U.S. Loses 20K Jobs but Some Are Merchants of Misfortune

Downturn Therapy

With dire economic straits stirring a plethora of emotions, some people have turned to psychologists to help ease the pain.

Nancy Molitor, a psychologist in Chicago, said she and her colleagues were getting more calls from would-be patients with problems ranging from marital strain to compulsive gambling, all related to financial stress.

"We're seeing a lot of people turning to unhealthy ways to manage their stresses," she said.

James Gottfurcht, who specializes in financial psychology, said he now spends an additional 10 hours a week counseling or coaching clients.

As financial stress creates emotional strain, more seek help from psychologists.

Gottfurcht, who practices in Los Angeles, said he saw similar spikes in business during other tough economic periods.

He confided that he hasn't always felt comfortable being fortunate in an unfortunate time.

"I think I felt a little guilty back when it first happened in 1980," he said, "but I see myself as helping people resolve issues that they're very anxious or depressed or threatened by, so I feel good that I'm contributing to resolving their suffering."

Molitor said that more patients doesn't always translate into more income for psychologists. Some cash-strapped patients, she said, have reduced their number of monthly visits.

But for psychologists, earning power isn't limited to therapy fees. Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist and the president of the Hawaii Psychological Association, said sales for his book, "The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge: 5 Principles to Transform Your Relationship with Money" are up -- way up.

"We have sold more copies of our book in the past four months than we did in the 14 months prior," he wrote in an e-mail to ABC.

That, he said, "has significantly increased my bottom line."

Lawyering Up

Busy as some psychologists are, they might not hold a candle to bankruptcy lawyers.

"We're buried right now," said Andrew Goldman, a partner and vice chairman of the bankruptcy practice for the law firm Wilmer Hale, which has offices in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

Goldman said the practice, which focuses on corporate bankruptcies, has seen "a dramatic uptick" in work during the last three months and, as a result, the firm is beefing up its manpower.

With more bankruptcy filings coming in each day, bankruptcy lawyers are "buried."

"We're now actively out there looking to hire associates because we have more work than we have associates to do the work," he said.

Eric Brunstad, the chair of the American Bar Association's Business Bankruptcy Committee, said bankruptcy filings have been increasing every month.

"Bankruptcy law is counter-cyclical," he said. "When the economy is booming, generally bankruptcy work is down. When the economy is tanking, generally bankruptcy work is up."

Consumers are also looking outside of law firms for bankruptcy help, Brunstad said. They're turning to administrative preparers, who file bankruptcy paperwork for their clients. Their services are less expensive than those offered by lawyers, but they don't represent their clients in court when filing problems arise, Brunstad said.

More consumers may be turning to preparers because of a 2005 change in bankruptcy laws that, Brunstad said, made bankruptcy filings for individuals more complicated and more expensive.

"A lot of people can't afford now to hire a lawyer," he said.

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