A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that three out of four Americans feel that money is the primary source of stress in their lives and that goes beyond the current economic climate that has put most of us under a little financial stress.

What the APA and other studies are finding is that money, even when you have it, can be the source of stress and anxiety that lead to a number of problematic financial behaviors.

Nikiya Spence is a licensed financial therapist (LCSW) and Certified Money Coach with over ten years of clinical experience. She treats a host of clients for such money related issues as: spending addictions and over-spending, under-spending, which is often associated with depression; serial borrowing, and financial infidelity, in which one spouse cheats on another by spending money and lying about it.

In an interview with ConsumerAffairs.com, the Georgia-based Spence says she became a financial therapist when she noticed many of her clients had stress-related money issues that interfered with their well-being and their relationships. So she took specialized training with money coaches, who work with people to help them identifying their subconscious conflicts with money.

"People inherit problems around money from their family and this can have to do with spending and how they grow to feel about money in general," said Spence. "These underlying feelings can cause problems when it comes to finances if you're not aware of them. My job is to help people get in touch with those feelings and gain an understanding about where they came from and what can be done to deal with them."

Financial infidelity

A recent trend she's been dealing with is financial infidelity, where someone is spending money secretly and not telling their partner about it because they're either ashamed or afraid of how the other person will react.

"I try to get them to understand the effect this dishonesty has on the other person," she says, "And to understand why they do it."

The emerging field of financial therapy has only been around for the past few years but it can be beneficial to people who are open to understanding and changing their money patterns and beliefs. Often, their relationship with money is deeply rooted, explains Spence.

As described by Spence, financial therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to help people gain clarity around their dysfunctional emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as it relates to managing and/or coping with finances. Overall, it is a process that incorporates the emotional, behavioral, spiritual, and financial components of a person as a whole.

Financial therapists help people by exploring how their past relationships and family interactions have impacted their relationship with money; developing a more balanced and successful relationship with money; having a conscious relationship with money; developing a plan to cope with money stress and anxiety; and understanding how money plays a role in their daily life and relationships.

Spence says it's important for people to learn how to work with a spouse or significant other to satisfy their collective goals; to learn how to have a more peaceful relationship with money; and to transforming destructive financial behaviors into healthy ones.

If you feel that you have trouble dealing with money or that it may be causing you undue stress and anxiety, contract the Financial Therapy Association for a referral.