Family, Kids & Relationships

‘Financial Therapy’: Couples counseling with financial twist improves stability, well-being

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If you’ve ever felt like you and your partner live in different worlds when it comes to finances, you’re not alone. Combining two lives into one household isn’t just about love, it involves merging finances too. New research shows that couples may benefit from relationship therapy with a financial twist.

A study out of the University of Georgia followed six couples who worked with a financial therapist, a counseling combination of family therapist and financial planner. The couples had the opportunity to talk through how their money and spending history related to their current relationship situation and gain insight on how money affects their daily lives.

Couples attended three therapy sessions from 30 to 50 minutes over the course of five weeks. They were given the opportunity to talk through their feelings about money with each other and a professional. After the course of therapy sessions ended, nearly all wanted to continue and felt the financial aspect of the sessions opened their eyes to how much their finances played into their relationship issues—even when money had seemed unrelated prior to talking it out. 

The study was led by Megan Ford, a couples and financial therapist and John Grable, a Professor of Family and Consumer Sciences, both at the University of Georgia. The two have been studying the importance of financial therapy on couples’ success for over a decade. 

Of the importance of financial therapy, Ford explained, “Money is a big thing and ignoring it is impeding satisfaction in relationships. 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.”

Traditional financial advisors are ill prepared to deal with the emotional issues that may come up in relationships, which is why Ford and Grable recommend financial therapy. Grable, who is also a financial planner, admits “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.” 

A new program to certify therapists as financial therapists was created by the two at UGA. They hope to increase the small number of financial therapists currently available.

This study is one of many that supports the importance of communication. Not only is it important for partners to talk about finances, but it can be beneficial to talk to our kids about money issues too. The more open and honest we are when discussing our feelings about everything from unloading the dishwasher to balancing the bank account the more the whole family can benefit.

Jessica Watson is a freelance writer, author and the blogger behind Four Plus an Angel. Mom to five kids, four in her arms and one in her heart, she tries hard to enjoy them every moment but sometimes dreams of a week alone with a pile of her favorite books. "Four Plus an Angel" -