Money & Relational Trauma With Annie Wright

Money & Relational Trauma

“With more financial empowerment, you create more choices to not rely on dysfunctional or abusive grandparents to watch your child or to, quite frankly, get into good trauma therapy or quite frankly, to purchase hotels or Airbnbs and rental cars so you don’t have to stay and rely on those folks. I think that having money gives us more freedom. It gives us more choices.” 

– Annie Wright

Meet Annie Wright

Annie Wright is a licensed psychotherapist deeply committed to supporting the well-being of those who, while they didn’t come from the best childhoods, long to finally create wonderful adulthoods for themselves.

She’s a national expert in relational trauma recovery, specifically supporting the adult children of the mood- and personality-disordered to help them explore, heal, and move forward from their pasts towards a future that feels whole and beautiful no matter where they started from.

She owns and runs a boutique therapy center in Berkeley where she offers one-on-one therapy services and where she also oversees her staff of talented, trauma-informed clinicians. In addition to this, Annie is a published mental health author, and she produces digital content and online courses designed to support relational trauma recovery.

In This Episode…

In this episode, we discuss the strong relationship between financial and psychological well-being. Annie Wright is a psychotherapist who supports the well-being of those who didn’t have a good childhood, but want to have an amazing adulthood. Annie shares how financial empowerment directly connects with being able to set healthy boundaries and take care of your mental health, especially for those who grew up in dysfunctional families.

Listen to this episode as Annie and I dig into how building a healthy relationship with money can create long-term security for you and your family. We discuss tools to help you track your finances that you can start today. And we explore how once you have peace of mind about your finances, you can show up for your clients as an example of what it looks like to have your finances under control.

Exclusively for our listeners, save $200 on Annie’s course Hard Families, Good Boundaries, using coupon code: moneynutsandbolts. 

(The code gives you a $397 one-time payment or four payments $101 discounted rate.)




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Episode Transcript

Annie [00:00:06] With more financial empowerment, you create more choices to not rely on dysfunctional or abusive grandparents to watch your child or to, quite frankly, get into good trauma therapy or quite frankly, to purchase hotels or Airbnbs and rental cars so you don’t have to stay and rely on those folks. I think that having money gives us more freedom. It gives us more choices. And particularly for the population group I serve. And frankly, from the very background that I come from, financial empowerment is every bit as important as psychological empowerment. 


Linzy [00:00:49] Welcome to the Money Skills for Therapists podcast, where we answer this question: how can therapists and health practitioners go from money shame and confusion to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them and both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham, therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills for Therapists. Today’s conversation is with Annie Wright. Annie Wright is one of my business besties she is a licensed psychotherapist who is all about supporting the well-being of those who, although they didn’t have good childhoods, want to have wonderful adulthoods. I’ve known Annie for several years. She’s a business friend, turned real friend. And today we dig into the connection between psychological well-being and financial well-being. Annie is like so tangible and clear on the importance of financial well-being to support our psychological well-being. I love the points that she makes and they particularly apply to those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families. Annie also explores how setting your rates can really model financial empowerment and self care to your clients in this very tangible way, which is a point that I love so often as therapists we struggle with the idea that raising our rates is doing harm to our clients and she has some wonderful insights into how doing that can actually be the exact opposite. And she also discussed how she overcame her own complex childhood and experiences of money really being there and really not being there to create a very sober relationship with money as an adult and really create the security that is so important to her as an adult for herself and for her family. Annie is a national expert in relational trauma and recovery. She owns a boutique therapy center in Berkeley, California, where she does one on one therapy services and where she also oversees a staff of talented trauma informed clinicians. And she’s also a published mental health author and produces great digital content and online courses to support people who are recovering from relational trauma. Here’s Annie Wright. 


Linzy [00:03:04] So welcome, Annie, I’m so glad that you’re here today. 

Annie [00:03:07] I am so excited to be here Linzy, thank you. 

Linzy [00:03:10] So, Annie, your work that you do, you work in relational trauma. So you’re like, really, I went something you and I have in common, I think, is that we spent a lot of our careers doing complex trauma work, like really getting in to the deep stuff in people’s minds and their relationships and their upbringings. So I’m really curious for you, given that this podcast is about money, what do you see as the relationship between financial well-being and financial empowerment and psychological well-being and empowerment? 

