Real Therapy for Your Financial Health

January 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Money and Behavior

I learned today that a psychologist in our community has acquired somewhat of a reputation as a pioneer in the field of “financial therapy.”  In addition to providing therapy to adults with bad money behaviors, he’s written some books, appeared on television, and trained other therapists in this area.  Although I am not surprised to know that there are thousands or maybe millions of Americans who need real financial therapy, I wasn’t aware that this is an emerging specialty in the mental health counseling profession.

To be clear, I am making a distinction between those who need financial advice and those who need financial therapy.  In the former category are those don’t have any idea about how to handle their money.  In the latter category are those who know what they should be doing with their money but just can’t conform their financial and money behaviors to that knowledge.

I’m guessing that most credit card addicts would benefit from financial therapy but I will let the experts make that determination.  Apparently, there are issues of depression, low self-esteem, and/or childhood fears and taboos tied into a lot of adult money problems.  Financial therapy seeks to identify those problems and help those being counseled understand why out of control spending or ignoring one’s financial future is not the solution.

Assessing Your Financial Health

According to Dr. Ted Klontz – the pioneering financial therapist I read about today – financial health is defined as

a state of being where one’s values and aspirations are in line with one’s financial behaviors. Research has shown that an unhealthy financial life is associated with lower vitality and self-actualization, unhappiness, increased anxiety, health problems, depression, loss of feelings of personal control and relationship dissatisfaction. 

Dr. Klontz has teamed up with some other professionals in the financial therapy field to offer an online assessment of your financial health on the “Klontz Kahler Financial Health Scale.”   I scored a 92 so I suppose I can skip the financial therapy.  (Mrs. ToughMoneyLove might have a different opinion along with naming a few other issues I need help with!)  I challenge you to take the assessment (no cheating!) and leaving a comment reporting how you scored.

Debtors Anonymous also has a short quiz you can take to determine if you are a compulsive debtor.  I learned that I am not a compulsive debtor.  No surprise there.  If anything, I have an irrational fear of debt, at least the unsecured kind.

Finding Financial Therapy

So where does one obtain financial therapy?  So far, the availability of counseling services in this unique area seems to be hit or miss.  In our community, a local non-profit offers free “My Money Plan” counseling.  Kansas State University is starting a financial therapy clinic at the end of this month.  I suspect that other specialty financial therapy counselors and clinics will appear as our economic woes continue.  

Debtors Anonymous has been around a while and offers free help and support for those who are involved in what it calls “compulsive debting.”  This support includes online and telephone meetings.  I suspect that for people with serious financial health problems, Debtors Anonymous would be effective as an adjunct to actual counseling with a therapist.

Final Thoughts on Financial Therapy

If a person engages in a continuing pattern of bad financial behavior, sending that person to a financial adviser may be a waste of time and money if the underlying problem is not identified and resolved.  That is where financial therapy comes in.  Mental health counseling comes in many shapes and forms and millions of Americans have been helped by it.  I see no reason why a skilled financial therapist could not help someone.  It certainly couldn’t hurt.

So if you know someone with poor financial mental health, perhaps you could gently clue that person into the financial therapy concept.  Send them a link to the Klontz “financial health” assessment as a starting point.  You could be doing them a big favor.  It beats sending them to bankruptcy court.

Does anyone know a person who has received mental health counseling for severe money problems?

Image credit:  Kriss Szkurlatowski

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4 Responses to “Real Therapy for Your Financial Health”
  1. katy says:

    Kudos to you for another great article!

    I took the quiz and got an 87; not bad. I do know people in DA – a great program – who are in therapy for issues other than money, like me. Money is just the symptom. People have to look down deep and most don’t want to, so their overspending, underearning, whatever…continues. Good books I’ve read include anything by Jerry Mundis (DA) and The Money Trap written by a financial therapist, Ron Gallen.

  2. Andrea says:

    I think financial therapy is a good thing, and would imagine it would be great for some couples. There are those who use “economic abuse” to keep partners in check (withholding information about finances, giving allowances, berating spending), and those who have problems communicating about their spending.

  3. Amy says:

    I got an 86. I was kind of surprised. I thought I would do better. Now, to just find a way to convince my husband to pay off his CC balances….

  4. in-it-to-win-it! says:

    I got a 92!

    I’m no Mr. Toughmoneylove but I trying!

    Mental peace around your finances are worth most any sacrafice too bad more poeple won’t take the necessary steps to get there.

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