“In my twenties, I was able to pay for everything with my pay checks. Once I had a child, I needed to factor in childcare [and] saving for the future.” Freelance personal finance writer Anna Davies understands the financial strains that come with being a single parent. It’s daunting, and she’s ashamed by how far she’s fallen behind on her savings goals. However, she later discovers the burgeoning field of financial therapy, which combines personal finance and mental wellness.

Instead of treating the behavior itself, financial therapists use their psychology background to treat the root of money stress. Israeli psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s research confirmed that money decisions are truly emotional. According to a 2019 survey by employee experience platform Perk-Box, money is the leading source of stress in the UK. Money, according to 61% of 1,139 respondents, causes them more stress than work or family. Professor Brendan Burchell at the University of Cambridge claims that money phobia exists. He explains that we have a strong emotional reaction to money, and that checking bank statements is comparable to having a severe phobia of spiders and clowns. Burchell goes on to say that counseling is ineffective and that seeking out doctors who specialize in treating phobias is the best option. Burchell’s claim is supported by several financial therapists. Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a registered financial therapist in Michigan, USA, encourages her clients to match their spending patterns with their values by spending more on what they value most and saving less on what they value least.

Financial therapy is a new field, but many specialists, including Burchell, believe that stress or phobia isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem; there could be other underlying psychological issues at play. It’s an intriguing concept, but some people may find it difficult to embrace. At least, not right now.