Welcome to episode 64 of The Innovating Advice Show.
I’m joined by Dr. Kristy Archuleta who is a Professor of Financial Planning, speaker, author and one of the founders of the Financial Therapy Association.
In this episode, we’re talking through the intersection of financial planning and financial therapy. Building on last week’s episode with Dr. Brad Klontz, Kristy shares the difference between financial psychology and financial therapy.
We also discuss when, why and how financial planners should build relationships with therapists and relationship experts.
Finally, we chat about the Financial Therapy Association, its free Journal of Financial Therapy and its Certified Financial Therapist Level 1 designation.
And listen till the end where Kristy talks about the similarities and differences between the ever-popular coaching methods and therapy.
Dr. Kristy Archuleta is a full time professor at University of Georgia's financial planning program, a NAPFA Board member and the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Financial Therapy. She obtained her Master's and Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Kansas State University and was a practicing Marriage and Family Therapist.
00:50 - Introducing Dr. Kristy Archuleta
02:33 - The difference between Financial Psychology and Financial Therapy
04:50 - Getting clarity about the different practice areas and terms
07:26 - Kristy’s journey
10:00 - Co-Founding the Financial Therapy Association and creating the Journal of Financial Therapy
15:10 - The multidisciplinary aspect of the Journal of Financial Therapy
17:25 - Making findings practical: having a strong implication section
18:40 - What couples fight most intensely about: financial disagreements
20:14 - How a Financial Therapist can help
25:00 - When to recommend someone sees a financial therapist
32:20 - Exploring underlying beliefs
34:33 - Becoming a Certified Financial Therapist
38:50 - The Journal of Financial Therapy
40:00 - Including financial therapy education as a financial planning professor
43:05 - Coaching vs. Therapy
46:35 - When the Journal of Financial Therapy comes out
Kate: Hi, Kristy, welcome to the show.
Kristy: Hey Kate, thanks for having me.
Kate: So we just had Dr. Brad Klontz on, and I know you two have worked together for a number of years, so you know him well, and we were talking all about financial psychology, but today we're going to be talking about financial therapy. So let's start with, what is the difference between financial psychology and financial therapy?
Kristy: Yeah, that is a wonderful question. And I want to be sure to preface that, yes, I've worked with Dr. Klontz for a number of years and we work together. So, financial psychology really is about that individual perspective and working through those beliefs around money, comes really from more of like a behavioral psychology perspective and a medical model. Whereas financial therapy is a little bit more, is more broad. So we would encompass financial psychology, but also we're going to really look at the interpersonal relationships that have an impact on our individual wellbeing, but we're also gonna look at how our individual selves have an impact on that relational aspect.
Kristy: So thinking about family structure, family relationships, couple relationships, couple dynamics, and really coming at it from a family systems perspective is one way to look at it. So the family systems perspective has definitely had some inspiration in the financial therapy development. and thinking about how one piece of the relationship has an impact on multiple aspects of a family or, a couple, for example. So it's not just individual, we're introspective, it's really taking that plus looking at it from a very holistic perspective when we consider the relational aspects of one's wellbeing.
Kristy: And then also thinking about it from, we really have tried to connect research and practice and the development of the financial therapy aspect and financial psychology of course has done this as well. but in developing what works, how do we work through change? So evidence based practice models is something that's really important as well.
Kate: I like that. Okay. So I'm seeing a clear difference here. And what I'm starting to think about is you've got financial psychology, you've got behavioral finance, you've got, I think you mentioned behavioral psychology, you've got financial counseling, financial therapy. And when I think about the financial advice space, I'm still confused and there's different terminology around the world between financial advisor, financial planner, financial coach, wealth manager, investment advisor, all those things.
Kate: Would it be good to see, or are we moving to a place where we might get a little bit more defined, like medicine where, you know you're going to go to the podiatrist if you've got a foot issue, you're going to an oncologist for cancer, you're going to a dermatologist for skin issues. Where we can get a bit more clarity about what all of these different practice areas are for and who people should see so that we're actually better able to cross refer clients and make recommendations for other specialized professionals.
