We live in an age where increasingly our value of anything comes down to money. Even environmentalists are needing to show the value of ecosystems and specific species of animals, in order to put forward a robust case for conservation. Little wonder then that the question of the value of counselling and psychotherapy in monetary terms raises its head from NHS commissioners through to money-conscious clients.
Until recently this has not been a simple question to answer. Therapists know that therapy is valuable – whether directed towards specific behavioural change or as a process of self-enquiry and self-reflection. However, quantifying the benefits in monetary terms has not always been that simple. Sure, if a compulsive gambler stops gambling, the financial pay-off can be immediately visible, however, I would suggest that the benefits (financial and emotional) go much further than the savings made from avoiding the betting shop and breaking an addiction.
Well, research undertaken at the University of Warwick seems to be getting closer to quantifying the value of therapy, at least versus receiving direct financial reward and it turns out that psychological therapy is 32 times more valuable than money in increasing our well-being!
We all need money to meet our basic needs such as food, shelter, water etc. in order to survive – cue Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. However, once our more basic needs have been met, additional money seems to have little to no correlation to happiness and well-being. The research paper entitled ‘Money and Mental Health: The Cost of Alleviating Psychological Distress with Monetary Compensation versus Psychological Therapy’ suggests that in the developed world, despite huge economic gains and a political focus on economic growth during the past 50 years, national happiness has not increased. In fact, quite the opposite: mental health seems to be deteriorating across the globe.
Through comparing 1,000’s of data sets of participants reporting on their happiness, the researchers looked into how happiness changed due to therapy compared to sudden increases in income such as through lottery wins or a jump in salary. The results showed that a four-month course of therapy, equating to an investment of £800, led to an overall increase in well-being equivalent to a pay rise or windfall of £25,000. In purely financial terms, therapy could be 32 times more effective at improving well-being pound-per-pound than money.
Interestingly, an additional point raised by the paper discusses how ineffective financial compensation is when dealing with trauma – e.g. the court system – and that psychological therapy could be a significantly more effective way of supporting people in overcoming their traumas.
So there we have it. Therapy works. Us therapists always knew this but now we are starting to get a grasp of how much it works in financial terms.
Link to research paper: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/alumni/services/eportfolios/psrfbb/boycewood_hep_website_copy.pdf