Email FacebookTwitterMenu burgerClose thin

What Is a Certified Financial Therapist (CFT-I)?

Certified Financial Therapist

Few of us would claim to be perfect with our money. We may save less than we planned, overspend on occasion or forgo the monthly budget on vacation. However, there are some financial habits that are much more serious, such as compulsive spending or money-related anxiety. A certified financial therapist, or CFT-I, may be able to help if you or your partner fall into the latter category. They can not only offer guidance for your money management issues, but also add a therapy element to help get to the root cause of the habit. You may also want to work with a financial advisor who can help you keep your plans for the future under control.

What Is a Certified Financial Therapist (CFT-I)?

A certified financial therapist (CFT-I) is a licensed professional who has received certification from the Financial Therapy Association (FTA). This U.S.-based certification is relatively new and is designated for both financial and mental health professionals. In fact, its purpose is to blend the two into a unique therapy approach.

In order to become a CFT-I, a therapist must complete a series of training and competencies. All applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in either a mental health or financial field. One exception is if they have a bachelor’s degree in another field, but have already earned a CFP or AFC designation.

The candidate must complete a minimum of 500 experience hours, 250 of which must be client-facing. They must also take and pass a 100-question, multiple-choice exam via an online platform. This exam is limited to a two-hour time period.

A CFT-I is expected to act in accordance with the fiduciary standard. This means any decisions or approaches they take must be in your best interest. They are also not allowed to abuse the therapist/client relationship, must avoid product sales and have to follow a specific code of ethics.

The FTA offers an online registry where you can search for a local or online CFT-I who focuses on the areas of concern that you have.

What a Certified Financial Therapist Does

Certified Financial Therapist

Certified financial therapists can choose to focus on any particular discipline they’d like, as long as their approach acknowledges the overlap of money and other areas of daily life. These therapists can help clients to not only call out areas of concern in their financial lives, but also identify certain triggers, recognize past traumas that contribute to financial issues and implement new habits. The goal being that you will walk away from this therapy with healthy, productive money habits and a better understanding of your financial triggers so you can better handle your investment portfolio.

A CFT-I can also play a valuable role in creating healthy financial strategies and goals for couples. This might mean offering financial literacy training, redirecting certain financial behaviors, setting new goals and tracking progress.

The focus of each CFT-I is different, but may include treatment for the following behaviors:

  • Compulsive spending
  • Financial anxiety and stress
  • Premarital counseling (including prenup agreements)
  • Wealth inequality (in relationships and within the family)
  • Cross-social class relationships
  • Financial secrets
  • Sudden money/windfalls
  • Estate planning
  • Occupational concerns (high-income earners, terminations, service industry workers etc.)

Generally, a CFT-I will need to have a therapy or financial background in order to get certified. These individuals can also be CFP certified, which is a great combination of areas of expertise. This means that they can blend financial planning with money-based therapy services.

With that said, the primary purpose of a CFT-I is not to create a financial plan on your behalf or manage your investments. For that, you may still want to consult a financial advisor or investment broker.

How Financial Therapy Can Be Helpful

There are many reasons that someone might have a negative relationship or unhealthy behaviors when it comes to money. Identifying and working through those reasons, however, can be a bit tricky.

That’s where financial therapy comes into play. Financial therapy is aimed at helping individuals overcome a variety of money-related roadblocks. These might include unhealthy behaviors and habits such as:

While financial therapy is often directed at those struggling with their spending, saving or debt, this isn’t always the case. In fact, it can be beneficial for those whose finances appear to be healthy on paper. If an individual has an unhealthy view of money, struggles with everyday spending or obsesses about finances, something may be out of alignment.

Financial therapy can help get to the root cause of the issue and help you find new ways to approach money in a healthy, consistent manner.

Bottom Line

Certified Financial Therapist

A CFT-I can help identify unhealthy habits, root out triggers, set new goals and build healthy money habits. If you are struggling with any one of these, a therapist – who blends therapy and financial management – may be the right answer. These U.S.-based individuals are certified and can work with a variety of individual needs, preferences and money goals. Although this is a fairly new certification, it holds a unique place in the financial services industry.

Tips for Building Healthy Financial Habits

  • Though a CFT-I can help create financial goals, they can’t fully replace a financial advisor, especially when it comes to managing clients’ money and investments. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • There are few financial tasks more important than building an adequate financial plan for your future. Use SmartAsset’s guide to creating a financial plan to get started.

Photo credit: ©, ©, ©