All across the country, people are sacrificing their lunch hours and rushing from work to make it to their therapist appointments. But in today’s uncertain economic times, some of these sessions have taken on a decidedly unique focus: tackling financial baggage.
The licensed professionals who offer this type of counseling are known as financial therapists, and they’re tasked with unearthing the emotional triggers and psychological underpinnings that can lead people to make bad—and often habitually so—money decisions.
If you haven’t heard of this curious branch of therapy, you’re not alone. The Financial Therapy Association was only established in 2010—yet it counted nearly 300 members by 2011.
We were intrigued by this fast-growing field of holistic treatment, so we took a seat at the couch of Amanda Clayman—a New York–based financial therapist who’s spent the better part of the last 10 years unraveling the mysteries of financial psychology—to find out what the profession is all about.
LearnVest: So how is “financial therapy” different from regular therapy?
Financial therapy differs from general psychotherapy only in that it’s focused on enhancing financial well-being through the study of the emotional, behavioral, cognitive, relational, economic and integrative aspects of financial health. In practice, it integrates financial counseling and planning with personal counseling, marriage and family therapy, sociology, social work, and, of course, psychology. Also, good financial therapy happens in collaboration with finance professionals, such as tax experts and investment advisers.
What types of financial-psychological problems do you typically encounter in your work?
With my clients, some of the most common issues that come up center around problems with managing cash flow and debt, chronic under-earning or overspending, making emotion- and anxiety-based financial choices, as well as allowing money to become a source of conflict in relationships.
The issues themselves are fairly classic in that whatever is happening inside a person will find expression in how they think about and use money. So my approach is to focus on behavioral change—actually altering what patients do with money, rather than just look at how they feel or think about it.