11 Jul 2017

Let’s Talk Money, monitorLIVE Event Explores Professional and Personal Financial Wellness

Even though mental health practitioners often cover a wide variety of difficult subjects in their work, money can be an especially challenging topic to broach. So much so, that sessions can begin and end without even addressing fees or payment schedules with clients. Financial wellness is tied to mental health, and we need to learn to talk about it, according to clinical psychologist Mary Gresham, PhD, who recently addressed a group of psychologists gathered in Atlanta, Ga., for APA’s second local networking event, monitorLIVE. monitorLIVE events connect psychology professionals and thought leaders so they can learn about and discuss issues that impact and elevate the discipline.

Dr. Gresham noted that mental health practitioners have models of good marriages and good communication to teach to clients, but they may lack good models of financial wellness. Most leave money matters to finance professionals, even though mental health practitioners should be the ones applying therapy to the field, she said. While financial planners may take a class in coaching, they haven’t studied behavior, relationships, or any of the other deeper issues related to financial wellness. This, Dr. Gresham believes, is where psychologists can step in and effectively address those issues.

One way to begin addressing financial wellness with clients is through the use of schema—a cognitive framework that can help in the understanding of the concept. Doing so will allow you to interpret implicit and explicit beliefs about money and how they can impact individuals’ lives.

Dr. Gresham explained that money beliefs begin early, at about age three or four. She provided an example—a child thinking money grows in one’s pocket. Practitioners can address these misnomers in the context of behavioral finance, developed by the work of Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky, which examines how individuals make errors in their thought process around money, like believing money grows on trees or, in Dr. Gresham’s example, in a pocket. Behavioral finance explores how rational or irrational one can be about money matters, such as choosing to take one dollar today to immediately satisfy your desire for money, or taking $1.10 next year, which is actually a 10 percent increase, but might not feel like it.

Dr. Gresham went on to say that schema development depends on cultural beliefs, like thinking rich people are bad and poor people are good (or vice versa), or believing that if you work hard, money will come to you. These beliefs affect us, but they are simplistic, and we need to develop them to make them more sophisticated. This necessary development can happen through research on the cultural differences having to do with money, like the particular rules and customs about money that exist within the families of first-generation immigrants,such as not paying interest on a loan, and how those rules differ from cultural norms here in the United States, where borrowers might not like it, but interest is acceptable.

Another area in behavioral finance Dr. Gresham discussed with the audience is financial trauma. Even though many people suffer from financial trauma, whether they’ve lost everything in bad investments, or because of a spouse’s spending habits, there is not enough research on how to assist people with those experiences. “How do you help people come back from financial trauma and rebuild their lives? We need that research,” she said.

During her conversation, Dr. Gresham also touched on gender issues around money, such as women having lower financial levels of literacy than men and the lack of encouragement of women to enter the financial planning field.

She also noted that practitioners must examine money issues in their own lives, pointing out the costs associated with getting an education in the field and the need to understand what it means to be a self-employed business person by learning to communicate fees and by researching market rates, insurance rates, and retirement plans. Dr. Gresham suggested APA’s Division 42 and the book, “Handbook of Private Practice: Keys to Success for Mental Health Practitioners.”

Keep an eye out for future monitorLIVE events coming to a city near you.

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20 Jun 2017

What Do Superheroes and Psychologists Have in Common? monitorLIVE Event Explores the Intersection of Passion and Profession

Much like superheroes, psychologists often have origin stories—impactful events that have shaped their professional identity and defined their mission. This was a major theme of the June 1st monitorLIVE event in Los Angeles, during which clinical psychologist and superhero enthusiast Andrea Letamendi, PhD, shared her origin story that began as a graduate student.

As Dr. Letamendi explained, her origin story was marked by an experience of, “psychic disequilibrium," which occurs when individuals do not see their own identities reflected in their environment. As a graduate student, Dr. Letamendi rarely saw herself represented in her chosen field of psychology—she met few psychologists who shared her cultural background, history of immigration and discrimination, or passions and hobbies, including comics.  This struggle activated her personal supervillain, “Imposter Syndrome.” The villain resurfaced during stressful times such as during comps and dissertation research, making her feel like she did not belong in graduate school or in the field.

She was finally able to defeat the Imposter Syndrome villain with the antidote of being her true professional and personal self. She had been ignoring her love of comic books, which was a large part of her authentic identity. She did not know that the field of psychology offers a variety of career options and many ways to incorporate hobbies and interests into professional careers. She became a true superhero when she combined her passion for comics with her background in psychology to create her side hustle, an extra income stream that allows people to pursue an interest while keeping their full-time job.

Dr. Letamendi shared that side hustles can restore the professional identities of practitioners, helping them remember why they were initially drawn to the psychology field. Side hustles also help with daily burnout and compassion fatigue. She now connects her identity with her psychology background through her podcast, “The Arkham Sessions,” where she analyzes every episode of “Batman: the Animated Series” through the lens of a clinical psychologist. She examines characters and analyzes their behaviors and personalities. Dr. Letamendi’s childhood dream came full circle when DC Comics made her Batgirl’s psychologist in one of its published stories.

The point to a side hustle is not only to make money, but also to fulfill one’s creative passion. This is why Dr. Letamendi’s podcasts are free, in the spirit of “Giving Psychology Away.”

Dr. Letamendi’s mission, shaped by her origin story, is to increase public knowledge of mental health and to encourage help-seeking among people who would not otherwise seek treatment. Although she accomplishes this mission through her daily work, her side hustle gives her the opportunity to live and work authentically.

monitorLIVE events connect psychology professionals and thought leaders to learn about and discuss issues that impact and elevate the discipline. Keep an eye out for future monitorLIVE events coming to a city near you.

Review photos from monitorLIVE: Los Angeles. This networking event from APA brings together psychology professionals and thought leaders to learn about and discuss issues that impact and elevate the discipline. The featured speaker in Los Angeles was clinical psychologist and superhero enthusiast, Andrea Letamendi, PhD. Dr. Letamendi offered her perspective on fusing a psychology background with a passion to open career opportunities one may never have considered.

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