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What is a financial therapist with Ashley Quamme

Most of us have heard about mental health therapy, but have you heard of financial therapy? What is a financial therapist? How does someone become one? What do they know? What can they do for people who might be struggling with managing their personal finances?

Well, Dr. Mary Carlson from the Financial Behavior Keynote Group and I sat down with Ashley Quamme. Ms. Quamme consults with financial advisors to help them understand how to better work with their human clients. She is a Certified Financial Therapist and a Certified Financial Behavioral Specialist who sees clients, especially couples, in her practice The Wealthy Marriage. 

Conversation with Financial Therapist Ashley Quamme, LMFT, FBS®, CFT-I

The following interview has been edited for clarity.

Mental health therapist vs financial therapist

The Yukon Project: What is the difference between a mental health therapist and a financial therapist? When should one seek out a therapist and when should they seek out a financial therapist?

Quamme: Mental health therapists generally work on more traditional mental health-related issues, such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, addictions, things like that. So, general therapists are going to focus their treatment on helping a client or a couple where one partner struggles with that particular mental health issue, finding healing, and being able to find some kind of change in their life. 

In contrast, a financial therapist is going to focus more specifically on the relationship that person or both partners have with money. So, there may be a mental health component there: if one partner or a client struggles with anxiety in general, it can bleed into their relationship with money. But, the financial therapist is going to focus specifically on the relationship with money and not the more generalize struggle with anxiety, for instance. 

More than one money relationship issue

The Yukon Project: Sometimes there may be a gambling issue, with alcohol addition, and marital problems at the same time. What would you recommend when it might be more than one issue impacting the person’s relationship with money?

Quamme: Generally in a case when there are multiple diagnoses, then I would encourage the individual and/or the couple to have other sources of support. So, I, as the financial therapist, may focus with the client on their relationship specifically with money, taking into account how the addiction or mental health issues compound that relationship. But, then I would also encourage them to reach out for support and work with another clinician who can focus more specifically on the mental health issues. 

Finding a financial therapist

The Yukon Project: Where does someone find a financial therapist?

Quamme: The Financial Therapy Association is a great resource. I usually refer clients to that as a great starting point. It has resources and explanations on what financial therapy is, it includes the history, and how it can be helpful. There is also a directory on their website. You can search for a provider based on the parameters of what you are looking for. It provides their contact information. You’ll see mine on there. 

The Financial Therapy Association is a great starting point. 

Training for a financial therapist

The Yukon Project: What kind of training does a financial therapist have to have?

Quamme: A financial therapist can be a mental health therapist and/or a financial advisor or someone in financial services. So, the word “therapist” does not mean that this person has necessarily gone through mental health training. This is why it is important when you are looking up this person on a directory, to be sure you know what what you need and what you are looking for and that this person has the credentials to help you with what you need. 

A financial therapist will have completed some type of course work either through a university. Kansas State University has a graduate certificate program, which I am an alumni of. The University of Georgia now has a certificate program for financial therapy as well. So, they would complete either a certificate program or courses that have been put out through the Financial Therapy Association. So, they would have completed some kind of coursework. 

Then, they would also have to take an exam and be able to pass it. That exam has competences on both the mental health side, financial side, and financial therapy side. 

Beyond the education and the exam, a financial therapist also will have needed to meet the experience hours to become certified. 

So, it’s kind of a rigorous process. This person has gone through education, they have gone through the examination, and they have the experience. When you are coming into their office, they’ve had a lot of touchpoints around the areas that more-than-likely you are coming to them for. 

Certification for a financial therapist

The Yukon Project: What is the name of the certification that they would have earned?

Quamme: They would be called a Certified Financial Therapist level one, or practitioner one. So, you would see the letters CFT-I beside their name if they are a certified financial therapist. 

Cost to hire a financial therapist

The Yukon Project: What does it cost to hire a financial therapist and how are they paid?

Quamme: Financial therapists are paid on a cash based system. A lot of clients think that insurance will cover services with a financial therapist. To the best of my knowledge, at this point, that is not true. I tell clients that insurance covers what they as the insurance company deems “medically necessary.” Unless it is an addiction, most insurance companies are not going to deem budgeting problems or arguments between partners around money as medical necessities. So, insurance is likely not going to cover services. Hence, services are going to have to be paid out of pocket. 

Ranges for financial therapy vary depending upon the provider and the area where they are living. Just as a reference standpoint, I charge at my practice The Wealthy Marriage a range of $100 to $150 per session.

Many practitioners have different setups or arrangements, but usually it is cash pay and per session.

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Jonathan Walker