financial therapy

Bari Tessler – Tools of Transformation – Part One

In this segment of my conversations with Bari Tessler, we discuss the second goal of her mentoring course for financial advisors and therapists, which is teaching practitioners tools to use with clients. She does this primarily by practicing those tools throughout the program.

A fundamental part of Bari’s work is body centered practices, as she is a trained somatic therapist. The first somatic tool she brings to everything—life, money work, relationships, and intimacy—is what she calls the body check-in. Before you start a money conversation, check your financial accounts, or make a money decision, check in with your body. Notice what’s happening on a physical level. Are your legs crossed, are your shoulders up or down, is your gut feeling full of butterflies? Where is your breathing—in your chest, your belly, your throat? Is it deep or shallow?

To finish the body check-in, consider what is one little adjustment you can make in your body to help you feel a sense of being okay. That looks different for everyone. It could be loosening your jaw, it could be lowering your shoulders and doing a little shoulder shimmy. It could be seeing if you can get your breath a little deeper in your body, or just taking another breath.

She invites people to do this before all money decisions and conversations. And maybe you forget to do it ahead of time, and then in the heat of the moment you remember and realize, “I am having a really big emotion. What is it? Or what is going on with me?” You can just do the body check-in then. What do you notice? It also can be useful after a conversation or a decision. How did that go? What is your body telling you?

Bari emphasizes there is no one right way to do this. It’s just taking a moment to slow yourself down, check in and let yourself notice what’s going on. Then you can notice and name the emotion related to that body sensation. You can sit with it for a moment and you can ask some questions. What does this remind me of? What am I afraid of?

The you can ask, what do I need to do next? What is one next step I can take? Do I need to go walk around the block? Do I need a snack? Do I need some water? Do I need to pause here and come back to finish this conversation? There is so much that can happen instead of overwhelming your system by going too fast into something. Listening to the pacing, slowing yourself down, giving yourself some preparation time before money moments, noticing what’s happening in the middle of them, debriefing afterwards. What all this leads to is awareness and more understanding of our money stories and money scripts.

For the practitioner, helping a client with this somatic approach means observing: noticing their breathing, where their shoulders are, what their faces show. Then, when it feels right, asking the client, “What just happened there? I saw you take a breath and your shoulders went up.” It is encouraging people to tune in and notice what is happening in their bodies.

Another tool and practice Bari uses is what she calls a money date. It can be scheduled or spontaneous. It can be used if it’s time to pay bills, get numbers together for your tax return, or take care of some small bookkeeping or financial task. Many of us either want to ignore these tasks or to be hypervigilant about them.

So a money date creates a form of ritual around these. Setting up your space, maybe with music, maybe with quiet, maybe even lighting a candle or having some chocolate, and sitting down to take care of whatever needs to be done. You might set a time limit, maybe 15 minutes, to work on it. And, of course, the body check-in is part of the process.

Then there are money dates for couples. Most of us don’t know how to have loving, compassionate conversations around money with our partners. Bari invites couples to schedule money dates, where partners talk about their money stories and values rather than just jumping into an argument about the credit card bill or whatever. They can use some of the journaling questions and exercises she describes in her The Art of Money workbook to learn new things about each other, realize they are on the same team, and move toward a more comfortable and intimate financial coupleship.

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

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