Kristy: I would love to see that. I mean, think about it. Think of us as professionals who are in the field, we're confused by the terms. And then we communicate that to consumers. Well not our, we don't necessarily communicate our confusion, but consumers definitely don't understand what the differences are. And so it is really important for us to be able to define what certain labels or titles or categories, of professionals are and do so that we can not only understand our different roles, but we can communicate that clearly to consumers, just like you mentioned so that we can understand like, Hey, you know what, when you have a foot problem, you go to a podiatrist. If you have cancer, you go to an oncologist. So just like your examples, that would be wonderful to do that in the financial service industry.
Kate: Well, let's see if we can make that happen.
Kristy: Yeah, there we go. Life's work.
Kate: But that's one of the focuses of a number of my guests lately on the podcast is looking and trying to get clarity around, okay, what are all these different areas Because I don't think it should be that everyone is just a GP, general practitioner, and knows a little bit of everything. You need some of those, but again, you need to understand, well, what do all the other people do so that I know where do my skills end and it's appropriate for another person's skills to pick up.
Kristy: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Kate: So we'll get there. We'll get there.
Kate: So let's first talk a little bit about your experience, cause you've got your master's and PhD in marriage and family therapy, sort of a big topic there. And then you ended up co-founding the Financial Therapy Association and became a professor of financial planning. So how did that transition happen?
Kristy: So, yeah, so I have a master's degree and PhD in marriage and family therapy. And my PhD also has a focus in financial planning. So, I did the graduate certificate in financial planning as part of my doctoral work in marriage and family therapy. And that was the way in which I could really blend the two together. And, way back when, it wasn't that long ago, sometimes it seems longer ago than it was. so at that point in time, there wasn't anything called financial therapy. There wasn't really anything called financial psychology. There is this overlap between money and family and individual, there wasn't a lot of research out there, but I had a passion and an interest in helping people improve their financial behavior to improve their relationship as it revolves around money. and so that was my idea in terms of working on a PhD in marriage and family therapy, in addition to doing the financial planning focus in that degree program.
Kristy: And so, I just got connected I guess, with the right people at the right time. and at that point in time, John Grable was at Kansas State and that's where I was finishing my PhD and then was hired shortly after at Kansas State in the financial planning program with really the intentions of, Hey, well, let's figure out how we can incorporate this marriage and family therapy piece into the financial planning area, because it's really important to understand how financial planners can work better with their clients. How can they help make create successful outcomes. And so that was the path in. And so there were a number of us, from across the country who I think it was my first year of being a tenure track professor that we met in California.
Kristy: And they were, it was a group of people about 20, 25 people who had this interests. And we all came from different disciplines, financial planning, financial counseling, psychology. There was some from social, work marriage and family therapy, who have this interest in helping people be better with money, helping them get along better around issues of money. And so we didn't really know what to call it or, or know what to do. And so that's really was the first conversations around this concept or notion of developing a financial therapy field. And really we left there saying, let's start some sort of professional organization that was designed to help us network with one another to learn from one another. Let's even think about creating a scholarly publication outlet where we can publish theoretically based, empirically based research, so that we could communicate that not only amongst ourselves as scholars, but also amongst ourselves as practitioners.
Kristy: So we want to really bridge that gap between practitioner and research. And that was a conversation from the beginning. So we left that meeting and, the Financial Therapy Association was formed.
Kate: It was born there.
Kristy: It was born, it was born. So the paperwork was completed and, and the organization was formed. and also the Journal Of Financial Therapy came out of there, came about very shortly after. And so in collaboration and, in communication with K State libraries, so Kansas State libraries, they call themselves K State library for short. They were starting this initiative around open access publications and had a publisher and they called themselves a new Prairie press that was already in place. And so they had a platform in which we could start this at no cost. and so it could really be an open access journal, so no barriers to receiving information and no barriers to submitting articles or manuscripts for publication.
Kristy: So it's a free service. And so that really, really helped us be able to create a legit scholarly Journal that hopefully communicates empirical research as well as theoretically informed research to practitioners and to scholars so that we can continue to build upon what the work that's being done. And I want to note that at the time, it was difficult to get papers published on what I would call financial therapy related topics. a lot of the reviewers just didn't understand the connect. I remember getting back a review from a paper submitted to a Journal that just said 'I really don't understand the connection between these, why would you test these?' And it was like a relational variable and a financial variable. and so that was the feedback that we got at that point in time.
