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Financial Therapy Can Help Save Marriages

Financial therapy, which combines the emotional support of a marriage counselor with the money mindset of a financial planner, could help couples navigate disagreements, money concerns, and financial conflicts before these issues tear relationships apart.

“Money is a big thing and ignoring it is impeding satisfaction in relationships,” said Megan Ford, a couples and financial therapist at the University of Georgia. “Therapists need to work together to solve problems that occur around financial behaviors of couples and learn how to connect to all of their emotions.”

Ford, the clinical director of the ASPIRE Clinic at UGA that provides counseling and educational services, including financial therapy, has teamed with Dr. John Grable, Athletic Association Endowed Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences to study what influence financial therapy can have on relationships.

The pair, who have been studying the issue for the past decade, believe that financial therapy improves a couple’s overall well-being and financial stability if they understand that many financial behaviors are tied to feelings and beliefs.

Grable, a financial planner, was involved in starting the Financial Therapy Association in 2008 and Ford, a graduate student at the time, worked as a financial therapist at the country’s first financial therapy clinic, started at Kansas State University with help from Grable.

In their most recent study at UGA, Ford and Grable worked with six couples, ranging in age from 21 to 76, who shared their financial goals with a family therapist and financial planner and discussed how their money history related to their current situation.

In three, 30- to 50-minute sessions over five weeks, the couples were encouraged to talk about their feelings about money in a nonjudgmental space. Afterward, nearly all of those who participated said they wanted to learn more about their financial behaviors, realized they needed to communicate better, and would consider seeking the help of a financial planner.

“One woman was close to tears listening to her husband explain an early memory in their relationship about money that she didn’t understand at the time,” Grable said. “The story helped explain his odd behavior that she always thought of as just being mean. They left clearly closer emotionally and financially feeling more powerful.”

The two researchers said there is a lot of anecdotal information about how the inability of couples to talk about their financial goals, money history, or past experiences causes serious relationship problems, but add there is not much evidence-based research to back it up.

“The No. 1 reason for arguments is often money,” Ford said. “We know it and believe it, but there is not a huge body of literature on the topic.”

Although there are more than 80,000 certified financial planners and 50,000 family therapists in the United States, the FTA — which just began a certification program in 2019 — lists less than 50 certified financial therapists throughout the country.

Since money can be such an emotional trigger, the UGA researchers believe that financial therapy — even if just a few sessions — needs to be incorporated into a family therapist’s practice because financial planners, like Grable, are not traditionally trained to deal with the psychological issues that surrounds money.

“I’m a financial planner; I love money,” said Grable. “But the last thing I want to happen is a couple coming in crying or yelling. I’m uncomfortable with that, it makes me nervous. That’s why we need therapists trained in this area.”

The study was published in Contemporary Family Therapy.

Source: University of Georgia

Photo: Director of the Aspire Clinic Megan Ford, left, discusses a case with student Paige Garrison. Credit: Chad Osburn/UGA.

Financial Therapy Can Help Save Marriages

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). Financial Therapy Can Help Save Marriages. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Nov 2019 (Originally: 23 Nov 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Nov 2019
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