Psychologists to the Ultra-Rich Seeing Major Changes

Last summer, the New York Times published an interesting piece about the challenges facing psychologists to the superrich. (Back then, at least, in July, there actually were specialists exclusively counseling the extremely wealthy.)

One issue mentioned was the temptation of therapists to “sycophantically adopt [their clients] point of view,” such as the therapist whose client, an art collector, wasn’t sure whether or not to bid on an $8 million painting. The therapist told him to go for it.

A bigger issue for the therapists was dealing with exceedingly vain personalities. Indeed, a Dr. Stone told the paper that while those of his clients who were born rich seemed to experience a high incidence of depression, “people today who are making a fortune are often narcissistic in a way that excludes depression.”

Fast forward 10 months and both psychologist and patient have been changed by the frighteningly indefinite nature of the current recession. While psychologists to the wealthy seem to have regained their senses, if lost some patients, the rich are no longer treating these doctors as part of their entourage but as a reassuring presence before which to air their very real fears about going broke.

“The reason they’re more afraid is that more of them believe this time is different,” psychologist James Gottfurcht told the Associated Press in a piece out today. “They believe this (recession) is more semi-permanent.”

Gottfurcht tells of a former patient who recently lost half his $200 million fortune. Despite that the man is still sitting on $100 million — more than 99 percent of the population will see in their lifetime — he has deeply cut his spending, including his sessions with Gottfurcht, which were costing him hundreds of dollars an hour. 

Author and investor coach Richard Peterson meanwhile tells the AP, “I have a client whose net worth was about $400 million and now it’s about $200 million and you would think he’s about to be put out on the street by the way he reacts.”

Adds Peterson: “So you have to fly first class, what’s the big deal? [But this person] is really is going through devastation.”