Kristy: And so we wanted to create a place, not just self published, but create a place where people around the country, could go to and have their work peer reviewed. and so there's some critical feedback that's provided to improve an article where just make sure that it's up to par and then be able to communicate and disseminate that to everybody.
Kristy: So that might've been a little bit more than you, you wanted to know.
Kate: No, that's great.
Kristy: I I think it's interesting.
Kate: It is. And I noticed when, before we chatted last time, I actually looked up the Journal of Financial Therapy and I was fascinated to see that it was open. And so I've linked to it in the show notes and I actually looked, and you can see that people around the world are downloading it. And it's had like 180,000 downloads over the years.
Kate: Like hundreds of downloads, I think it was in the last 24 hours whenever I'm look. So that just goes to show the need for it. And the fact that it's covering this huge breadth from the therapist to financial planners, you've got the practitioners in there. I mean, this, I would imagine is largely globally applicable information.
Kristy: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And I just want to note the multidisciplinary aspect of it. So I keep saying researchers and practitioners, but I mean, researchers and practitioners from mental health fields, as well as financial service fields. And it's interesting because even if you think about mental health fields, traditionally some of those fields don't really communicate well with one another. So you can put people into big camps of marriage and family therapy or psychology or social work.
Kristy: And this is bringing all of those different mental health disciplines together. and then the same is true with the financial services. So lumping broadly into financial planning and financial counseling, two areas that haven't traditionally really communicated together. And then we think about those particular fields. And you think about researchers and practitioners within each of those disciplines, then those groups of people within the disciplines don't communicate very well with one another. So practitioners often say, well, we don't understand what the research is trying to communicate to us, or that doesn't make sense for us. And vice versa, scholars would say, well these are the important things that we need to consider, and not necessarily always taking into account what's actually happening in the practical area in the real world. And so bridging those two, practitioners and scholars together and then bringing it in from multidisciplinary perspectives is incredible. and so I think that we try, we try really hard to do that.
Kate: And that's great. Cause I have read some academic papers and I've even seen presentations by people that wrote the papers. And I thought just what you were saying. I was like, okay, well I get the research. I was like, but how do I apply it? Or that doesn't actually translate into the practice side. So having that nice overlap makes it just that much more valuable.
Kristy: Yeah. And it's so valuable when you have someone who has that practitioner perspective, who is part of the authorship of a scholarly or empirical paper who can say, okay, yeah, let's take these findings and let's, what does that mean and how do we make those practical? And so that's been a really important task on my part as the editor of the Journal of financial therapy is you have to have an extremely strong implications section. the method section is there for the scholars and the results are there for the scholars, but that discussion and the implication section, that's how we communicate what that means to practitioners. And oftentimes there are practitioner reviewers that I asked to help do a blind peer review of the paper and say, Hey, you know what, does this make sense? How does this make sense? And what would you recommend to the authors of this paper?
Kate: That's awesome. So I want to ask, cause it's something I feel like I've heard my entire life, but I want to make sure it's not just something we continue to hear that the media puts out. Is it true that one of the biggest reasons for divorce still is around financial disagreements?
Kristy: Yes. So it is one of the biggest, one of the biggest issues. a lot of times it's one of, there's multiple variables that are are involved. but money is not necessarily always what causes the most fights, but it's what is most intensely fought about. And so I think that's where that comes from. So it's, it's really hard to track why people specifically are divorcing, but we do know that money disagreements are very intense and the most, probably the most intensely fought about topic, that couples do fight about
Kate: Versus like how someone loads a dishwasher incorrectly might be much more frequent, but not so intense.
Kristy: Exactly, exactly. Or parenting types of things and housework, you just mentioned the dishwasher. so a lot of those, those topics might get more frequently fought about, but when it comes to money, that's where the intensity ratchets up.
Kate: So why did it take so long for this intersection to happen between the therapy side and having couples that have these super intense fights about money that in one way or another can often lead to divorce or separation, and the financial planner side where they might see couples struggling but they don't have the therapy expertise.
