There is a recurring theme in my discussions with supervisees and colleagues. The discussions are also happening on listservs and on social media. That theme is “money” and experience of lack, worry or concern!
Supervisees by and large lament the low wages & fees that they earn coming out of graduate school. There is a persistent and incorrect belief in our culture that earning a higher education degree is a guaranteed path to higher income. While individuals with degrees may earn more money, their debt-to-income ratios tend to be high and they often struggle to make income meet their monthly needs (just like lower wage earners, presumably with less formal education).
Recent Graduates and Ongoing Challenges
Generally speaking, counselors have invested large financial sums in the way of student loans, or in some cases, out of pocket costs.
Naturally those entering the field are inclined to believe (nay – hope) that they will graduate, earn a decent income, and be able to pay their costs of living, including their student loans etc….ideally with one job (including benefits and paid time off etc…).
Well these jobs exist but they are few and far between (particularly for recent graduates). Often those independently licensed who have been in the field for a while continue to face some of the same challenges.
The Dilemmas of Experienced Clinicians
Increasingly, beginning therapists are also facing the dilemmas that experienced counselors face. Mid- and late-career mental health professionals face some of the following concerns:
- The challenges of entrepreneurship & private practice;
- High stress, high burnout employment settings;
- Irregular income and cash flow issues;
- Dealing with insurance companies and reimbursement challenges (particularly rates of reimbursement);
- Setting, earning and receiving private pay rates;
- Planning for retirement and various insurance needs;
- Arranging coverage for time off;
- Preparing for taxes;
- Setting financial goals, coupled with marketing efforts….the list goes on.
Money Challenges in Every Field
The truth is there are many money issues in our field. But there are money challenges in every field.
There may be some money issues unique to us. But I suspect that any of us placed in another profession or another work setting or at a different income level would have a set of complaints or concerns unique to us based on-
- our beliefs,
- our habits,
- our knowledge,
- our consistency,
- and implementation.
Your Money Biography
Many years ago I learned about money biographies from a friend in banking (she was also a money coach). She talked about how we each have our own stories or scripts about money that we live into just like anything else, such as our beliefs about love, fitness, friendship etc…
She led several of us in an activity that involved writing our money biography, or story, in an effort to understand our history. The questions included things like:
- What were the early messages about money that you learned from your family and community?
- What beliefs do you have about wealth?
- What major financial successes and challenges have you experienced, what did you take away from those experiences and what feelings are attached to those experiences?
The idea is to excavate your past and explore your present relationship with money. These activities brought up adages like:
- “Money doesn’t grow on trees”
- “What do you think, that I’m made of money?”
- “Money is the root of all evil”
- “It’s wrong to make money because of doing the right thing or helping others”
- “You shouldn’t go into counseling to get rich.”
“I don’t do this for the money”
One of my supervisees pointed out that when she talks to people in the field about the challenges of low income, she’s been hearing this idea: “I don’t do this work for the money.” This money mindset is detrimental to our collective worth as helping professionals.
Certainly we hope people choose the work because they are inclined toward it. But that should not preclude earning an income that at least provides for one’s needs and expenses and ideally provides for more than enough to meet one’s needs.
As insurance companies reduce our rates by no longer accepting 50 to 55 to 60 minute billing codes unless it is an emergency, and while employers are compelled to offer contract work in lieu of employment- we continue to face “money issues” that decrease the quality of career satisfaction in the field.
There are no easy answers. The financial margins are close for employers and the options are limited for those seeking employment.
Private practitioners are best served by diversifying their services, yet there are growing pains and costs associated with each type of stream of income.
Be in Charge of Your Finances
Just know that you are not alone. You are empowered! You have options! You have opportunities!
Specifically, opportunities to increase your knowledge and your capacity to change your money beliefs, your money management skills, and your thoughts and strategies about earning money and growing investments.
Know that what you focus on is what grows. So learning more and implementing new strategies is essential. You can’t personally tackle every challenge related to the field. But you can address those that are confronting you.
Money issues don’t go away or change if you don’t change the way you are addressing them. Below are some resources for your consideration. I hope that you will also share resources that you have found to be beneficial.
- The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self Employed, by Joseph D’Agnese & Denis Kierman
- The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction, by Chellie Campbell
- Money Master the Game- 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom, by Tony Robbins
- Women and Money, by Suze Orman
- Financial Peace University, by Dave Ramsey
Copyright © 2016 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.