If you want to find a financial therapist, what kind of training or experience should you look for?
First, a couple of caveats: One, the discipline of financial therapy is really new, so there are not many established training programs, degrees, or certifications. Two, anyone can call themselves a financial therapist, just as anyone can call themselves a financial planner. Those specific terms are not accredited; anyone can use them. You cannot assume that someone offering financial therapy has a particular level or type of training. You will need to ask.
Where do you start? Currently there is no undergraduate or master’s degree in financial therapy. There is some interest at the college level, but it will take time to develop degree programs.
A good place to begin your search is with the Financial Therapy Association, which offers a certification called the Certified Financial Therapist, Level One. The intent has been to provide three levels of certification, but the program is developing so the titles will be changing. There are currently around 25 or 30 CFT-1 practitioners in the United States.
The CFT-1 certification means the person has had some training in both financial planning and therapy. They could be a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC), or have a degree in financial planning and a master’s in counseling. They will have some combination of training and licensure in both fields.
The CFT-1 requires a level of experience and passing a comprehensive test. The certification is not so much about the FTA’s training program; it’s more about honoring the training that someone has already done. It’s not the be-all, end-all. It is a wonderful start. Somebody with that particular certification has demonstrated a passion for uniting financial planning and therapy. You’ll want to ask for specifics about whether a particular professional has more training and experience on the therapy or financial side.
There are also practitioners who are licensed therapists with a CFP, which is a wonderful combination even if they are not CFT-1 certified. The bottom line is that you’re looking for formalized training in both financial planning and mental health.
Some other types of training can also provide financial therapy skills. One place to check out, especially if you are in a period of change in your life, is the Financial Transitionist Institute founded by Susan Bradley. This year-long course equips typical financial planners with some good therapeutic skills and offers the Certified Financial Transitionist certification.
The Kinder Institute of Life Planning offers a Registered Life Planner certification based on training developed by George Kinder, one of the founders of bringing together emotions and money.
The Financial Fitness Coach designation is given by the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE). The Money Coaching Institute offers a Certified Money Coach designation.
Coaching is not therapy. As I see it, coaching is standing with the client in the present, looking toward the future, looking at what’s possible. Therapy tends to be more standing in the present, looking toward the past and being more focused on the issues that are affecting the present. Nevertheless, coaching is important. If a financial planner has a coaching designation, they’re about more than just the numbers.
This is by no means a complete list of training or certifications having to do with the intersection of finances and therapy. It is just a few suggestions to help you get started if you’re looking for a professional who can help you with emotional issues around money.
My last suggestion is also important. Ask the planner or therapist about the work they have done to look at their own money issues. Regardless of their certifications or degrees, professionals are more likely to be effective in helping you resolve your money issues if they have done their own healing.
Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.