Financial Therapy for Couples Can Lower Chance of Breakups

In this day in age, therapy has become more normalized and accessible; on any given day, one can seek out therapy for any given cause. So what if you and your partner could seek out therapy for money issues or finances? A new, emerging type of therapy known as financial therapy could benefit couples and lower the chances of a breakup over financial issues, and researchers are working to grow this specialized type of counseling.

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

University of Georgia faculty, John Grable and Megan Ford are two individuals working to grow this field. Grable, UGA Online Financial Planning professor, and Ford, clinical director of the ASPIRE Clinic at UGA, have rich backgrounds in the financial field. The two are exploring what influence financial therapy can have on relationship outcomes, and they are also seeking to gain a better understanding of how these issues might affect a couple’s decision to seek help from a financial planner and a family therapist.

“Money is a big thing and ignoring it is impeding satisfaction in relationships,” said Megan Ford, “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.”

Grable and Ford have been studying the issue for the past decade and 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.

In their most recent study at UGA, published in Contemporary Family Therapy, Ford and Grable worked with six couples in three, 30-50-minute sessions over five weeks. The couples, ranging in age from 21-76 shared their financial goals with a family therapist and financial planner and discussed how their money history related to their current situation. They were encouraged to talk about their feelings regarding 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.”

Research shows that 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 not much concrete evidence-based research to back it up.

“The number one 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, financial therapy could benefit those in relationships and should be incorporated into a family therapist’s practice.

View the original article on UGA Today