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What is a Financial Therapist and Do You Need One?

Like any other type of therapy, you’ll get out of financial therapy what you put into it.

March 4, 2021

Here’s the funny thing about money—nobody likes to talk about it. Our tendencies towards secrecy surrounding finances under the guise of being “polite” can make things like debt problems or struggling to combine finances with a spouse feel even bigger. Sometimes you need a release and a little perspective, and some guidance. This is where financial therapists come in.

That’s right, there are therapists out there who specialize in helping their patients overcome financial problems and stress surrounding money. If the idea of financial therapy is something that sounds appealing to you, keep reading to learn what it’s all about. 

What Does a Financial Therapist Do?

A survey from Blackrock found that 43% of people are too worried about their current financial situation to think about the future and reported that money concerns are Americans’ biggest worry, even more so than health, family, and work. In other words, financial stress deserves just as much care and attention as other forms of stress and anxiety. 

A financial therapist is a type of therapist that focuses on financial therapy. Financial therapy is a fairly new field and it goes a step further than just therapy by combining financial planning services with mental health treatment. This means that when you work with a financial therapist, you can make plans about your investments, retirement, and other financial goals while working through any emotional struggles that relate to money. One of the benefits of combining these two services is that a financial therapist, who is also a certified financial planner (CFP), can help you work through any anxiety, fear, or hang-ups surrounding money, which can make it easier to set and stick to a solid financial plan. 

How Can They Help?

Because therapy of any sort is a deeply personal and unique experience, we can’t outline all the ways a financial therapist may be able to work with you. But we can look at a few common examples to give you an idea of what types of financial and emotional problems they can help you work through. 

When a Money Belief is Holding You Back

We all hold certain beliefs about money — some good and some bad — but if you suspect your money beliefs are hurting you, then a financial therapist may be able to help you work towards them. A financial therapist can help identify if certain beliefs or attitudes towards money are preventing you from taking the steps you need to meet your financial goals. For example, you may believe that being as frugal as possible is the best way to succeed financially and avoid materialism. But a financial therapist may be able to point out the areas of your life that extreme frugality is actually harming. On the flip side, you may have a lot of guilt about making a large amount of money and spending it. We all have our own unique money hang-ups that can complicate our financial and personal lives. 

Before Getting Married

Before you say I do, talking about money with your partner is a must. If you and your betrothed aren’t on the same page about finances, working with a financial therapist can help you not only talk through those issues but to create a financial plan that works well for both of you. After all, the last thing you want is to spend your first year of marriage bickering about money. 

To Overcome Family Issues

Of course, financial problems between couples don’t stop after walking down the aisle, so married couples and life partners can find financial therapy helpful, too. While there are plenty of family counselors that can help couples and families open up lines of communication and learn to compromise, financial therapists can have a better grasp on helping families overcome financial issues, as they can provide advice on both the emotional and financial side of the table. 

Addressing Feelings of Shame, Anxiety, and Fear

While money can seem quite black and white on paper, when our emotions come into play, everything becomes grey-tinged very quickly. A financial therapist can help you process your emotions in a safe space so you can work through any feelings you may have related to shame, anxiety, and fear. Whether that be because you struggle with your spouse making more money than you, you experienced financial abuse as a child, or you want to conquer a fear of not having enough money.

Is It Really Worth It?

Like any type of therapy, you’ll get out of financial therapy what you put into it. Typically, financial therapists can lean one of two directions. Either they come from a counseling background and then pursue a financial designation that allows them to guide patients in their financial planning or they come from the opposite side with a financial planning background and then pursue counseling competencies. It can be helpful to choose a therapist based on which type of background you think you’ll benefit from the most. 

One benefit of financial therapy is that when you’re working through financial problems, you can set concrete and measurable goals. While it won’t be as simple to gauge if you’re feeling less financially anxious, you can easily see if financial therapy has helped you meet savings goals, pay down debt, or check scary financial chores off your to-do list (like finally signing up for life insurance or rolling over that old retirement account). 

If you really only need help in getting your finances in order and don’t feel you need the support of mental health services, then working with a CFP to plan your retirement or start investing may be a better fit for you. That being said, working with a financial therapist can come with cost-saving benefits. If your insurance covers the partial or full cost of working with a therapist, you may be able to find a financial therapist that your insurance helps pay for. To do this, search for a “fee-only” practitioner through a database like the Financial Therapy Association

Do debt problems have you down? Work with Tally to pay down your credit card debt (and potentially save a lot on interest) so you can minimize the financial stress in your life through managed debt reduction.