherapist, Richard Trachtman has written a book that has vital significance for the practice of psychotherapy. In Money and Psychotherapy, he addresses a broad array of topics, including:

  • Specific areas of treatment related to money, such as fee setting and management and gift giving

  • Techniques for opening up discussion with clients about their money history, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors

  • The meaning of money and the role it plays in the formation of identity and personality

  • Class, gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality and how they affect money-related attitudes and behaviors

  • The role of money in family relations

  • The recent recession as a stressor that contributes to psychological and interpersonal problems

About the Author

Chapter 1: The Money Taboo: How It Affects Both Therapist and Client

Chapter 2: The Money Taboo and the Mental Health Professions

Chapter 3: Considerations on Fee Setting and Management

Chapter 4: Thoughts about Accepting or Giving of Gifts

Chapter 5: Techniques for Raising Money-related Questions

Chapter 6: Money, Identity, and Personality

Chapter 7: Money and Meaning

Chapter 8: Money and Psychopathology

Chapter 9: Class, Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality

Chapter 10: Money and Family Relations

Chapter 11: Happiness, Well-Being, and the Recession

People have always lived in groups that depended on some form of economy for their survival. Those economies have had a great deal to do with shaping their identities and personalities, including their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors; their personal concerns; and their relationships, which affect their physical and emotional well-being. Not all economies have been based on money; but since its invention in Asia Minor (now part of Turkey) somewhere around 550 to 650 B.C., the importance and influence of money on commerce has spread rapidly around the world (for an in-depth discussion of the nature of money and the impact of its invention on humanity, see Weatherford, 1997). Along with its expanding importance in world economies, money has become an important aspect of interpersonal and internal psychological lives. In America, which is one of the world's most money-centered societies, money's impact on who we are from a psychological perspective, how we relate to others, and our material well-being is compounded.

Considering the power of money to shape the psyches and the lives of people, we must assume that its influence can be either beneficial or highly detrimental. When it has detrimental effects on psychological or interpersonal well-being, it becomes an area of concern and an arena for intervention by therapists. It would, therefore, be logical to expect therapists to be well trained and well versed in how money affects their clients' attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, psychological states, and interpersonal relationships. Therapists should be interested in their clients' relationships to money and how these relationships affect their lives.

Unfortunately, this is very often not the case; discussion about money is taboo in American society. Although there have been recent examples that suggest some loosening of this taboo in social discourse (for example, young adults who are seeking jobs and need information about salaries offered by potential employers or older people who commiserate about the effects of the recent recession), most people would feel very uncomfortable if a stranger at a party asked them how much money they make. Even accountants and financial advisors I have spoken with say that many of their clients are reluctant to reveal their financial circumstances to them. This taboo is a cultural phenomenon; the same kind of question asked in a country such as Norway or Israel would not be considered inappropriate. The "money taboo" has affected both individual therapists and the psychotherapy profession as a whole in ways that inhibit therapists' understanding of money and their ability to enquire about and treat those money-related problems from which their clients suffer (Trachtman, 1999).

One way that the taboo has affected the psychotherapy profession is that it has limited the discussion of money in literature, teaching, and supervision. In the year preceding the publication of this book, I conducted an informal survey of 39 mental health practitioners – one psychiatrist, three psychologists, 33 clinical social workers, and two social work students who had completed their field work and were in the last weeks of their course work. (The data from the social workers and social work students are the basis of an article under review for the Journal of Social Work Education.) I asked whether in their course work or in their clinical supervision, during their graduate training, they had ever heard a substantial presentation or had a discussion about the relationship between money and intrapsychic development and functioning. Not one of these individuals could recall having heard such a presentation or having had such a discussion, and only four (three social workers and one psychologist) could remember having discussed this issue with a supervisor during their graduate training. Perhaps as a result of this lack of training, and the power of the money taboo itself, in the treatment setting, both clients and therapists have colluded in avoiding the exploration of the uncomfortable can of worms we call money. Thus, therapists are short-changed by the profession and by themselves in their in ability to understand money in psychological and interpersonal terms and to be effective in helping the clients deal with its important influence on their lives.

The purpose of this book is to introduce mental health professionals, especially psychotherapists, to the topic of money, to help them understand how money can affect their ability to be effective in their work, and to teach them the basics of how to address money-related issues with their clients. This book will also provide information about some of the problems that clients experience in relation to money and how money affects different clients in differing ways.

Finally, this book does not advocate a particular methodology or theoretical point of view, although some of the examples, being based on my work, will reflect my orientation and style of treatment. It is for all mental health professionals, who are engaged in providing all types of treatment.e
Richard Trahctman, PhD, LCSW, is president of MORE Services for MOney and RElationships. He specializes in money and relationships coaching, counseling, and psychotherapy. He is author of Money and the Pursuit of Happiness in Good Times and Bad (available through and has presented many papers, led workshops, and written numerous articles about money and psychotherapy, some of which are available on his Web site: He maintains a private practice in New York City and Columbia County, New York.
This is a unique book on a sadly neglected subject and, as such, an important contribution to therapy literature. Trachtman refers to the "money taboo" in therapy, and how true that is. In my 40 years as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, no supervisor or teacher or lecturer ever referred to the subject. This book should be required reading in every therapy training program. The practical explanations and excellent examples of problems and solutions are presented clearly and succinctly. The material discussed is long overdue and necessary on a subject central to all of our lives.

Sherman O. Schachter, M.D.
Editor, The Difficult Patient: Psychotherapeutic Strategies


For psychotherapists interested in helping their clients tackle the number 1 source of stress in America, Money and Psychotherapy is a must read. From setting fees to helping clients uncover and resolve their money issues, Dr. Trachtman has created an essential resource, which belongs on every psychotherapist's bookshelf.

Brad Klontz, PsyD.
former president of the Hawaii Psychological Association
Associate research professor in personal financial planning at Kansas State University
Co-author of Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders that Threaten Our Financial Health


Richard Tracthman joins the handful of us who believe that money is an important issue to explore in the clinical space. This exploration provides a dimension of meaning that often remains untapped therapeutically. Trachtman implores therapists to engage in the conversation as a means to opening up the multiple layers of understanding. This enhances the therapeutic process for both therapist and client.

Judith Stern Peck
Director, Money and Family Life Project
Ackerman Institute for the Family, New York
Author of Money and Meaning: New Ways to Have Conversations with Clients about Money