Annie [00:03:46] I think they’re inextricably interconnected. And so I’m a licensed psychotherapist, my niche in the world is relational trauma recovery. And so what that means is I’m typically working with folks clinically or supervising my staff from my center. The folks that they see are coming from backgrounds in which they were raised by mood or personality disordered parents or homes where a lot of addictions or chaos took place, leading to kind of a host of complex developmental impacts for those individuals. So given that that’s my population group, I really, truly believe that money wellbeing and psychological empowerment go hand-in-hand together, particularly for that population group. And what I mean by that is, as we do the work to psychologically empower and esteem ourselves, maybe individuate from our dysfunctional families of origin, psychological empowerment can help only up to a certain extent. And then you have to have resources in order sometimes to make choices that can ultimately be the most healing for you. For instance, if you are without money, without resources, if you’re not financially well and you live at home with abusive or dysfunctional parents and you don’t have the money to get your own apartment or to leave even the city or state where you grew up, that’s an issue. With more financial empowerment you create more choices to not rely on dysfunctional or abusive grandparents to watch your child or to, quite frankly, get into good trauma therapy or to purchase hotels or Airbnbs or rental cars, so you don’t have to stay and rely on those folks. I think that having money gives us more freedom. It gives us more choices. And particularly for the population group I serve. And frankly, from the very background that I come from, financial empowerment is every bit as important as psychological empowerment. 


Linzy [00:05:41] I love that because it’s so practical. That’s something that I think you and I have in common when it comes to money. I we’re very practical about it, we think about like, what can it do? So I’m hearing, from a very practical perspective, money allows you to create those boundaries and space from relationships that can be harmful to you. 


Annie [00:05:59] Absolutely. Well, I think not only allows you to have those boundaries and to create space and to create choices, and quite honestly, it lets you do some of the healing work that’s required if you were raised in an environment like that. I think many folks come to me when they’re finally starting to earn enough money or they are finally in a job that actually has health benefits that can cover even a portion of therapy fees. And so we see very concretely there that their ability to have earned money and to empower themselves up to a certain extent bought them a resource that can then further their psychological healing. So I do think the two go hand-in-hand. 


Linzy [00:06:38] And I think that’s a really important message for the therapists and health practitioners who are listening, because in our professions, we we have quite a bit of control. Even though people may not feel that way, we have quite a bit of control over the money that we bring in. And something that I notice with so many of us is we’re so focused on, like our client’s needs or stories about what they can afford or what’s right or feeling guilty about making money that sometimes therapists even limit what they could be earning because those other stories are kind of running them. 


Annie [00:07:11] Oh, sure, sure. I don’t I have yet to meet a therapist who isn’t immune to that at some level. 


Linzy [00:07:15] Yes, absolutely. But what I’m hearing is for therapists especially, who come from the kinds of backgrounds that you’re talking about, there’s actually like an extra level to what earning can do for them. 


Annie [00:07:28] Well, here’s here’s what I think then. In charging decent, good rates, in managing your money, well, you’re modeling for your clients what it is to take good care of yourself, which may be the very content that they need to take, that they need to tend to as well. So I do think the more that you tend to your own money well being, the more you can model and help lift and elevate and inspire your clients.

Linzy [00:07:54] because they can feel that from you, too. 

Annie [00:07:56] I absolutely think that’s been the case with me and my clients. Yes, absolutely. 

