NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street is reeling from losses, and bankers are fearful of losing bonuses at best and jobs at worst. But while New York braces for the economic fallout, one group is benefiting -- psychotherapists.
Bankers suffering from anxiety or depression and looking for pills or deep therapy are making beelines for the couch. And for some it has gotten so bad they want to quit the money game forever.
“I had a guy say to me, ‘I want your job,” said psychologist and career coach Marilyn Puder-York.
While it is difficult to quantify demand, five therapists who serve the banking community all said in interviews their business from Wall Street is up in recent months.
Alden Cass, a psychologist and trading coach in New York who works extensively with Wall Street traders, estimated that his clients have increased by about 25 percent since March, when JPMorgan Chase & Co agreed to buy Bear Stearns and the stock market tumbled.
Several psychologists said that the events in March led to a spike in referrals, as Wall Street professionals saw just how quickly their job security could be taken away.
“Traders are more stressed, more uncomfortable, more fearful about how the year’s going to turn out, and less confident than they have been in years,” said Ari Kiev, psychiatrist and founder of the Social Psychiatry Research Institute.
Kiev has been working with traders for 15 years and said this is the most stressful year for his clients he has experienced.
Typical are the traders facing losses who double their positions in last-chance bids to recoup gains -- only to face more than double the losses they had previously.
They abandon a trading strategy and become governed by their emotions, Kiev said.
“Once they are in a hole, psychologically, they start panicking,” said Kiev, who notes that these traders start to doubt their ability. “They think, ‘Maybe I was only successful because I was lucky.'”
This hasn’t been a normal downturn on Wall Street. The year-long credit crisis has been traumatic for some bankers who have had their bank accounts, their career prospects and their self-esteem damaged.
The extent of the losses suffered by major American investment banks has put one, Bear Stearns, out of business, and led to questions about the survival of several others.
Already at least 85,258 job cuts have been announced for the financial sector this year, according to employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. New York State predicts that bonus payouts will fall by 20 percent for 2008.
Declining home prices in some parts of the New York metropolitan area and sliding stock prices, particularly in the banks themselves, have hurt bankers’ wealth.
There was even a report they are unwelcome to apply to buy or rent apartments in some New York City buildings because of fears they will be bad credit risks.
And the therapists said many bankers and hedge fund managers that have lost substantial personal wealth are coming to them because they are also now facing divorce.
“What depresses more than loss of money is loss of prestige, loss of self-esteem, embarrassment and comparative failing in contrast with their peers,” said T. Byram Karasu, a psychiatrist and Silverman Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, who has treated traders.
But all that expensive therapy isn’t appealing to some of the ultra-stressed.
The classic trader personality -- aggressive, unemotional, and not prone to introspection -- can make them difficult patients.
“They want quick fixes -- and that’s a problem,” said Cass.
For some only the meds will do.
“They just want some medication for anxiety and then never show up again,” said Karasu.
Editing by Gary Hill