The Benefits of Financial Therapy

At the time of this article, Covid-19 continues to impact many people’s financial wellness. Whether that means work hours have been cut, a job has been lost entirely, or financial goals like buying a new home or moving have been stalled, many of us are impacted financially by what is happening.

On the other side of the coin, I’m seeing more “financial survivor guilt” during this time. Financial survivor guilt can happen when someone hasn’t been as impacted as others financially (say, during a recession or company-wide layoffs). People experiencing this phenomenon feel guilty that they were somehow spared.

Whether you are feeling additional financial stress due to tighter purse strings or survivor guilt, you aren’t alone. One of the most helpful things to do is revisit the facts: you did not cause the global pandemic (if you’ve lost your job, be sure to read the two steps to re-framing unhelpful money thoughts later in this article). Seek additional money mindset help, whether it’s a friend to talk to, a podcast that aligns with your values, or a therapist or financial therapist. You do not have to go through this alone.


What is Financial Therapy?

Financial therapy takes a look at the way money shows up holistically in a person’s life. Rather than solely focusing on budgeting, financial goals, and retirement, financial therapists look at the way individuals and couples think, feel, and behave with their money. Financial therapists are not substitutes for financial planners; instead, they help people understand the emotional, psychological, and behavioral hurdles that make wise financial choices.

Financial therapy and coaching differ from traditional therapy in that it’s more goal-directed and tends to be shorter-term than conventional psychotherapy. For example, I usually see my financial therapy clients for six to nine months. During this time, I see my clients weekly, digging into everything from financial stressors, to coping tips and homework assignments for in-between sessions to make the most of our time together. My role revolves around providing education, so each of my clients feel powerful and wise in their relationship with money. This type of therapy can offer you the space to learn, heal, and grow in ways that most traditionally trained therapists are not equipped to do.


When is it Time for Financial Therapy?

Financial therapy can help when you’ve read all the personal finance books, you’ve downloaded the person finance apps, you’ve followed all the personal finance experts on social media, yet something just feels “off” when you engage with your money. Financial therapy can help you uncover your financial archetype, what money stories you’ve absorbed from society and your upbringing, and help you create a healthier and wiser relationship to money.

As a financial therapist, I preach the importance of spending in alignment with our values to make the most of our purchases. For example, if I value community and conservation, my money is best-used shopping locally from farmer’s markets and hosting small gatherings rather than spending my money on clothes or concert tickets. Individuals should assess what’s important to them and spend their excess money accordingly. If I value justice and equality, my charitable donations toward organizations that are champions for racial equity will feel better than donating to an after-school program.

Before I made my pivot to financial therapy, I trained in the evidence-based practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is the idea that what we think impacts the way we feel, which affects our behavior. Applying that same concept to money, we have to address how we think and feel about money before we can change our financial behaviors.


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Who is Financial Therapy Not For?

Financial therapy is not a substitute for financial planning or instead of mental health treatment. Financial therapy is often used in conjunction with financial planning services or traditional psychotherapy. While the way we think and feel about money is interconnected with our mental health, financial therapy is not a standalone treatment for depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other mental illness. Financial therapists do not manage their client’s money, sell insurance products, or offer investment advice.


Two Steps to Reframing Unhelpful Money Thoughts

Here are the two steps to identifying your unhelpful money thoughts and working toward a healthier relationship with money:

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Is this thought true?”

There is a lot of uncertainty around work right now, and you might find yourself having unhelpful thoughts such as, “I’ll never find a job that is in alignment with my values.” Is it true your current corporate job delayed in putting out a statement about systemic racism? Maybe. Is it also true that many companies are stepping up to say, “we are against systemic racism, and here’s what we are doing to address it in our company?” Also yes.

When we stick to the facts and set the emotions aside, we are in a better position to make wise and aligned financial decisions.

Step 2: Reframe

It’s common to hear the word “re-frame” in a therapeutic context. Re-framing isn’t about shifting something from negative to positive, though that certainly can happen; it’s about looking at things from a different perspective. One of my favorite ways to help clients re-frame their thoughts is to imagine what advice they’d tell a friend in their situation. Often, we are kinder and more neutral in offering advice to a friend than we are when talking to ourselves.

A re-framed example of the above thought might be, “While my current job isn’t in alignment with my values, I have hope that I can advocate for change,” or “I’m eager to look for a job where the company stands against racism.”


About the Author

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin is a non-Black POC who is a financial therapist, speaker, and author. She’s passionate about helping high-earning couples recommit to their relationships using shame-free money therapy and coaching. With arguments about money continuing to be one of the leading causes of divorce, it’s her mission to teach all her couples how to stand in their power by including money in their relationship.


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