How Financial Therapy Can Provide Returns Beyond Investing

October 16, 2019
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By Kathleen Boyd, CFP®, CFT-I™ Candidate

Who do you talk to when you feel debilitating fear about running out of money or even panic, depression, or anger about never having enough money?

Many people have procured the services of a licensed mental health professional at least once in their life for help with a variety of issues ranging from family dynamics, trauma, and relationships. However, there is one topic that most traditional therapists never really breach with their clients – money, and understandably so.

What is Financial Therapy?

We are socialized by society to think of money as something taboo. Not to mention, money is a very personal and emotional thing. Money can make us feel elated and powerful, but fear, shame, and anxiety can accompany our feelings surrounding money. Realizing this growing need to help people manage the emotional complexities associated with money, a group of researchers in 2002 founded an exciting new field called “Financial Therapy” that integrates mental health treatment with financial planning services.

Traditional mental health practitioners such as psychologists and marriage and family therapists can provide financial therapy services if they have completed specialized education and training on this subject matter. Financial therapy often entails helping clients identify their money scripts (inherited beliefs about money), understanding family histories through money genograms (family trees), and utilizing various treatment modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (a common type of talk therapy that’s used to help an individual become aware of and challenge inaccurate or negative beliefs, while building healthy coping mechanisms) or solution-focused therapy (which is centered on helping individuals identify and utilize the skills they already have within themselves to improve their lives). Practitioners who are licensed are most equipped to diagnose and treat major money disorders like gambling, compulsive spending, and financial enmeshment.

Working with a Financial Therapist

Financial planners and advisors can also pursue training as a Certified Financial Therapist™ after completing the necessary requirements and adhering to a strict code of ethics. Clients seeking financial therapy services may prefer working with a financial professional over a mental health professional due to their specific financial expertise and ability to understand and work with complex financial situations. However, financial professionals who aren’t licensed mental health professionals should never attempt to diagnose or treat money disorders. Nor should they ever use financial therapy to try to influence you into buying a product or service. Typically, a financial planner who has a financial therapy specialty will work collaboratively with a licensed mental health professional to help with intervention and treatment. A nationwide list of financial therapists with a list of their credentials and specialties can be found on the Financial Therapy Association’s website through their “Find a Financial Therapist” tool.

Individuals who are feeling like they’re in financial distress or overwhelmed with anxiety and fears may find that working with financial therapist can be soothing. Those who have a childhood history that involved lots of conflict about money within the family may also want to enlist the help of a financial therapist who can assess how that might be impacting their current financial well-being. Financial therapists can also help with major life events that might come up like receiving a large inheritance or going through a divorce. They can also assist with relational money issues like financial conflict between business founders, financial infidelity (hiding money or debt) between partners/spouses or financial enabling between parents and their children.

Live a Financially Healthy Life

Even if you have great financial management skills, we all at some point get stressed or feel angst about our money. Financial therapy can help you stop and dig deep to the root causes of your emotions, especially if those emotions are deterring you from achieving your financial goals, so you can live your best financially healthy life.