In this article:
A financial therapist is a professional who helps individuals and couples work through money-related issues by addressing the emotional and psychological factors at play. While understanding how different types of accounts, rules, strategies and laws can impact your finances is important, that logic-based approach to personal finance can only go so far.
Consider how people may know what they should do with their money but have trouble following through, how high income earners aren't necessarily happy, and how disagreements about finances can lead to arguments and divorce: These issues stem, at least in part, from how people think and feel about money.
What Is a Financial Therapist?
Unlike behavioral therapists or attorneys, there's no state-level regulatory board overseeing who can call themselves financial therapists. However, professionals who call themselves financial therapists may hold one of the following certifications:
- The Financial Therapy Association's Certified Financial Therapist-I (CFT-I)
- The Financial Psychology Institute's Certified Financial Behavior Specialist (FBS)
Some certification programs are open to professionals who only have a finance background. But if you're looking for therapy, try to find someone who has an advanced degree in a mental health-related field, such as social work, counseling or psychology. Otherwise, they might be better classified as a financial counselor, advisor or coach who has some financial therapy training.
Additionally, while a financial therapist may have finance-related training, they generally don't intend to help you with the same issues as other financial professionals. For example, there are financial advisors and certified financial planners who might help you choose and manage your investments. Certified credit counselors can help you during bankruptcy, when you're buying a home or if you're struggling with debt.
Ideally, these professionals approach your situation with empathy and understanding, but their focus isn't on helping you understand or overcome emotional blocks.
Financial Therapy vs. Other Types of Therapy
Financial therapists are therapists who specialize in dealing with money-related issues. Similarly, therapists can specialize in other areas, such as addiction, eating disorders, anxiety or personality disorders.
Therapists with different specialties may also use various approaches, or modalities, when working with clients. Therapists may be able to suggest an approach, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy, depending on what you want to accomplish.
How Could a Financial Therapist Help You?
A financial therapist can help you better understand your relationship with money and the underlying reasons for certain feelings or behaviors. You might benefit if:
- You want to understand how your upbringing influences your current approach to and relationship with money.
- You feel compelled to shop or gamble and have trouble stopping yourself.
- You feel compelled to save money without any particular purpose or goal.
- Your individual or household finances are harming your personal relationships.
- You want to develop healthier financial outlooks and habits.
How to Find a Financial Therapist
Because there isn't any regulatory oversight on who can call themselves a financial therapist, you may want to start your search by reviewing someone's certifications and backgrounds. You can then try to set up a meeting or learn more about their approach to see if it aligns with your needs.
- Look for options. The Financial Therapy Association has a directory of association members. You can filter the results in various ways, including the person's focus areas, language, education and certification. You can also search for financial therapists in other directories to find people who aren't part of the association.
- Review their profiles. Once you find a few therapists who you think might work, try to read more about their backgrounds and approaches. You could look for their profiles on LinkedIn, articles they've written online, interviews they've given or their websites.
- Schedule interviews. You may be able to schedule short introductory sessions with several therapists to better understand how they work, what types of issues they focus on, how much they charge and whether there's an opening in their schedule that works for you.
If you're working with a licensed therapist, you may also be able to get help paying for sessions through your health insurance, but the specifics will depend on your insurance coverage and whether the therapists accept your insurance.
Invest in Yourself
An accountant can help you with your taxes, and a financial advisor can manage your investments. But when it comes to personal finances, some issues are about the person rather than the finances. Investing in yourself by working with a financial therapist could help you overcome habits or blocks that keep you from reaching your goals.