Financial Therapy

by Marie on May 30, 2012 · 2 comments

Do you and your spouse fight about money? Do you feel guilty when you spend it? Are you afraid your kids will be spoiled by your money?

Now there may be therapy for you – financial therapy.

What is financial therapy?

You’ve no doubt heard of traditional therapy – from psychologists or psychiatrists. Therapy typically involves talking one on one to a trained professional to explore issues you are having and attempting to find resolution for them. It can also be called counseling.

Financial therapy is the same thing, but focused on your finances and money issues. The therapists offering this are typically psychologists. Financial psychologists (therapists) help you figure out your relationship to money to help you solve your financial problems. They specialize in money disorders.

The idea is to find the right blend of finances and counseling. In the past, financial advisers weren’t comfortable talking to clients about the emotions and relationship issues around money and psycho therapists weren’t comfortable talking with clients about financial matters (except of course their bill!).

In the past several years, there have been multiple developments in this new field. For example, there is now a research magazine dedicated to it, called the Journal of Financial Therapy.  There is also a growing association (the Financial Therapy Association) to connect the different practitioners and researchers in the field.

As far back as 2003, Thayer Cheatum Willis, an inheritor turned social worker, was counseling and writing about the topic (“Navigating the Dark Side – a Life guide for Inheritors”). In the online issue of the Journal, Amada Mills, a practitioner, offers a free ½ hour phone financial therapy session so potential clients can get a feel for what it is like. She is a business management mentor and accountant who started offering financial therapy via “Loose Change Financial Therapy”.

Many brokers and financial advisers are jumping into training trying to obtain or retain wealthy families by adding family wealth counseling to their traditional services. Likewise, counselors are jumping on board to talk through financial issues with their clients.

How can it help you?

Money talk has been called the last taboo – even more difficult a subject to discuss than sex. A financial adviser, planner, broker or accountant can help you figure out what you should be doing with your money and finances, but they won’t help you figure out why you can’t or won’t do what you should be doing.

Some claim that you have to understand your money personality – and that of your spouse’s – to effectively deal with the family issues around money – such as spending, saving, giving, training the children, budgeting, earning and etc. A financial therapist supposedly can help you with that.

For example, if one spouse is a spendthrift and the other a miser, the relationship (along with the family finances) may be headed for trouble. A financial therapist is supposed to help you both dig into your money personality to understand why you are the way you are and help you figure out how to reach common ground.

If your brother is repeatedly asking for money, refuses to work and has been supported by aging parents in the past, a financial therapist can help you resolve the conflicting emotions and desires you have related to helping him out with money or not.

The  Counselor Magazine lists five money disorders and describes them in some detail. They are: Workaholism; Compulsive Buying Disorder; Compulsive Hoarding; Financial Dependence; and Financial Enabling.  If any of those strike a note with you, perhaps you should check it out!

Where can you get financial therapy?

There is at least one university clinic (Kansas State University) that offers it as part of their research program.

You could use the directory from the Financial Therapy Association, knowing that these members are self listed.

A simple online search on financial psychologists or financial therapists would also yield some potentials.

I’d check first with any financial professional you currently use, or with a professional counselor you respect and trust.

How much does it cost?

Many therapists charge a set fee per hour, just like regular counselers do. For instance Amanda Mills lists her fees as $180 per 90 minutes.

The K-State Financial Therapy Clinic is free , but they ask you to participate in research projects.

Whats the bottom line?

Although this is a growing field, it is not yet a fully recognized one – academically or professionally.

Some professionals – such as Certified Financial Planners think it is bosh and baloney. They think that financial education will solve the issues and that psychologists don’t have the training needed to help people with money issues.

Other groups are teaming up financial planners with psychologists – financial planners focus on the finances and the psychologists on the emotions, education and relationships.

Today, practitioners may cross over from the financial side, the social work profession or the psychology arena. It is an evolving field, with much promise for future practitioners, and hopefully one that will benefit us and take away our last conversational taboo – money.

If your financial adviser, self-help and financial training are not helping your situation and you think it is related to finances, using a financial therapists (if you can afford one) is something to consider.

Have you heard of financial therapy? Would you use it?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jai Catalano May 31, 2012 at 6:23 am

Great I spent most of my life in and out of therapy. Now I need financial therapy too. I am all screwed up. :)


2 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 31, 2012 at 9:20 am

Jai, I doubt that you are. While there is definitely a soft side to money and it’s management, I doubt that most people will need an actual therapist. I just thought it interesting that this new field is developing.


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