Financial therapy: what it is and who needs it

Just as you can seek professional help for unhealthy issues in life, financial therapists can help you deal with problems related to money.

WHAT IS IT?

Financial therapy is the practice of helping people with how they think, feel and behave with money to improve their well-being.

The FTA — a professional organization created to set standards for the industry — was established in 2010 and began to offer certifications this year, FTA president Meghaan Lurtz said.

The service is generally provided by a financial or mental health professional.

Financial therapy could be assistance for people who can’t keep tabs on their cash, or help for couples who regularly fight about money. But it can also include more serious matters like gambling addiction.

“We all have stuff that is good and that is bad about our relationship with money,” Lurtz said. “It’s really hard to change a belief or habit if you don’t even know where or why you are doing it.”

WHAT DO THEY DO?

If you are seeing a family and marriage therapist about issues in your relationship and money is a major sticking point, someone with a speciality in financial therapy may be able to better sort through those. If you go to see a financial adviser and they work in the financial therapy space, they may be able to elicit better answers from you on how you feel about retirement or how market volatility makes you feel, and what that means for your financial planning.

However, a financial adviser should not be helping you with mental health issues like depression. Part of the training is recognising when to refer a client to get the help they need. Similarly, a therapist should not be providing financial advice, such as what stock to buy.

It is not regulated but people who receive the certification are held to their own licensure and industry standards.

WHO NEEDS ONE?

According to financial therapists, everyone could stand to benefit. But in reality, those whose issues with money are interfering with their life or relationships are likely the best candidates.

People who are in financial distress — such as hiding purchases, spending compulsively or avoiding their financial statements — definitely should seek help, according to Coambs. But people who have a childhood with a lot of conflict about money or have disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder may also want to consider if that is impacting their financial wellbeing as well.

A therapist or other mental health professional will be able to tie their understanding of the human psyche to the relationship with money, he said. Whereas a financial planner might be using some therapeutic skill in their planning.

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