What Is a Financial Therapist?

A financial therapist is a certified professional who provides therapy services with the goal of changing the way that clients think, feel, and behave in regard to money. Financial therapy is a relatively new field combining elements of financial advisory and therapy services.

Certified Financial Therapists (CFTs) aim to help clients address underlying sources of financial stress, modify their future financial behavior, and explore and change their relationship with money.

Key Takeaways

  • Financial therapists are certified professionals who work to change clients’ ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving about money.
  • Financial therapy draws on both financial and therapeutic practices in an effort to address financial traumas, help people to adapt to new financial situations, and affect an individual’s behavior with money.
  • To become a financial therapist, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a finance- or mental health-related field, or an alternate designation like Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC).
  • The financial therapist certification process requires educational training, completing hours of experience, passing an examination, agreeing to a code of ethics, and maintaining competency through continuing education.

Understanding Financial Therapists

Like traditional therapeutic practices, financial therapy works to improve an individual’s overall well-being. Financial therapists may come from either a financial or therapy background and must receive certification from an organization like the Financial Therapy Association. Financial therapists typically hold degrees in either a finance- or mental health-related field.

Financial considerations play a large role in nearly everyone’s life, and the emotional and psychological burden of issues involving money can be significant. As of February 2022, 65% of Americans are stressed about money. Similarly, other emotional experiences and issues can affect a person’s financial habits as well. Financial therapists aid patients in addressing past financial traumas and present money-related behaviors.

Financial therapists can receive certification from a regulating organization such as the Financial Therapy Association.

How to Become a Financial Therapist

Financial advisors and nonfinancial therapists may address some of the same topics and concerns as financial therapists, but they lack the training across these two fields that is necessary to become a financial therapist.

The process to become a financial therapist includes education, practical experience, ethical standards training, and an examination. The Financial Therapy Association provides three levels of certification for Certified Financial Therapists (CFTs). To receive certification at the first of these levels, CFT-I, an individual must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a finance- or mental health-related field, or a designation as an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) or a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).

Candidates for the CFT-I designation must complete competency training in the form of video courses and self-study. They must complete 500 hours of approved experiential training, including 250 in direct service to clients. Professional presentations, teaching, research, and additional client experience can make up the other 250 hours.

CFT-I candidates must also pass a 100-question, two-hour examination and learn about and agree to a code of ethics. CFTs must complete regular continuing education to maintain their certification.

What to Look for in a Financial Therapist

The single most important thing to look for in a financial therapist is certification from a governing organization like the Financial Therapy Association. The Center for Financial Social Work is an organization that is similar in some ways. Certification is an assurance that the professional with whom you work is trained in the appropriate areas and takes care to recognize and avoid ethical and other problems that may arise through the course of therapy.

It is also essential that you feel comfortable with your financial therapist. These professionals may engage with you in highly personal matters that can be traumatic or troubling. You’ll want to make sure that your financial therapist is someone who you are comfortable speaking with openly.

Financial therapy is a cross-disciplinary practice, and clients should look for therapists who recognize this and understand their role in an individual’s financial and overall well-being. Financial advisors and licensed therapists have unique sets of skills, and a financial therapist may have some of these skills but not all of them.

For this reason, it can be most beneficial to work with a financial therapist as one of multiple professionals in developing and caring for your financial well-being. For example, if you work with a financial therapist with a primary background in therapy, you may also want to work separately with a financial advisor to address more of the specifics of the finance side.

Because a financial therapist does not have the same set of skills as both a financial advisor and a licensed therapist, it may be most beneficial to seek additional support from other professionals with complementary areas of expertise.

How a Financial Therapist Compares to a Financial Advisor

As mentioned above, a financial therapist shares some, but not all, of the skills and knowledge of a financial advisor. While financial advisors are specifically trained in areas of financial planning and management, as well as related ethical and often fiduciary responsibilities, they are not trained in therapeutic practices. They may end up providing some emotional support in the course of their work, but they are not licensed to offer more involved or elaborate therapy services.

Financial therapists, on the other hand, must have training in therapeutic practice to receive certification. However, they may not have the same full knowledge of financial planning and management as a financial advisor.

What is a financial therapist?

A financial therapist is a certified professional with a background in either finance or therapy who aims to help clients address financial trauma or change how they think, feel, and behave in regard to money.

What’s the best way to select a financial therapist?

There is no single way to select a financial therapist. Make sure that any professional with whom you work is certified by an organization like the Financial Therapy Association. Beyond that, look for a financial therapist who you are comfortable speaking openly with and who has a set of skills and knowledge that will complement your goals.

How do you become a financial therapist?

Becoming a financial therapist requires completing educational training, logging hours of direct and indirect experience, learning about and agreeing to a code of ethics, completing an examination, and completing continuing education programs to maintain certification.


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