Bari Tessler, author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, was practicing financial therapy well before the rest of us had ever heard of it.
She began her career as a somatic therapist, focusing on body work and movement. As she described to me when she joined me on this podcast, she assumed when she finished her master’s degree that her career was going to be in the mental health field, especially hospice services. Then, as she put it, “my student loan came due, and I freaked out, and then I realized my entire graduate program never talked about money, ever.”
In addition to her full-time (and poorly paid) job in mental health, she was offered part-time work that required learning Quicken and Excel. She described feeling incredibly empowered to learn the software and be able to understand money management. As a creative, experiential person, she was surprised to “fall in love with bookkeeping.”
Her response was to start a bookkeeping business. Many of her clients were therapists, coaches, and artists who didn’t want to have anything to do with their own bookkeeping. This taught her a great deal about people’s patterns with money, earning, and spending.
Several years later, she brought together her therapy training and her bookkeeping skills and began teaching people about money and emotions. She credits her husband with coming up with the term “financial therapy.”
I encourage you to listen to the podcast to learn more about Bari’s work and her story. I just want to point out one aspect of it. Her path to financial therapy, to combining money and emotions, is almost a mirror image of my own.
Money skills are not inherently part of the typical therapist’s toolbox. They do not come naturally to people who are drawn to careers requiring empathy and an understanding of emotions and psychology. On the flip side, therapy skills are not inherently part of the typical financial professional’s toolbox.
I know this first-hand. I’ve often said that, while I have a wonderfully developed left brain, it took me $80,000 and 12 years to find out that I even had a right brain. Just as Bari fell in love with bookkeeping, I fell in love with emotions and therapy. It just took me a lot longer.
What’s important about our opposite paths is that they took us to the same place: the melding of money and emotions. That is where healing and growth need to take place in order to bring us to financial wellbeing.
Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.