Description Of Intervention

Physical objects play an important role in development over the life span. Transitional objects represent the relationship between the child and his or her most important attachments (Winnicott, 1971). The Teddy bear, blanket, or soft toy that the child takes everywhere represents the soothing relationship between Mother or Father and infant. The object allows the child to separate from the parent by reminding him or her of the nurturing parental relationship when he or she is alone or upset. "Evocative objects" have been used in both childhood and adulthood as "objects-to-think-with" (Papert, 1980; Turkle, 2007) and as objects on which to project thoughts and feelings. Like the Rorschach, an evocative object invites projection through which one can learn about the world, one's relationships, and oneself (Turkle, 1984). In this intervention, we use the evocative object to understand our relationship to money.

I ask group members to bring in an object that represents something about them, their family, and money. Such an object often evokes strong feelings of pride, shame, disappointment, yearning, sadness, and anxiety. Due to the deep sharing, this exercise tends to help the group cohere; indeed, it may become a metaphor for the group and its money matters in the group. In exploring one another's stories, the members can address issues of culture, gender, societal expectations, prejudices, feelings of shame and pride, greed and generosity, and deprivation and fulfillment, as well as intergenerational family patterns with regard to financial matters.

Step 1: Clients bring in an object that represents something about them and their relationship to money. I give each client a list of questions to consider as they decide which object to bring in:

• What do you, your parents, and your grandparents do for a living?

• What socioeconomic status did each generation grow up in?

• How/did your parents talk to you about money? What did they say?

• Were there any catastrophes in your family related to money? Any windfalls?

• Were there any secrets about money?

• Did money build or destroy any family relationships?

• Was there a family business? Did it get passed down and if so, how?

• Who (literally) paid the bills in each generation?

• Were there any surprises in the family's wills (either positive or negative)?

• What myths about money did your family pass down? About whom?

• What have you taught your children about the value of money?

• What concrete tools have you taught your children (e.g., budgeting, about credit card debt, retirement accounts, loans, investing, etc.)?

• What were you taught (and what were your parents taught)?

Step 2: Before the group members share their objects, I ask them to write down three assumptions they have about the other group members' relationship to money.

Step 3: After I ask each member to tell the story about his or her object to the rest of the group, the other members share feelings, thoughts, or fantasies that come to them as they listen to the stories.

Step 4: When every person has finished sharing his or her object, I ask the group to look at their list of assumptions, and ask them how accurate their assumptions were.

Step 5:1 encourage the group to talk about how they feel about my billing policies and my role in setting them.

TYPICAL RESPONSES

In a long-term psychodynamic group whose members were consistently late in payment, I asked the members to reflect on what meaning the lateness had to them as individuals and to the group as awhole. They resisted discussing the issue, so I asked them to bring in a physical object that represented something about them, their family and their relationship to money. My intervention was unusual, as I do not normally use concrete exercises in this group, so both the change in the group norm and the use of physical objects were provocative.

One woman who had not paid her bill in several months brought in her checkbook. She said, "I have never balanced my checkbook. I always guess as to how much money is in my account. Sometimes I'm wrong, and I bounce checks. My parents were irresponsible with money and eventually went bankrupt. I think I feel bankrupt myself, so I don't feel I can pay you."

Another woman brought in a bottle of expensive perfume. She cried as she said she felt ashamed of growing up in a wealthy family. She said she had not paid her bill because she did not want other group members to be envious of her ability to pay.

A man who had gone through an expensive and high-conflict divorce, brought in a photo of a red 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. He had a passion for cars, especially those from his teenage years. He remained bitter about his divorce because it was so costly and he had to sell his prized Bel Air. He was able to express his envy and anger toward me, whom he saw as successful and wealthy.

Each of these comments led to deeper discussion about the meaning of money in the group and outside. Toward the end of the session, I asked the members to reflect on what assumptions they had made about others in the group. Many of the members had been right about how much money people had, but most had no idea how others handled their finances, how they felt about money, or what meaning they made of it. The exercise allowed members to see how assumptions are often wrong or only part of the story.

Confident Kids

Confident Kids

Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.

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