Therapists are developing a new specialty for emotional issues around money

Nov 28, 2018

In 2016, Stephen Read and his wife Kathy sought help from a financial therapist for their diametrically opposed approaches to savings. When they talked about money, there was emotional discord.

“I’ve often joked that Kathy will leave this earth with her life savings still in the bank. I, on the other hand, want my last check to bounce,” Stephen said.

After three sessions with their financial therapist, Kathy said, the therapy seemed to be working.

“The most helpful aspect of financial therapy has been that we’ve learned to listen more empathetically when we air our views on money — regardless of how different they may be,” she said.

The Financial Therapy Association is a group nearly a decade old that represents therapists who aim to help people with emotional issues around money.

Megan Ford, a past president of the Financial Therapy Association, said many clients seek help as couples.

“I think it’s often an opposites situation. Spender vs. spender, the misalignment of goals around money, the differences in values between the two,” Ford noted.

A 2009 forum that brought together researchers and practitioners from the fields of mental health and financial services led to the creation of the association the following year. It now has over 250 members.

The Reads’ financial therapist, Maggie Baker, said she tries to get people to understand their unconscious beliefs around money.

She believes some people have what she calls a “ruptured relationship with money.” As she explained, “money should work for them, but they kind of work for money. Money controls them in a self-sabotaging way.”

Financial therapy is not yet a regulated field, but depending on where they live and levels of expertise, therapists can charge between $100 and $400 an hour. Baker charges $175 per session for her services.

Meg Lurtz, president-elect of the association, said the group is developing a certification program that will require competence in both the mental health and financial services fields.

“We want to bring a level of expertise and professionalism to people that’re going to be calling themselves financial therapists,” Lurtz said.

The organization expects to have the certification process in place by the end of the year.