Wendy [00:00:03] I like to delineate. Guilt has a remedy and shame has a spiral. And when we look at it that way, then we’re seeing that spiral. By knowing it’s shame, then you can use your shame-coping tools. Guilt has a remedy. Let’s say you double-charge someone. You ran their card twice and you’re like, I’m so sorry. So you credit one. That’s a remedy.
Linzy [00:00:28] Welcome to the Money Skills for Therapists podcast, where we answer this question How can therapists and health practitioners go from money shame and confusion, to feeling calm and confident about their finances and get money really working for them in both their private practice and their lives? I’m your host, Linzy Bonham, therapist turned money coach and creator of the course Money Skills for Therapists. Hello and welcome back to the podcast. Today I have with me Wendy Wright. Wendy Wright is a financial therapist and today we get into looking at money and money stories on both sides of the therapeutic relationship. So what does it look like when, a therapist, when our money stories are coming up and impacting the therapeutic relationship? What can that look like? What does it look like when money stories are coming up for our clients and how do we sometimes maybe miss those cues? What are the cues to look for? To show you that your client is maybe trying to talk to you about money or there’s something that bears slowing down and paying attention to an opportunity to support your client with money. And then Wendy also shares some of the principles of financial therapy to be able to start to have these therapeutic conversations with our clients. She points out that in the United States, there’s only a thousand financial therapists in the whole of the United States. So if you’re listening and you’re a mental health counselor or doing other kinds of like coaching and support with folks, the more that we can be, you know, supporting our clients with having some of these financial conversations, the better for everybody because this is a resource that is lacking. So if you find yourself uncomfortable when clients bring up money or if you think maybe you’re skipping over money in your therapeutic conversations, or if you know your own money stuff might be showing up in your therapeutic relationships, there’s going to be lots for you in this episode. Here’s my conversation with Wendy Wright. So, Wendy, welcome to the podcast.
Wendy [00:02:35] Thanks Linzy. I’m happy to be here.
Linzy [00:02:36] Yeah, I’m happy to have you. So, Wendy, before we kind of like, you know, dig in to all the great financial therapy stuff we’re going to talk about today. I’d love it if you could tell folks a little bit about financial therapy and what you do.
Wendy [00:02:50] Yeah, absolutely. Because I kind of stumbled upon it, to be honest, years ago. It’s probably almost been a decade now, believe it or not. But I was working in eating disorders. I’ve been a therapist for over 20 years. And what I began to see- because before I was a therapist, I was in mortgage banking. I have a business undergrad, so and I’ve been a realtor. So I had like this money is comfortable to me to talk about. So I started noticing people with struggling with food issues that they would symptom-substitute to money issues, but they were using the same language like if I buy this shirt, I will look thin versus, you know – and I’m completely oversimplifying for the sake of time – eating disorders. So please, everyone hear that. But so I started to see this parallel relationship. I’ve actually got a workbook, found on my website, called The Intersection of Money and Milkshakes, and that’s a presentation I’ve done where there’s some specific, really cool parallels. And then I began to do this work and really began to uncover the power of sitting in a therapeutic session or setting and talking about money in a way that is different than any other sort of place that you can typically talk about money because there is absolutely no judgment. So my practice is financial therapy solutions because we do both consulting and therapy and sort of different different types of ways of bringing in this therapeutic approach. And that is kind of how I stumbled into it.
Linzy [00:04:18] Okay. So, you know, thinking about money then, and the therapeutic relationship, and thinking about kind of two sides, right? Because like, I usually- I’m working with folks who are on the therapist side of the chair, right. Or the health practitioner side of the relationship. And like how our money stuff shows up. But you’re also thinking about like serving folks from a client perspective, right? Like clients coming specifically to talk about money. So I’m curious, Wendy, from your observations and experience, how does money stuff come up and show up on both sides of those therapeutic or treatment relationships that we have with our clients, both with us and with them?
Wendy [00:04:56] Yeah, it really does. And it’s so helpful to pause and recognize this because we are, as therapists – and I have therapists as clients and clients that are clients – but we are as therapists – that was great scientific – in a business, as you know. And that is one of the things that’s really hard now. You know, I have an undergrad in business, so for me the business part was easy. I wanted to read The E-Myth, which is a business book. You know, I like doing spreadsheets, but most of my clients crawl under the desk when I say the word spreadsheet, you know? So it’s important to know that. But with therapists, too, one of the most important things that we want to start with is knowing your money story. And that can be, you know, spending six months diving into every detail or maybe 6 hours just journaling about it, just getting to know – I use the money timeline – and then kind of like look at the key moments where we can see that. Because when we are working with people who we are giving them a service and we are collecting money for it, the higher level of discomfort is often shown, especially for therapists in the number of uncollected bills, you know, uncollected receipts. Yeah. And I’m working with a therapist, like whatever kind of platform they use sometimes in session, we will go in, we’ll share a screen because I work all virtually. We’ll share a screen, will go into that pay now or that button that they click to actually collect their – either whether it’s a co-pay or.
