Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Is Financial Therapy Legitimate?

Do you know what financial therapy is?  Up until this past weekend, I sure didn’t.  I read financial articles daily, several of them actually, and had never come across one that mentioned the words “financial” and “therapy” together.  I was like: What the heck is this?  I clicked on the  article and devoured it.  It was something fresh for once.  When you come to know a lot about all things finance and investing, you see that what’s being presented online by media channels, in terms of information, is not really new, just iterations of the same with different angles.  And even the angles that financial reporters take get to be repetitive.  That’s why fin bloggers that push the envelope and alter the text of something, get the most praise and votes of confidence (visits to their sites).

Today’s topic is whether or not financial therapy is legitimate.  From my limited understanding of psychology, in order for there to be a therapy, there needs to be a pathology that can be defined and observed in many people, not to mention there’d have to be a body of experts who agree on a therapy to offer those affected.  The USAtoday article cited the following four psychological complications relating to money: 1) Avoidance, 2) Worship, 3) Status, and 4) Vigilance, and it was very helpful, providing 5 major warning signs for people who may be unaware of their issues with the dollar.  I won’t rehash them.  You’re better off reading about these from the article.
In my opinion, the above mentioned complications legitimize the need for therapy.  As a person who suffers from anxiety and depression, taking medication and seeing a psychiatrist at least twice a year, I’m not one to bash or handle without sensitivity, the real manifestations of mental strife.  In fact, after reading the USAtoday article, I think there have been times in my life when I have been obsessed with being frugal.  I’ve blogged about my negative experiences with being too frugal, sharing my revelations so you don’t follow in my footsteps.  See, for example:
Termites, speeding ticket, broken TV and the Wealth Abundance Attitude

Can being Frugal be Hazardous to Your Health?

Gringos Worry Like Crazy About Retirement

Thankfully, I don’t have any of the other warning signs: avoiding financial problems, repeatedly giving money to an adult child, being completely reliant on others to handle my finances, and becoming uncomfortable accumulating money.  But I know that many people do.  Have these people gotten the right type of help?
When meeting with my psychiatrist, I’m always asked what I have been up to.  Well, this usually takes a good five minutes or more because I don’t see her regularly.  She’s always concerned that my excessive activity is causing my anxiety (and stress) to ratchet-up.  Yet she never delves deeper.  Perhaps if she did, she’d see that part (not all) of my outside work (side-hustling) has to do with money concerns and my incessant drive to retire early.  My money concerns are manageable, because I tend to exaggerate my family’s needs for frugality.  My wife, Jessica, balances me out.  However, there is no “cure” for my motivation and insatiable drive to invest for the purpose of reaching my retirement goals.
I believe people would be better off seeing a psychologist or counselor with money sense.  There could be challenges to doing so, however.  Healthcare can be a big barrier.  Are FTs bonafide enough to be accepted by insurance providers?  It could get tricky.  To get approved, you may have to call it a “mental health issue” with your provider and inquire about a therapist with an accredited background in financial counseling.  There are 1,100 or so accredited financial counselors in the country, but only 250 members of the Financial Therapy Association.  So it is a very small niche profession that after ten years of existence or so, is still trying to get mainstream attention.
I went to Goodtherapy.org, which by the way superbly explains the rationale for the FT profession, and put in my zip code at the top right.  What came out from the search was a list of Family Therapists (the real FTs) from my area.  None had the criteria of knowing money pathologies as a specialty.  No wonder, CA only has five!  How do I know this?  I searched for one at the FTA.org site.  I will have to contact these FTs from Cali and see if one of them wants to be a guest to share more about the profession with all of you.
I like it!  I really like it.  This is something I think I’d be great at.  I’m a ten-year experienced assistant principal and this has given me excellent insight in psychology, bartending, fire fighting, drug dependency, and law.  Ha! And I know money.  Maybe Financial Therapy becomes my second act?  Or yours?  
Is Financial Therapy legit?  Yes!  Will the industry survive...now that’s a whole different question.  Fin bloggers like myself aren’t helping the industry out, sharing financial advice for free.  But we’re not actually giving people the individual attention they deserve as everyone’s case is different and unique.  FT is needed also because people may not feel comfortable sharing their money problems with fin bloggers, financial counselors, psychologists, or even their psychiatrists; the former know about money but aren’t qualified psychologists, while the latter are qualified mental health providers but may not know enough about money.
Thanks for reading!

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