Linzy [00:08:00] So Annie then, in your own life, I know so many of us do the work that we do because of our own experiences. I’m curious about what your experiences have been like with with money growing up 

Annie [00:08:16] Complex. When I say complex, everyone’s relationship to money is complex. It’s a very complex topic, but I feel like I have a story that’s a little bit conflated at different ends of the pendulum. So I do come from relational trauma history. And up until I was about six years old, I think my family back in the eighties in New England where I grew up, was considered what might be relatively upper middle class. However, at six, everything kind of blew apart and my biological father left the family very bombastically and with a lot of debt, with hundreds of thousands of debt, and basically left us in poverty. That individual who I don’t have a relationship with then went on to build a life for himself as an art gallery owner in New York and Palm Beach. So my mother took care of myself and my three younger sisters, and there were times where we were absolutely in poverty. We had to drastically downsize our life. And there were times where we had to receive food from others because we didn’t have enough ourselves that was always putting stuff away at the grocery store checkout. We barely- we all slept in the same room because we couldn’t afford to heat a whole house, you know, things that were actually quite extreme in a Maine winter. And so and by contrast, that my biological father, a person I don’t have a relationship with, was sort of living high on the hog in terms of running these very high end art galleries. And so flying in 50 pound lobsters to entertain his art clients or making us sleep in these art galleries under half a million dollar paintings and giving us hundred dollar bills, we could wander the streets of New York, but at the same time not paying child support, not paying health insurance. So we were in this very strange world of high end net worth during vacation times and also very much in sort of what was 10 years poverty for a while with my mother. And she did a really valiant job, went back to work where she had very few job prospects and worked very, very hard to climb out of that poverty. I don’t remember us ever having health insurance or any kind of financial safety net. We did have food after she started working quite consistently over the years. So we didn’t want for anything on a very sort of immediate material level, certainly as I moved into a teen. But we again didn’t have health insurance. There were no retirement investments. We never owned a house. There was no real net. It all just kind of filtered in and flowed out. And by by contrast, that individual, again, my biological father was went to prison for being an art thief. So there are some pretty extreme money relationships in my own personal background with a really complicated relationship to money, not understanding how you earn it, how you earn it, not necessarily relatively easily, but without working yourself to death or without stealing from people. And I certainly didn’t have any models of how to manage it and create true security. So it’s been a really complex and long journey. I call it my money sobriety journey to basically undo all of the sort of money trauma that happened in my past along with the other trauma too, of course. 

Linzy [00:11:50] Yes, yes. Yes, I do. So I’m wondering, Annie, like now, how would you describe your relationship with money today? 

Annie [00:11:58] I think I have a really sober relationship with money and a really strong relationship with money. I don’t exist in magical thinking with it anymore. I also don’t exist in fear and scarcity with it anymore. I’ve done a lot of work to understand my own limiting beliefs, to challenge them, to work really hard, to build up my professional reputation and the rates I command. And then I’ve done a really excellent job. I do pat myself on the back for managing money well, to create a long term financial security and stability for my family, which includes myself, my husband, my my toddler daughter. So I think I have a sober and strong relationship to money. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times that I’m not- I’m swamped with a little bit of fear or a little bit of overwhelm or even a little bit of magical thinking. I think you’ve been my friend for some time. You’ve seen me through those moments. But in general, I have a fairly sober and strong relationship to money. 

Linzy [00:12:53] Yeah, and something that I’m hearing has been a priority is that safety net like it sounds like. 

Annie [00:12:58] Oh, one hundred percent. 

Linzy [00:12:59] Which makes all the sense in the world because you didn’t have that and the lack of that would have been probably very present. 

Annie [00:13:08] Yeah, absolutely. I. I think when I think about the tangible but also emotional impacts that creating long term money well being- financial well-being has had, one of the biggest ones is the ability to sleep better at night, not worrying about money and not worrying about unexpected expenses, et cetera, having all the defensive insurances in place, knowing that there’s emergency funds across the board. I sleep better. That’s been a huge impact of better relationship with money. 

Linzy [00:13:40] Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And something that I so appreciate and admire about you, Annie, is your ability to kind of push money into the future in strategic ways, like, I think your very goal oriented. And I think a lot of people and certainly therapists and health practitioners can struggle on two sides of a spectrum. One is where they spend everything and they have nothing. And there’s there’s no savings for the future. Where the other side is, where people kind of hold on to and, like, hoard money. There isn’t necessarily a plan for it, there’s just like a tightness around it. And what I hear you describing is like your money goes to very specific places and does very specific things for you. 

