My experience of talking therapies and debt
My relationship with money
As someone from a northern, working class family, aspiring to have money had always been a part of my life. For someone like me, growing up with little money bred a desire for the high life and all that came with it. Unfortunately, though, all that came with such a desire for me was the harsh reality of debt.
Growing into adulthood I had an unhealthy relationship with money. I misunderstood the power of money, what it can bring and what it certainly does not, like happiness. I increased my debt with student overdrafts, credit cards, and bank charges. Alongside this, I developed an increasingly damaging anxiety disorder and both these issues fuelled one another into a vicious cycle in my life.
Shopping for happiness
One thing I have now learned from those days is that, for me, when I’m spending other people’s money – like that of the bank or credit card company – it is highly likely to be on something I don’t need. If it’s not within my current affordability, then buying something outside of that is likely to be an attempt to make my life better in some way. A commonly misguided attempt at self-improvement. It doesn’t make me feel better.
Because of the whirlwind cycle of minimum payments and high credit card interest, I was drowning in despair – not knowing what to do about paying them off. I thought constantly about my debt, which in turn significantly impacted my mental wellbeing.
Adventures in IAPT
I decided to seek out aid in a new way, through therapy, and this is how I came to begin counselling through the IAPT service (the main NHS talking therapies programme). My initial feeling towards counselling was that of relief. The first few appointments allowed me to release a barrage of emotion, insecurities, and worry towards my counsellor. I could let go of the thoughts that had previously only bounced around inside a small room inside my head, and gain new perspectives on them by allowing them to release.
Early on in my schedule of sessions, the topic of finances came to light. It was something that was still haunting me, knowing that I had this debt. My counsellor began to prod at the subject, and I remember feeling overwhelming guilt, fear, and shame even discussing it. There was a moment in which I needed to decide whether I be honest about my finances, or keep the information inside my head, along with the shame. Thankfully, that feeling sparked enough in me to force honesty into the discussion, and we began to brainstorm solutions to the problem.
The need for practical debt advice
Brainstorming the problem was not something I had done on my own previously, other than stare at scary figures on a spreadsheet, and so I found it again to be a great emotional release. I was able to look at the problem more objectively with the guidance of someone else, who wanted to simply encourage the answer out of me rather than tell me how I should do it.
Unfortunately, however we reached the limits of the financial support the therapist could offer. Of course the counselling was to help improve my anxiety in a more general sense, rather than just to target the problem of my finances, but I felt that I could have benefitted from further financial assistance.
What would have been useful
I knew to some extent how to improve my situation myself, but this did not change the fact that I still had significant debt which severely impacted my mental health. I wasn’t offered any proper debt advice, and I didn’t know how to talk with my creditors about my mental health condition and its connection to the debt.
Having further support and being guided through improving this situation is extremely important to overcoming the vicious cycle of debt and mental health problems. I believe this is something that I would have, and others would, benefit from receiving even if it means being referred to additional support outside of IAPT.
Fighting these two battles is not something anyone should ever have to do alone.
Joe Bloom is the Founder of mentovo.com, which helps people to achieve their goals through guided mentoring.