Kristy: Yeah. That is a great question. that is a really good question. I guess from my perspective, it would be because we think about financial planning. So let's look at financial planning. It's a relatively young field. only until recently have we even recognized that having really strong communications skills with our clients is incredibly important. and financial planners are not trained to think about, or to recognize when relational issues come up. just like therapists are not traditionally trained to think about or recognize really money issues that come up. And so when money issues come up for therapist, or in a, in a therapy session, we might treat it as, it's just like any other problem that we might treat. So, maybe it's we need to work on better conflict resolution skills, communication skills, trust, trust within the relationship and all of those aspects definitely have considerations and are really strong pieces within the therapy aspect.
Kristy: But it's also important to know, have a little bit of understanding about money, because there are some things that, that you could, easily address. So someone's really anxious about their student loans or being able to apply for student loans. I'm thinking actually of an example that a colleague told me about when he was working with, and this always comes up in my mind. I tell students this story, it's not my own story. It's somebody else's story, but they were working with a client. And, it was a therapy student was working with a client who was experiencing extreme anxiety. And they were very worried about being able to access funds to go to a graduate school. Well, they thought that they, because their credit score was extremely low. And so they were working all through these anxiety issues and it wasn't improving, it wasn't improving. And so they asked a financial service provider to come in and to maybe help walk through some of these things. And, the financial service provider made the statement that your credit score isn't going to have an impact on accessing federal student loans. And it's like the anxiety disappeared and it was, was done.
Kristy: So it's really important to have some expertise in both areas to be able to really effectively work with your client. Likewise is true with financial planning. And so I think some of it is just that marriage and family therapy is relatively young, financial planning is relatively young. and so maybe it's just learning over time and then being willing to step out and talk to other professionals. I know when we met with those 25 people, 10, 11 years ago, and that's where the Financial Therapy Association was formed. Most of those individuals thought they were the only people in the whole country that were actually doing any sort of blended or crossover work. And they just thought maybe they were crazy or they were, they felt very isolated and alone, but they kept seeing these things come up. And so I think it just took a way in which people could connect and to communicate and to network for, there to be some movement in this, in this area. So that wasn't a very clear cut and dry answer, but I don't have a great answer.
Kate: But I think it highlights that as so often we talk about what are your centers of influence? For financial planners, usually lawyers and accountants are the primary go-to, making sure you can cross refer clients, but I think we very much need to add therapists in there and definitely having that cross-referral and I mean, of course you've got client confidentiality stuff, but where would you say to, since the audience is financial planners, where would you say is that point in which they should know to refer or recommend that a couple, an individual see a therapist?
Kristy: Yeah. I think when you see really red flags, when you start getting uncomfortable yourself, that's probably, you're probably actually past time to make that referral. And I think that's a good indication that if I feel uncomfortable stepping into this or working with these clients, why is that? What's telling you that? And it's possible that maybe it's that they appear to be difficult clients, they're resistant, they fight all the time, whatever it might be that makes you feel uncomfortable working with them. That's probably a good sign that working with a mental health professional or working with somebody who's a financial therapist would really, really be helpful. When you see clients not making progress towards their goals, what's getting in the way of that? Maybe they're not ready to move forward with their plan. So how do, how do they become ready in order to do that?
Kristy: And so maybe they need to be working through some, maybe they have differences around their beliefs about money, maybe it just seems like a very overwhelming task to take on to, to make changes to their retirement or whatever it might be, their estate, their documents. So whatever, some of those things that might seem like these are very basic, simple steps that you would recommend to any financial planning client might be extremely overwhelming to the actual client for a number of different reasons. And so if you see a client just continuing to not make progress towards their goals, I think it's really important to stop and ask why is that? And what's going on here and what a referral to another professional be helpful in this instance. And another professional meaning is this maybe a marriage and family therapy issue? Is this a psychology issue?Is this where is this coming from?
Kate: And financial planners aren't always going to know is this a psychology issue? Is this a family therapy? Is this a marriage issue? You know, and as everything is moving slowly, but faster in some places, towards these coaching conversations and having deeper conversations with your clients and getting to the heart of some of that, the line becomes thinner and thinner on knowing when you just don't have that expertise. And that's for clients, you cause a lot of people still have that stigma around seeing a therapist or seeing a psychologist. And so even making that recommendation, that can be a tough conversation to have with the client and how a client might react to it.
