In my nearly 12 years in private practice as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, I have found that relationships that are struggling with sex often also have some dysfunction around money.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t HAVE money, but can appear as one or more partners having a strained relationship with money or the relationship has difficulty talking about money.  Or the clients attachment to money is not conducive to their financial goals.   These clients would greatly benefit from financial therapy.

Recently, I attended the 9th Annual Financial Therapy Association Conference in Austin, TX.  Financial therapy has been an secondary interest of mine, not only because I’ve seen a strong connection between sexual issues in a relationship and financial issues, but my partner and I have also had our own journey of overcoming relationship challenges with finances and personally, as a small business owner, I held a significant amount of fear and anxiety about finances that affected my ability to enjoy my work.  So I know first hand how important working through your financial issues individually and relationally is.  Such as your sex life and your relationship is something that always needs attention, work, and growth, so does your financial self/selves.  

What is Financial Therapy?

Financial Therapy is a process informed by both therapeutic and financial competencies that helps people think, feel, and behave differently with money to improve overall well-being through evidence based practices and interventions.  

Financial therapists are equipped to help people reach their financial goals by thoughtfully addressing financial challenges while at the same time attending to the emotional, psychological, behavioral, and relational hurdles that are intertwined.

The field of financial therapy is really new, forming through a Financial Therapy Forum in 2008.  The main tenant of financial therapy is that finances, our relationships, and our emotional lives are heavily intertwined.  Financial therapy often is a collaborative process between finance, economics, and financial planning professionals and mental health professionals that help individuals and relationships work through all aspects of your financial issues. 

Financial therapists can look a variety of ways.  Financial therapy can be a collaboration between a financial and mental health professional in a two practitioner model (Goetz & Gale, 2014), can be a financial professional with a mental health background, a mental health professional with a financial background, or a financial coach or money coach.  The difference between a financial planner and a financial therapist is the training and focus on the emotional, psychological, and behavioral connection to finances. 

My role in a financial therapy partnership is absolutely the mental health profession in the two-practitioner model.  I do ever pretend to know what are good decisions financially, but I will say that I do know that having a healthy relationship with money is essential for a healthy relationship in general.  

What does Financial Therapy Treat?


financial photoAccording to the American Psychological Association Stress in America Study, the highest source of stress annually is money.  Anxiety and stress greatly impacts a persons quality of life and their relationship, and anxiety and stress about money can be an incredible source of discomfort in a relationship.  

Clients who exhibit higher levels of generalized anxiety will be more likely to engage in problematic financial behavior, regardless of their income, marital status, education, or financial knowledge.  Anxiety overrides financial knowledge often in decision making and can be very destructive.   Anxiety, low financial knowledge, and risky financial behaviors can contribute to an overall unhealthy relationship to money.  

In addition to causing financial issues, anxiety can greatly impact sexual issues (Read more here on my blog Sex and Anxiety). 

Money Disorders

The following disorders exist in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- IV (DSM-IV):

  • Workaholism
  • Compulsive Buying (Onlomania)
  • Gambling
  • Hoarding
  • Financial Dependence

Problematic Money Behaviors

  • Financial Denial
  • Underspending
  • Overspending
  • Financial Enabling
  • Vow of Poverty
  • Financial Enmeshment
  • Squandering Sudden Windfalls
  • Poor Financial Decisions
  • Financial infidelity

Relationship Issues Related to Money

Couples fight about money but they are often not fighting about money, they are fighting about what money means to them.  Money can mean a variety of things to each of the partners.  

Attachment theory around money and caregivers also play a large part in our relationship to money AND sex (Read more on my blog Sex and Attachment).

What does Financial Therapy look like?

As mentioned above, financial therapy that I work involved a two-practitioner model where I am the mental health therapist and I work closely with a financial professional.  In our financial therapy, we will do a variety of assessments around financial health and wellness from a historical perspective and help clients set clear goals.  We aim to cultivate a trustworthy and healthy client-financial therapist relationship.  We believe that financial education and awareness is empowerment and aim to use psychoeducation and financial education to create awareness and competency in financial and relationship issues.  

Would you Benefit from Financial Therapy?

Take a moment to look at the following statements (adapted from Lown, published in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning Volume 22, Issue 2 2011)

1 = Exactly true 2 = Moderately true   3 = Hardly true 4 = Not at all true 

1. I have trouble solving difficult problems even if I try hard.

2. It is hard to stick to my spending plan when unexpected expenses arise.

3. It is challenging to make progress toward my financial goals.

4. When unexpected expenses occur I usually have to use credit.

5. I am not confident that I could deal efficiently with unexpected events.

6. When faced with a financial challenge, I have a hard time figuring out a solution.

7. I lack confidence in my ability to manage my finances.

8. I have trouble solving most problems if I invest the necessary effort. 

9. I worry about running out of money in retirement.

10. I have trouble remaining calm when facing difficulties because I cannot rely on my coping abilities. 

If you feel like some or most of these are exactly or moderately true, maybe you might want to find a financial therapist that can help you attempt to work on your financial health and wellness.  You can fill out the form below for more information.