Do You Need to See a Financial Therapist?

Many of us could use the advice of a financial advisor when it comes to areas like investing, consolidating debt, and planning for retirement. Some of us need more than financial knowledge or advice that only addresses the number side of the equation though. We also need help addressing our emotional relationship with money. This task isn't as well-suited for a financial planner as it is for a financial therapist.

Financial therapy is a rather new field, as the Financial Therapy Association has only been around since 2010. The concept of therapy isn't new at all though. Just as someone might need a therapist's help to deal with thought patterns and emotions surrounding their relationships with family, spouses, or friends, we all have a very real relationship with money that might need similar attention.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, it might be time to see a financial therapist:

  • Do you feel frequently depressed or anxious about your finances or making financial decisions?
  • Do you think about what to do about your finances obsessively but fail to follow through with changes?
  • Have you tried to make positive changes like saving money, but keep failing or falling back into old habits?
  • Do you suspect you could be sabotaging your own goals?

Like any kind of therapy, financial therapy is designed to help you get to the place where you can help yourself. That means a financial therapist isn't going to give you advice about which stocks to pick or which budget plan will work best for you (although they might refer you to a financial expert who can help with that). Rather, the therapist will ask you questions that causes you to think about the situation differently.

A financial therapist might ask you to talk about your overall money goals, your past financial failings, or how your parents handle money (it's no secret that we get a lot of our money mindsets from our parents!). They might also ask you to do a word association test that revolves around money. By talking things out, it becomes easier to identify the negative emotional and mental underpinnings of your relationship with money and then move on to tackling them.

Like traditional therapists, financial therapists will recommend a variety of psychological techniques and practical steps to help you change your behaviors. For example, if you're struggling to save money, they might help you find motivation by focusing on how good you felt the last time you were successful at it. If you discover that spending money on yourself makes you feel guilty or anxious, they might help you set up a system that makes it feel safe to do so and reinforces it as a positive way to care for yourself.

If you think you might benefit from seeing a financial therapist, it will be hard to find a professional with that exact certification, although some universities are starting to offer programs of study in financial therapy. Most who title themselves as a financial therapist will have a combination of financial training and psychology or counseling degrees. The best place to look is through the online Financial Therapy Association's directory.

Whether we seek out financial therapy or choose to deal with our emotional and mental hang-ups around money in other ways, it's helpful for all of us to examine the impact of this relationship on our current habits, financial situation, and goals. What do you think will happen if you talk to a therapist about money? Do you think you will benefit from financial therapy?

Written by Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

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