On the last track, we discussed techniques useful in preparing a client to fight compulsive spending. These techniques included: "Compiling a Money History"; "Conversation with Money"; and "Commentary."
On this track, we will present techniques that help a client avoid trigger attacks. These techniques include: Trigger Awareness; Spending Alternatives; Replacement Self-Talk: and Weekley Homework Assignments.
4 Techniques that Help a Client Avoid Trigger Attacks
Technique #1 - Trigger Awareness
The first technique is "Trigger Awareness." I have found that most compulsive spending clients are mildly aware of the triggers that instigate their binge spending. However, when the trigger actually takes place, they are ill prepared to fight against it. Do you agree?
Trevor, age 35, would get caught in large shopping sprees. I asked Trevor if there were any specific behavior that occurred right before he compulsively spend. He stated, "When it first started, I would just hear this whirring in my head. After a while, I could vaguely discern that it was an actual voice saying, "spinning around, spinning around" over and over in my head. It’s like my entire brain shut down and that’s all it could reason. Everything else was a blur of credit cards." I stated to Trevor, "The next time you go into a store, I want you to say to yourself that your mind is going to be broadcasting ‘spinning around’ and to be prepared for it."
The next time Trevor came in, he stated, "It did help. When I told my mind to be aware of the message, my anxiety was greatly lifted." I explained to Trevor, "What’s happening here is that you are now taking back control of your mind. Before, your mind and body tuned into one channel. Your mind heard, ‘spinning around’ while your body heard ‘spend money.’ By becoming aware of your trigger messages, you are tuning into another channel." Think of your Trevor. How would you make him or her aware of triggers?
Technique #2 - Spending Alternatives
The second technique is "Spending Alternatives." Jillian, age 29, had difficulty with keeping control of her body. She had spent most of her savings and was in huge credit card debt after buying two beach houses. I stated to Jillian, "In order to stop yourself from acting out your urges, it’s important to work out nondestructive alternatives that will give you the rewards or consolation you crave."
I asked Jillian to make up a list of "Spending Alternatives" or actions that she could do instead of pulling out her credit card. I told her to concentrate on activities that were relaxing, but also occupied her body, and most importantly, didn’t cost any money.
Jillian's Spending Alternatives
1. Painting water colors
3. Reading a book
4. Taking a walk in the park
Jillian stated, "The next time I had the urge to shop, I looked at my list and chose to take a walk in the park instead. The exercise and fresh air calmed me down." Think of your Jillian. What other activities could he or she participate in to avoid a compulsive spending spree?
Technique #3 - Replacement Self-Talk
In addition to "Trigger Awareness" and "Spending Alternatives" the third technique is "Replacement Self-Talk." Terrence, age 30, stated, "Whenever there’s a party or something coming up, my mind starts to tell me I need a new jacket or pair of shoes. I’ve tried trigger awareness, but it doesn’t quite help. What should I do?" Because Terrence’s triggers were stronger than others, I told him, "Now that you hear and notice the voices, it’s time to replace the message. When you can hijack your mind back into your own control, your more likely to control your actions as well."
I asked Terrence to go home and make a list of self-talk phrases that can replace the messages he’s hearing from his subconscious.
Terrence's Self-Talk Phrases
1. I’ll have a good time if I decide to, no matter what I wear.
2. I’d rather have people like me for my intelligence, friendliness, and sense of humor than because I’m wearing a new jacket.
3. I don’t have to look perfect to be accepted.
Notice that most of Terrence’s phrases also encouraged his own self-confidence. Think of your Terrence. Would he or she benefit from this exercise?
Technique #4 - Weekly Homework Assignments
The fourth technique is "Long Term Weekly Homework Assignments." To help shop-aholic clients in the long term, I suggest to them that they take on weekly homework assignments that keep them continually conscious of money. Cody was a particular client that could not keep track of his expenditures. He stated, "It gets so overwhelming, I lose track of the fact that I have a spending problem and everything goes down the drain." I suggested that Cody try weekly assignments that he can switch up every week. He and I worked together to plan out a calendar of assignments to complete.
Cody's Weekly Calendar of Homework Assignments
Week 1: Put money in an envelope or wallet compartment and don’t spend it for at least a month.
Week 2: Leave my credit card at home for a week.
Week 3: Before making any unplanned purchase of any size, physically walk away from the item, leave the store and think about it for at least ten minutes
Think of your Cody. What other small homework assignments can you think of that would keep him or her aware of money?
On this track, we discussed techniques that help a client avoid trigger attacks. These techniques include: Trigger Awareness; Spending Alternatives; and Replacement Self-Talk.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bauer, C. J. (2001). Review of Addiction intervention: Strategies to motivate treatment-seeking behavior [Review of the book Addiction intervention: Strategies to motivate treatment-Seeking behavior, by R. K. White & D. G. Wright, Eds.]. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 24(3), 308–309.
Elbogen, E. B., Tiegreen, J., Vaughan, C., & Bradford, D. W. (2011). Money management, mental health, and psychiatric disability: A recovery-oriented model for improving financial skills. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 34(3), 223–231.
Paulsen, K., Rimm, D. C., Woodburn, L. T., & Rimm, S. A. (1977). A self-control approach to inefficient spending. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45(3), 433–435.
Rose, P. (2007). Mediators of the association between narcissism and compulsive buying: The roles of materialism and impulse control. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21(4), 576–581..
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
What are three techniques that help a client avoid trigger attacks? To select and enter your answer go to .