One of the most effective methodologies I have found to help clients resolve money issues is IFS Informed Financial Therapy, which uses the tools of Internal Family Systems therapy combined with financial coaching. Some time ago I recorded a combined interview and IFS Informed Financial Therapy session with Dr. Helen Lees, editor of PARTS & SELF, which is the International Voice of the IFS Foundation.
For me, this experience turned out to be a demonstration of the impact of applying the IFS process to money issues, even when the process is not rigidly followed. The reason that someone like me, who is not a licensed therapist, can be certified as an IFS practitioner is that the training is very specific. The protocol really teaches the facilitator to avoid offering any opinions, any advice, or having any agenda. In a way it can take a lot of unlearning to learn the protocol.
My interview with Helen was meant primarily to explain IFS Informed Financial Therapy. As somewhat of a demonstration or example, she brought up an issue she wanted to explore: a pattern she had of buying art supplies and tools that she stockpiled but never used.
My experience with IFS Informed Financial Therapy is that clients not only gain understanding around their financial issues, but also make measurable and specific changes in their financial behavior. Yet I’ve seen very few quick fixes. Money issues can be deeply ingrained, not something where you schedule one or two sessions and you’re done.
So I was just blown away with how quickly Helen worked through the whole process of realizing that the part of her buying the supplies was protecting an exiled young part of her for whom art supplies were a proxy for receiving her parents’ love. I encourage you to check out Helen’s telling of the story, including the video, here.
A couple of times during the process I was connecting some dots and suggesting a little bit of analysis, which I wouldn’t normally do in an IFS session. Typically, an IFS Informed Financial Therapy session is separated into one segment focused on IFS therapy and a separate segment that gets into financial specifics and may include information and recommendations. With Helen, in a way I was “doing IFS wrong.” (We did subsequently conduct a second full IFS therapy session.) Yet, as she describes, the outcome was a transformational shift and a lasting change.
For me, this experience vividly demonstrated that, at times in IFS Informed Financial Therapy sessions, steps in the protocol can be missed or can happen at warp speed because a client can leap ahead to essential insights. The practitioner’s role is to follow where the client leads, which may include having the flexibility to focus on the outcome rather than ticking off every step of the protocol.
Helen has told me that one of the keys to her work was my flexibility. She said that basically her parts were hungry to change, and they did. I did not impede the process by rigidly following steps that she had already flown past. Ultimately, the experience was as much of a learning experience for me as it was transformational for her.
Check out The Financial Therapy Podcast by Rick Kahler concerning this topic.