Annie [00:14:23] Oh, absolutely. And to be clear, it was not overnight that I got to that place. I’ve lived on either side of those spectrums where I’ve spent everything that came in very similar to what I grew up with. And then I’ve also wrestled with holding on to it, not making purchases, because I thought there would never be enough. So I’ve arrived at kind of a happy medium and the pendulum swing of believing and trusting in myself and my ability to generate money in the marketplace. I’ve also raised my own market value in the marketplace, so I have a lot of trust which allows me to spend to have a nice quality of life now. But I do still very much prioritize future goals because that’s very important to me. And some of my my biggest values are freedom and security. And I do think that planning for your financial future can help you feel more of that in the present. 

Linzy [00:15:13] Absolutely. So for you, Annie, what are some of the concrete things that you’ve done or tools that you’ve used to get to where you are now? 

Annie [00:15:21] OK, so I told you a little bit about my background, and that got me I mean, that was my origin story with money. And then I, I managed to graduate from high school as valedictorian and went to Brown, went to the Ivy League, but went there on scholarship because we were so poor, which was fine. So I didn’t have a ton of student loans then. But then I spent my twenties that wrestling, healing, not earning any money. So this is all important context because I think that my money sobriety journey really started at about age thirty, thirty one when the student loans I had to take out for grad school kicked in. So that was the period, that was the last chapter of my life where I had very magical thinking about money and I took out a lot of money to fund my graduate school education. It’s basically what I lived on and then also paid the tuition costs. Well, I didn’t really think through at the time what it would look like in reality to pay back one hundred and fifty thousand dollars in student loan debt. So round about thirty or thirty one. I can’t remember which year it was exactly. That’s when the money sobriety journey really started, when guess what, it was time to pay back the student loans. It was so painful. And that early stage of the financial sobriety journey really involved me doing the simplest things, which was it sounds so funny to say now because I love looking at my money, but it it was like I had to actually look at the numbers. I had to look at the numbers of what I owed on all of the accounts and actually gather the data. And the first tool I started using, which I’m still such a fanatic about today, was YNAB [You Need A Budget] to start tracking everything. 

Linzy [00:16:58] Yes, a shared love. 

Annie [00:17:02] Oh my God, I love YNAB [You Need A Budget]. So but at that point in the journey, the number was in that negative like multiple hundred thousands negative. And it was all red because that’s what you see. Right. It was it was terrifying. It was so scary and so hard to look at. And so that was the very first tool I used to. Basically, I kind of say it was my come to Jesus moment was like you had to see, like what was right in front of you. It was my rock bottom in a way. And so I started to use YNAB [You Need A Budget] and then just getting used to even looking at my numbers. And then as I had a semi regular paycheck rolling in, I started I, I enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, this online programming or this online program. I can’t say that I relate to his values entirely, but I do think that course had value in teaching me not only just how to track my money, but then how to sort of imagine paying down the debts and in what way and what I might do with spare income and what insurances I had to start to get in place. So I remember that was sort of like the second tool I used to grasp a little bit more control over my financial security, but then there were a couple other tools I used once I started to make a little bit more traction, a little bit more progress. It was really hard for me to start saving for future me. I never really saw the value in putting any money into the 401K, even if there was a match, which sounds silly now. But in order to kind of trick myself into saving for my future self, I know you know this because it’s a tool that I share in the mini course that goes along with your course. But I aged a photo of myself so that I could see what I would look like at 70 or 80. That was a very sobering wake up call because I felt so much I saw so much vulnerability in her and I wanted to protect her. So I started actually keeping that photo on my desk. And that would help me make choices like, oh, I’m not going to go out to the restaurant, but I’ll save thirty dollars this week to put into long term investments. And that was another really important tool. And I will say, let’s fast forward because it’s not like this happened overnight. I’m thirty nine now and this journey is about nine years old. And in the last nine years, my financial acumen and my net worth has grown quite a bit. So along the way I enlisted other tools at certain points, including hiring a financial planner, a really, really excellent accountant. And I start surrounding myself with more stories, consuming more stories and surrounding myself with other individuals who are on similar trajectories, building wealth for their families or autobiographies of folks who had done it, especially rags to riches stories like Madam C.J. Walker or Rachel Rogers, stories that modeled for me, what I could do. So I’ve used a lot of different tools over the years. But I will tell you the thing I still do every two weeks- every two weeks on a Wednesday for about an hour and a half to two hours, I sit down with YNAB [You Need A Budget]. I still use that tool like very religiously to run my home finances and both of my businesses. 

