financial therapy

Bari Tessler – Doing Your Own Work

One of the topics in last week’s conversation with Bari Tessler was the importance of financial therapists doing their therapy, their own emotional work.

In my sessions with financial therapy clients, I have realized that in probably 50% of the cases, we deal with things that were not taught in any of my training but that I encountered in my own personal work. This just emphasizes how essential it is that we are consumers of what we offer to clients.

In Bari’s training in somatic psychotherapy at Naropa University, students were required to do their own therapy. As she describes it, “We had to be our own case studies.” Unfortunately, many therapy programs do not have that same requirement. I remember some years ago having a colleague tell me he estimated that only one percent of therapists had done their own work.

As a client, how do you know when a professional has done their own work? It’s not an easy question to answer. A couple of contrasting examples we discussed might offer some clues to the mindset you want to find in a potential financial therapist.

One of my colleagues who was getting a master’s in mental health counseling told me about a classmate who was emotionally affected by something in the coursework. When therapy was suggested for this person, they said they didn’t need to go to therapy themselves in order to help other people. That’s a perspective I strongly disagree with, and I would avoid a therapist who approached their work that way.

On the other hand, Bari once worked with a financial planner who saw herself as only dealing with the numbers and spreadsheets and facts around money. Yet she realized that money was very emotional for most of her clients, and she wanted to understand them better and work with them more effectively. Not only did she gain more tools for working with clients, but she wound up learning a lot about her own money emotions and the challenging money dynamics with her family. Her openness to learning about money and emotions opened the door for her to do her own work. This, in turn, very likely added a great deal to her work with clients.

Bari also shared a favorite negative review she received for her first book, one that made her laugh out loud. The reviewer said, “I’m just appalled that the author thinks that everyone has emotions around money.” Some 30 years ago, I might have agreed with that review. At this stage in my financial planning and financial therapy careers, I know better. I understand how deeply our emotions around money shape our behaviors around money. Financial literacy matters, but it needs to be integrated with emotional awareness in order to help us gain financial wellbeing.

Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.

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