When the economy gets rough, family life gets rougher. Economic stress causes individual and family stress, triggering depression, blame games, anger and sometimes violence, according to Kristy Archuleta, assistant professor in the College of Human Ecology’s School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University.
Archuleta, a licensed marriage and family therapist, also is a faculty member in K-State’s Institute of Personal Financial Planning. The institute is exploring new methods to help families cope with economic hard times.
“We hope to bridge financial planning and marriage and family therapy to form a type of financial therapy, where financial planners and relationship therapists work together to provide comprehensive
treatment to clients experiencing financial distress,” Archuleta said.
“In many ways, financial issues and family stress events are interrelated,” said John Grable, a K-State professor of family studies and human services who also leads the Institute of Financial Planning. “In some cases the way in which individuals and families manage their personal financial situation has a direct impact on the stress felt in the household.”
For example, suppose a husband habitually spends money without his wife’s approval. In addition to adding debt to the family’s balance sheet, it is likely that this behavior increases marital stress, Grable said.
Today’s financial planners and counselors are pretty good at helping the family work out the debt issue, but they are unprepared to address the emotional aspects of the behavior, Grable said. Marriage and family therapists, on the other hand, have the skills necessary to help the family work through the emotional issues surrounding the behavior, but they are weaker in giving financial guidance.
“What is missing is the intersection between the money and emotional realm,” Grable said. “This is where we think financial therapists will find their niche. A financial therapist will be able to blend financial counseling with basic therapy techniques. Students in our new Ph.D. financial planning program will have an opportunity to study financial therapy.”
Archuleta exemplifies this crossover. She has a doctorate in marriage and family therapy and she teaches in the personal financial planning program. A founding member of Women Managing the Farm, she specializes in therapy for rural and farm families, working with couples experiencing financial issues.
“Research tells us that couples realize when they have relationship problems, and they realize when they have financial problems – but they often don’t realize which might be the key to their marital problems and they are unsure where to turn,” Archuleta said.
“We look at four factors that affect the dynamics of a relationship,” she said. “First, do couples have similar views on financial goals – savings, spending and investing? Second, do they respect each other’s view?”
Respect, said Archuleta, is more important than having the same goals and views.
Third, do they trust each other when it comes to money? This is a giant issue in today’s economic climate, she said. “I see stress up, depression up and trust down. It’s hard to trust when you feel vulnerable,” Archuleta said.
Fourth, do couples have the communication skills to talk about money even when they disagree? “My research has shown that how you communicate is not as important as having shared goals and values,” she said. “This is most likely due to the respect factor, which appears to more important than having the same goals and views.”
Sources: John Grable, 785-532-1486, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Kristy Archuleta, 785-532-1474,email@example.com
Web site: http://ipfp.k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Jane P. Marshall, 785-532-1519, firstname.lastname@example.org