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Do you need a financial therapist?
A new industry of financial therapists is rather controversial. They say people need education and psychological help to deal with their money problems. - photo by Bill Gephardt
The American Psychological Association calls money the top source of stress in our lives. Stressing over finances can zap our health and well-being.

A new industry of financial therapists is rather controversial. They say people need education and psychological help to deal with their money problems.

Amanda Clayman is one of the new breed of therapists focused on money. She calls herself a financial therapist, and says she isn't just focused on retirement plans or investment strategies. She's focused on her client's "financial wellness."

"Money is a very emotional part of our lives," she said, "and if we think about it, money touches the most intimate aspects of who we are, what we do, how we choose to spend our time."

Clayman says for many clients, financial literacy isn't where they struggle when it comes to making money decisions. It's emotional problems, from gambling to overspending to under spending.

"Personal finance professionals sometimes shy away from the emotional discussions that can really drive financial behaviors," she said.

Financial therapy is a lot like what it sounds like: a mix of psychology and financial advice. But currently the industry lacks certification or accreditation. Anyone can call themselves a financial therapist.

"It is important to talk to someone who knows what they're doing," said Shane Stewart, a certified financial planner with DMBA. "They either have the information you need to make better decisions like a financial planner, or they have degrees in psychology that can help you with decision making and judgement."

Stewart says most people will not need a financial therapist.

"They need some counsel, some guidance, more information to make a good financial decision. Who hasn't made a financial blunder here or there and wish they had done something differently?" he asked.

Stewart says there could be real value to financial therapy if it resolves deep-seated issues that a financial planner can't.

"I've seen folks with an incredible amount of debt. They finally pay it off, and three months later have an incredible amount of debt again. They just can't help themselves," he explained.

However, Stewart worries the lines between financial advice and financial therapy will get crossed.

"Financial therapy is great, but do they then sign you up for a mutual fund? Well, they've crossed a line," he said. "On the direction, there could be a financial planner who then has someone sit on the couch and tries to give them psychotherapy. That's a little dangerous," he said.

Clayman explained, "I help them understand they're not just messy or bad at money, that there's something happening here that they can better understand and work through."

Clayman is based in New York and belongs to what's called the Financial Therapy Association. It currently has about 200 members right now. Again, there is no formal accreditation for financial therapists like there is for certified financial planners.