Financial Therapy: How Psychology and Behavior Impact Personal Finance

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Shorter Version


Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

Financial Therapy is an emerging field within the realm of mental health practices. The profession has been growing ever since the Financial Therapy Association was founded in 2008. Most practitioners are state-licensed mental health professionals who get added training and field experience in Financial Therapy. Financial Therapists do not provide technical financial guidance such as investment planning. Instead, they help their clients look at the underlying thoughts and behaviors that influence their financial actions and decisions. 

I decided to find out more about how Financial Therapy works by talking to Lindsay Bryan-Podvin. Lindsay is a biracial financial therapist, speaker, author, and owner of Mind Money Balance. As the first financial therapist in Michigan, she combines financial literacy with the emotional and psychological side of money. She is passionate about helping couples and individuals learn how to have a healthy relationship with money by removing shame from it. She helps her clients navigate financial wellness in a way that works for them.

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It’s Your Money

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Longer Version


Est. Reading Time: 3 Minutes

What is Financial Therapy?

Dawn: What is Financial Therapy?

Lindsay: Financial therapy looks 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.

Dawn: Tell us about your background and why you chose Financial Therapy specifically as your work

Lindsay: I’m a clinical social worker by training and wanted to provide more comprehensive care to my clients outside of just referring them to someone else to help them with their budget. I found that so many people had shame, anxiety, and avoidance when it came to their money at it was because they didn’t have a way to address money in a healthy way.

Ways a Financial Therapist can help you

Dawn: What are the top three client issues you work with and what impact do each have on your client’s current and future personal financial health?

Lindsay: It’s not a specific issue. What often happens is that a couple or individual comes in and says, “I have a spending problem,” or “I have a saving problem.” My work helps them sort out the “why” behind that behavior which is often much more nuanced than needing to cut back on shopping or increase their savings contributions. One of the biggest myths is that people only need financial therapy if they have a lack of money. Untrue. All people, regardless of socioeconomic status, can experience emotional stress when it comes to money. Often when people engage in financial therapy, they pick up skills they can use in other domains of their lives, such as increased communication skills, coping skills, and stress management.

I have also found that some of my clients come to me after having failed with more structurally rigid financial programs because they are not rooted in how people organically feel and behave. There shouldn’t be a need to feel bad about yourself if you can’t conform to a program. Everybody has individual needs and goals that aren’t always met in a box.

Dawn: Are there things that you notice about financial behavioral issues for people in their 20s that are different than previous generations?

Lindsay: Younger generations definitely have the financial deck stacked against them when they enter adulthood compared to the Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Many of them are facing high student loan debts and are often entering into companies that don’t offer pensions the way companies of previous generations did. This means there is more personal responsibility for investing in retirement and seeking out help with financial literacy. Antidotally, young people also have a greater interest in impact spending, i.e. making sure that the companies they support financially are in line with their values on the environment and social issues. Many companies with a focus on sustainability must price their products higher as a result.

Who should see a Financial Therapist?

Dawn: When should someone consider Financial Therapy and what can people expect the session to be like?

Lindsay: I can only speak to who should see me for financial therapy as there are many different reasons a person could seek out financial therapy. For me, a good fit is a client or couple who has done a lot of the bookkeeping work; they’ve read books on how to track their spending, have a budget in place, and have an idea about what they want retirement to look like. And, at the same time, they still feel uncomfortable or anxious when it comes to discussing or interacting with money. My financial therapy clients tend to see me for shorter durations than traditional therapy since we are hyper-focused on one area, usually 6-9 months of weekly treatment.

Dawn: What else would you like people to know about Financial Therapy and your work specifically?

Lindsay: Money is something we interact with all the time but have little education on. Don’t feel ashamed if you feel “behind” when it comes to money. We don’t talk about money in our culture (or if we do, it’s usually with a tinge of “wanting money makes you bad or greedy”) so be gracious with yourself as you learn more about money and your relationship to it.

Dawn: Thank you for taking the time to tell us about Financial Therapy. How can people reach you if they want to know more?

Lindsay: I’m most active on Instagram @mindmoneybalance, you can listen to my podcast Mind Money Balance, or visit my website mindmoneybalance.com.

Actionable Steps


1

Educate yourself

It is helpful to educate yourself and gather information about your personal financial situation before you meet with a Financial Therapist. This will save you and the Therapist from having to spend time doing fact-finding during your session.

2

Find a therapist

You can look for a licensed Financial Therapist in your area by searching the Financial Therapy Association’s practitioner database.

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About the Author


Dawn Torres-Gale, AFC

Dawn Torres-Gale, AFC

Accredited Financial Counselor

In 2008, Ms. Torres-Gale was chosen by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation to be part of a select group of military spouses. Through this, she received FINRA sponsored training from the Association of Financial Counseling, Planning and Education and became an Accredited Financial Counselor® in February 2012.
Full Bio | Connect With Dawn | LinkedIn


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