Linzy [00:20:04] Yes, yes, yes. And and me too. Big YNAB [You Need A Budget] fan. And I’m hearing so many so many pieces there. Any like I do have to say, the aged photo. I do remember that that’s in your many colors. But I am listening to you talk about it like I can feel viscerally the effect of that. And I want to do that for myself just to see that. That’s like to see I mean, I’m already aging as it is. And so sometimes I do get glimpses where I’m like, oh, I’m not the age I used to be, but getting that sense of like connecting with our future vulnerability and connecting with that care for self sounds like such a powerful, like embodied motivator to move that money forward, because that’s something that my students talk about sometimes and and that we, we coach them on in the course is how do you you find your authentic motivation for saving for the future and have all these stories or anxieties that make you just want to spend the money now? 

Annie [00:20:58] Yes, yeah, absolutely. That’s a powerful one. But also keeping my daughter’s photo on the table is is my other biggest motivator. And I mean that in all the ways showing up and doing well professionally, making sound decisions. But even on those during those months where I’m like, is it really worth spending this much on long term disability insurance and remembering that if I, you know, something, God forbid happens to me we will still have income flowing in by me paying that insurance every month and that will support her and her education and her goals. So I think finding one or two or three sources of motivation is very important because there are a lot of expenses that can come over from really taking care of yourself well in the future. And it’s good to have a couple different sources of motivation. 

Linzy [00:21:44] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it really is. Yeah. In our household, we’re very insured and I’ve noticed I’m also like you like, fairly security focused and that life insurance for me is just like it’s a gift to my son that I hope he will never receive. Right. But it’s just and it’s every week, every month we pay it. My husband’s is fairly expensive. My partner’s insurance because he’s a male of a certain age. Yeah, but it’s it’s just there. And like sometimes we’ll even joke of like if we’re maybe a little annoyed with the other person, we’ll look at them like a bag of one point two million dollars. But it’s I think that joke is is the connection to that reality. Right. Like we’re putting this money in every month that hopefully will never be needed. But like, God forbid something did happen to one of us or both of us, our son is cared for, like he will have money to carry him through for a decade and a half until he’s ready to be on his own. 

Annie [00:22:39] Exactly. And that’s the way I think about it, too, because, again, it is hard to watch that three or four or five hundred dollars, that you spend on your protective insurances go out every month thinking, man, that could have been a trip to Europe after a couple of months. Right. It’s hard to do. I totally relate. I would love a trip to Europe, but what I want more than that is for my daughter to be well provided for. Period, full stop. So, I mean, it’s it’s always going to be a tension of how do we reward and find pleasure in our daily experience, while also making sometimes hard, sober choices for our future, and that’s what to me that’s a part of what being financially well means. 

Linzy [00:23:18] Yes, I agree. Yeah. And I see it as a balance because I think we can fall either way like there are certainly I know you and I are both aware of the financial independence retire early movement where it’s all about that future focus. It’s all about not doing things now so you have freedom sooner. But what I notice about that is the way that we’re living now, like we’re setting a pattern, like this is our life now. Right. And so if we’re deferring enjoyment or relaxation or pleasure or connection now, it’s going to be really hard to suddenly start doing that one day just because we hit a dollar amount. Our goal. 

Annie [00:23:54] Well, and I think if it this way, too, and this may be particularly resonant for those of your audience members who are self-employed. One of the things that I’ve been really thinking about in the last year and a half during the pandemic is don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. I’m self-employed. And my family’s wealth comes from how how I work, right. My work. And granted, I do run a therapy center. So even if I don’t show up and see clients someday, there’s still some money that comes in through there. I’m aware of that. But the bulk of our income comes from me seeing clients. In order for me to show up and see clients, I have to stay really well. So I cannot deprive – again, the goose that lays the golden egg –  I cannot drive her into the ground and expect the golden goose eggs to keep coming. 