Kristy: Yeah. You know, sometimes I like to phrase it as maybe a relational expert that can help you walk through these things or relational consultant. and when you have those trusted people around you, that you are willing to make referrals to, and you have strong relationships to your clients are going to feel more comfortable with that as well. And if it's just a common part of our language and how we work with clients, then that's going to be normalized for our clients and going to make it easier, not only for you as a planner to make that recommendation, but also for your clients to receive that, that information too. So there's a lot of normalizing that has to go into making that referral that Hey, this is a pretty common issue for couples to not get along around money or to have difficulty making decisions together about money.
Kristy: You know, I have this colleague who's a relationship expert and they can help you walk through some of these relational aspects of improving or enhancing the relationship so that you guys can make better decisions or that you both can make better decisions around money, and help, hopefully help move you forward. So there's just has to be some normalizing that goes on around making a referral. And that's the case with any sort of, sort of professional, because that can be really stressful for the client. They think sometimes it's really stressful for us as practitioners because we might not ourselves understand exactly what different people, different professionals do, just like you mentioned. but the way you get to know that is get to know the professionals in your area. And just like you have maybe tax accountants, you have lawyers, you have whoever else you're commonly referring to.
Kristy: Just like you have relationships with them, you got to build those same sorts of relationships with the therapy or mental health professionals as well.
Kristy: The interesting thing to note that is that just like financial planners aren't necessarily skilled in working with relationships or with, individual beliefs around money that might be getting in the way of making progress, therapists are, I mentioned this earlier, therapists aren't necessarily trained in working with the money issues. And so that actually might be very scary for them, but you could consider proposing, maybe we work together with this client around these issues. And, how that might work can look a number of different ways. Then you come, maybe you invite a therapist to come in or relationship expert to come in, to work with you with these clients. Maybe that just becomes part of your practice from the beginning that, Hey, you know what, this is part of what we do. And part of what we offer part of this process, then how we go about doing this. It could be a one time thing where you can just refer out and say, Hey, I'm this person is an expert. And it would be a great idea if you go and see them, but, put it a little bit more eloquently than that, but it, for the sake of time, making those referrals can, can look a number of different ways and how you incorporate that can look a number of different ways
Kate: It can. And I'm seeing, I just kept picturing, I'm a very visual person, picturing a whole new sort of era of this financial planning crossover and just what a completely different experience it would be for clients. Cause even when you get into what do you want out of life? And that's something like a keynote presentation I give frequently is even advisors and planners looking at what do they want in life. And when you're talking with clients about goals, maybe they don't want to be married or maybe only one of them wants children. The other doesn't, maybe one of them wants to move to a different city. You know, you've got all those issues that might be more appropriately tackled in a therapy situation than always in a financial planning situation.
Kristy: Exactly. I often talk to my students about actually I just had this conversation last week with students that we don't walk around thinking, Oh, this is how I feel about money. This is how I think about money. This is what I believe about money. We don't have, we don't have those conversations with ourselves and we certainly don't have those conversations with other people. And so some of that drives the way we interact. A lot of that drives the way we interact with someone else. And so if we've never explored that and never gone into the why and those underlying issues, then how would we be able to interact with someone else? And I think the same is true with professionals. We don't commonly, think about financial planners and therapists don't think about 'what do I believe about money?What do I think about many? How do I feel about money? We don't necessarily go deep about those feelings. And so that actually can have an impact on how we interact with our own clients.
Kate: Yes. Yeah. And some of those unconscious biases that creep in because we have no idea we have them.
Kristy: Right. That's right. And so then we have all this countertransference stuff that's happening. And, and so that can cause some resistance and some con lift with our, with our own clients, even though we had no intention of that ever happening.
Kate: Wild. So I know the Financial Therapy Association has a designation, the Certified Financial Therapist level one. Is that it?
Kristy: Got it. You got it. So, yeah. So just rolled out the certified financial therapist level one, I guess last year. And, this is the first, first level of what is intended to be a multi or tiered structure of certification. And so levels two and three or, the next levels are in the end process of being worked on. But, I think this is a really huge step for financial therapy and Financial Therapy Association is to have a professional certification that signifies to consumers, that you have an understanding and you have a knowledge, you have knowledge about a number of different things that go beyond just either your financial planning concepts or just your mental health concept, depending on which domain you've been trained in. and so I think it's a good indication to consumers, and to other professionals that you do have this knowledge and that it exists. And, I think it's really, to me, it's really exciting to see where we were 11 years ago to where we are now, because when sitting around that room 11 years ago, we didn't know that, I think we thought it would be really cool. There would be some sort of professional certification, but didn't really know what that would look like or how would that come to be and so it's so exciting to see that happening now.
