7 Signs You Might Need Financial Therapy

communication financial therapy Sep 23, 2021

Financial therapy is a specific type of therapy that focuses on money issues. It is essentially where therapy and financial advising overlap.

Financial therapists don't just focus on budgets, spending, and retirement. They focus on how people think, feel, and act the way they do around money. 

Financial therapists have training in psychology and extensive graduate training on how to treat complex issues (like trauma and depression) when finances are involved. 

Financial therapists focus on money anxiety, money fears, money beliefs, and money traumas. In my practice, I mostly focus on how money issues impact couples and intimacy.

The following are 7 signs you might need financial therapy. 

Your Communication Is Breaking Down

Maybe one of you avoids the topic of money altogether. 

Or perhaps one partner is anxious about money and is always asking questions that the other partner has already answered. 

When two people in a relationship aren't on the same page with their communication about money it can lead to a lot of negative feelings. 

For example, one partner can feel as though the other doesn't care about them or their opinion at all because the other partner refuses to discuss money. Or one partner may feel deeply misunderstood by their partner because the other partner doesn't understand why saving is so important to them. 

Being able to bring honesty and empathy into your communication about money can help your relationship tremendously. 

It can also help in other situations outside of work like comfort asking for a raise or discussing finances with elderly parents or children. 

You're Having Fights About Money

If you and your partner find that you're constantly having conflicts about money, it may be time to see a financial therapist. 

Money fights are one of the most common types of conflict in a relationship. 

People are generally more comfortable talking about death or sex than about money. This is one of the key reasons why speaking to a financial therapist can be so useful. It helps makes communication about the difficult topic of money more approachable and less fraught with conflict. 

More than that, it helps couples learn to listen to one another with more empathy so that they're not just trying to be "right" and instead are working together as a team. 

You're Depressed or Anxious About Money

Many people feel overwhelmed when they think about money. 

They may get depressed and get stuck in a negative loop when thinking about their financial situation. This can be due to past traumatic experiences where they've learned money beliefs that make them feel helpless when it comes to money. However, it can also be due to difficult financial circumstances that are currently present in their lives. 

Many other people fear money. It causes worry, anxiety, and they may avoid thinking about it completely whenever possible. These types of people may put off making money decisions, like retirement investments, for years because of the anxiety that comes up when they contemplate their financial situation.  

Speaking to a financial therapist can help you overcome these feelings and have a more proactive and healthy relationship with money. 

When You're Being Self-Destructive With Money

Self-destructive behavior with money is common. 

This might include an inability to follow a budget or overspending on things you don't need. This can also include when you're getting further and further into debt and don't know how to change your circumstances. 

Self-destructive behaviors with money can be very diverse. They can include: 

  • Overworking to save enough money
  • Hiding money
  • Overspending
  • Gambling or compulsive shopping
  • Avoiding financial issues
  • Chronically paying bills late even though you have the money
  • Being obsessed with money
  • Tying your self-worth to money

Having Difficulty With Money Decisions

Many people have difficulty making money decisions, but they manage to do what they need to do. Other people might feel completely paralyzed when it comes to making decisions about money. 

Difficulty with money decisions that might indicate a need for financial therapy might include: 

  • Budgets
  • Financial expectations about spending
  • Retirement
  • Savings goals
  • How much to support adult children
  • How to structure and plan your estate in the future

A financial therapist can help you understand the behavioral hurdles that are making it difficult to make solid financial decisions and help you get back on track. 

When You've Experienced Financial Trauma

Most people have experienced some degree of trauma in their lives, whether they're big traumas or little traumas. 

This might include bankruptcy or negative experiences as a child with money. You might fear going broke or overspend as a way to deal with these past traumas. 

Understanding how your financial traumas have impacted you is important so that they don't impact your future decisions. A financial therapist is uniquely trained to help you accomplish this. 

Differing Social Class and Money Beliefs Than Your Partner

Money beliefs are generally formed in childhood. 

When you and your partner haven't taken the time to understand one another's money beliefs, this can often cause chronic disagreements. 

One of the biggest ways money beliefs differ is when two partners have different experiences growing up around money. 

Perhaps one partner barely had enough food to eat so always uses up every scrap of food in the pantry. Whereas the other partner always had plenty of food in the pantry, so now they never eat leftovers. 

Simple differences like these can come down to the social class each partner was initially from. Even if both partners make a good living as an adult, these formative childhood experience create different behaviors and beliefs as adults that can cause conflict and misunderstandings. 

Working with a financial therapist can increase financial empathy and understanding between partners and help them get on the same page.

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