Linzy [00:24:40] Annie, for people who are listening, who especially people listening who relate to what you’re talking about with relational trauma background, which might be new language for them, even. If they want to get more into your world, what do you have for them? What do you offer? 

Annie [00:24:55] Well, my little corner of the Internet is and on there you’ll find everything. Ways to work with me one on one individually, but also the six years of essay writing that I’ve done specifically around the topic of relational trauma recovery. And the website gets about twenty to thirty thousand hits a month. So it’s it’s quite a niche little corner of the Internet, but there’s a lot of content there if you do resonate with anything I’ve shared about coming from that particular background. Moreover, there is an online course that I launched last year called Hard Families Good Boundaries, which while it’s titled to just sound like it’s about holding boundaries with your family members, it’s a Trojan horse, of course. It’s about relational trauma recovery and all of the many aspects of it. But it’s a wonderful resource, too. If folks are feeling particularly challenged by their families of origin as they’re trying to psychologically sustain themselves and financially empower themselves. 

Linzy [00:25:51] And I think that you have actually a discount code for our listeners. 

Annie [00:25:55] I do! And you’re going to include that in the show notes. 

Linzy [00:25:57] Yes, so the link for that is in the show notes, along with that special discount code. That’s for our listeners. Yeah. So Annie if people want to follow you, what’s where’s the best social media place for them to connect with you? 

Annie [00:26:09] Well, I am really enjoying Instagram right now, so I would love to have people come join me. It’s @anniewrightlmft which is the license title, of course, but that one’s super fun and I’m going to be on there sharing more videos of my daily life. And it’s just a fun place to come find me. But do come visit the website if you’re interested at all in that particular topic, because there’s a wealth of library of articles there. 

Linzy [00:26:34] There truly is. Yeah. And I have heard great things about your course from people who are in it, so. I just referred one of my clients the other day to your course. So it’s a great resource on on a topic that there’s not often very much support or or language around, even. 

Annie [00:26:50] No, no. I’m basically writing the content that I wish I had been able to find twenty, twenty five years ago. 

Linzy [00:26:55] Yes. Yes. Well thank you so much, Annie, it was so wonderful having you on today. And if people are looking if you want to hear more from Annie, you can check out the links in the show notes. 

Annie [00:27:04] Thank you so much for having me, Linzy. It’s such a pleasure. Thanks.

Linzy [00:27:10] I so appreciate Annie’s insights around how using money to take care of yourself can remove you from this dysfunction. Something else that I also appreciate so much about Annie that I think came through in this episode is how ambitious and determined she is to make that big impact and how she’s shifted her relationship with money and has so much clarity around money to allow her to create big impact in the world and create a life that supports her and her family and gives her that security. Annie is a rock star. If you are interested in hearing more from her, if you resonate with what she’s talked about in terms of coming from dysfunctional family or with mood disordered parents, check out the links in the show notes. She has so many great things on offer and her her weekly newsletter that she does or biweekly her biweekly newsletter that comes out on Sundays is always so thoughtful and such a lovely read. So check out Annie. And she also has that promotions code to get a discount off of her course, which I’ve heard such great things about. So check out those links in the show notes. If you want to hear more from Money Nuts & Bolts, you can follow me on Instagram @moneynutsandbolts. And if you are feeling energized and ready to really take those next steps to get money working for you in your private practice and your life, get on the waitlist for Money Skills For Therapists, you will be the first to hear about it when the course opens next. It is a three month course with so much coaching and community support that walks you through in these little digestible step-by-steps how to go from any confusion and shame in your private practice to clarity and confidence by working on your relationship to money and actually setting up a system, a usable system that works for you and your brain. I love teaching this course. I’ve had hundreds of people go through it with great success. And if you want to be one of those people, get on our waitlist. You’ll see the link for that in the show notes. Thanks for joining me today. 

Hi, I'm Linzy

Hi, I'm Linzy

I’m a therapist in private practice, and a the creator of Money Skills for Therapists. I help therapists and health practitioners in private practice feel calm and in control of their finances.

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