Kate: So does that allow people to walk that thin line even more, or, I mean, you would still need to refer out at some point.
Kristy: Yeah, exactly. So the level one certification isn't necessarily about practicing financial therapy, it's more about indicating that you have a knowledge area and that you understand when it really is time to make that referral. So, where you know how to make that referral, or you might have a skillset that's a little bit beyond what you are traditionally trained in, but yet you know that thin line and that you understand that thin line and you know, that when it's time to make that referral or make that step beyond. so that's really the certification of a level one financial therapist.
Kate: And I would imagine, is it currently only available to people in the US?
Kristy: It is, it's currently only available to people in the US however, there has been strong interest, from different countries as you might have imagined. And so I think we'll get there at some point, but it's really important to us to, okay, we're in the US and we need to figure out how to make this work well here. And then let's figure out how we can adapt this to other policies because every country has its own regulations and policies and what does a certified financial therapist look like in Canada or the UK.I t might drive really well with the = regulations that are in those countries, but it might be more difficult to adapt to a country like, I'm just picking on a country like Spain or Italy. So because of the regulatory environments are so different, it's hard to do that right now. so we're just focusing in on the US but eventually we do hope to make it more international.
Kate: Well, and in the meantime, I would imagine reading the free Journal of Financial Therapy and knowing that that's also geared towards practitioners and just understanding more of the research that's being done there, opening our eyes to what some of those issues are. You know, you talk about financial anxiety, generalized anxiety, depression, and financial distress, just, I think, understanding more of that and learning more about the things that we don't know about helps provide some of that clarity and awareness and helps define that thin line.
Kristy: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think it's important to some of the articles that you read, it's like, Oh, okay, there is this connection and actually, I see this with my clients. Oh yeah. You know, there was a study that was done on financial anxiety and financial behaviors so, Oh, there is a link there. Okay. So what can I learn from this paper that I can actually apply to apply in my practice when I'm working with this situation that I haven't previously known what to do or how to handle it.
Kate: Yeah. And I have to ask, so as a professor in the financial planning program, are you weaving in some of this therapy into the actual curriculum?
Kristy: Oh, you bet.
Kristy: Yeah. So I am a professor at the University of Georgia, and in fact, this fall, we launched what we are calling a behavioral financial planning / financial therapy track within our masters of financial planning program. So I know that's a lot of words.
Kate: There's gotta be a cute acronym in there somewhere.
Kristy: Yeah. We're working on that. so very excited that this track is being offered, because we are able to pull in those elements, and so the students might take or have already taken financial planning content. So all of the financial planning content that you would need to sit for the CFP, the certified financial planner examination. but this would be like a track that if you've already taken that, then on top of that, you could take courses in money and relationships, for example, financial therapy. and then you do a practicum and within our aspire clinic, which is a multidisciplinary clinic, where we actually are able to work with marriage and family therapy, nutrition, and legal problem solving. And so we're able to do some collaboration amongst those different disciplines. so I think it provides a little different perspective.
Kristy: Also in part of that there's a behavioral finance course that's offered, so there and financial counseling and communication. So those are some of the required courses that are part of that track. And some of those courses like financial counseling and communication are required as part of our, as part of actually all of our financial planning programs here at the University of Georgia. And so that's what we're doing here.
Kristy: Kansas State University, which is where I was previously, we started a graduate certificate and financial therapy that is still going very strong. and yeah, and so it's, it's very similar, it's offered entirely online. and so they do financial therapy, money and relationships courses, a research class around financial therapy. and so there's a couple of different opportunities. Creighton University offers a, financial psychology type of program. And so I'm sure you heard about that with Dr. Klotz. So, yeah, so there's a number of different, not a number, but a few different universities who are really on the cutting edge of incorporating this really important curriculum within their financial planning curriculum.
Kate: So with, I mentioned earlier, a lot of the conversations moving towards coaching and making sure that you're doing coaching with clients. What are your thoughts on coaching versus the therapy? Do you see it as two totally different disciplines? Is there some overlap?
Kristy: So I think that they're different, but I al