Linzy [00:06:25] Yes. Yeah,.
Wendy [00:06:26] Yeah. And sometimes it can take a whole session just to push that button, you know? Right. So if we’re scared to take the money, then we’re also scared to ask for the money. But what that does on the flip of that is that it’s kind of transferring all that fear and avoidance to your client. But it leaves your client- you don’t know their money story yet because, for one, you’re probably not going to ask if you have some money, you know, fears and stuff. Or also they haven’t come to me to talk about it and come in to you and say, Here’s my money story, you know, but you don’t know it. So coming into it, getting a little separation from it, where you can say if you went to a restaurant and bought some food and they said, Here’s your food, I’ll get around to- I’ll charge you at some point. Right? Then you’re sitting there looking at your bank balance week after week after week going, “When is that $58 charge gonna hit?”, you know.
Linzy [00:07:19] Yes. Yes.
Wendy [00:07:20] So we want to create a comfort in looking at- I encourage therapists to look at the fee agreement as a kind promise. I don’t want to create a lot of shame around promise because sometimes promise can bring up that. But the kind agreement where that is part of the deal, that’s part of the way you’re building trust is you’re saying this is going to be X number of dollars and then it’s collected that day. Or if you’re- a lot of therapists are really scared to raise their rates or really scared to say their rate out loud. Maybe we practice just saying their rate out loud, too, especially if they’re going from insurance to private pay. I will do that with them, too, because that fear and anxiety can keep them from doing it. Or they’ll spend- I’ve had therapists spend hours and hours and hours writing up a disclosure explaining why their fee is what it is and all this kind of stuff. So that is kind of putting this pressure on the client to understand, Oh my gosh, this is a very big deal or whatever. Because you don’t know their story well.
Linzy [00:08:21] And like, what I’m really thinking about and hearing here is like on this side, because we think about the clinician side right now, a lot of what you’re talking about is making our problem their problem. Yeah, right. Like if I’m scared of collecting fees and so I’m avoiding it. I’m also, you know, either creating a situation where my client is like, what’s happening? Is that money coming out or I do finally collect and now I’ve suddenly collected 500 bucks at once and they have like, totally forgotten that they owe me for those sessions. So now I’ve created like a financial hiccup or stressor for them because I was avoiding money. And it’s the same as, you know, you’re talking about raising fees too, it’s right- if I’m making a big emotional deal out of it, if I’m over-explaining and telling them about my kid’s need for special therapy because I’m so like, so don’t want them to think that I’m trying to take money from them. I’m putting like an emotional weight on this interaction and I’m kind of like oversharing or there’s like a boundary piece there that we can be crossing of asking our clients to, like, emotionally understand us or forgive us. That, I’m going to say, is not therapeutic.
Wendy [00:09:29] Right, right, right. For the therapist either. Because usually this is- if this is what’s happening, they’re losing sleep. You therapists, you know what we’re talking about. Raise your hands. Raise your hand. You’re probably driving while you’re listening to us. But you know what? Like the more you’re losing sleep over it, the more you are perseverating over it, you know, the more- And so here’s one of the things that I like to really bring up with money, too, because that’s usually an indicator we have some shame involved. So I like to delineate, guilt has a remedy, and shame has a spiral. When we look at it that way, then we’re seeing that spiral, that perseveration, that like writing about it over and over again, and all this kind of stuff that kind of tells you. By knowing it’s shame, then you can use your shame-coping tools such as maybe some meditation, some self-compassion – love self-compassion – all that. Guilt has a remedy. Yes. Let’s say you double-charge someone. You ran their car twice and you’re like, I’m so sorry. And so you credit one. That’s a remedy. And so looking at the difference between the two. But if you let’s say you double-charge someone and then go into the I’m a bad therapist spiral. You know, then you want to pull in whatever healing or, you know, kind of what you need to do to heal from that, too. That makes sense.
Linzy [00:10:47] Yeah, it does. It does. And I think it’s a really helpful distinction to make. You know, when we are having reactions, to ask ourselves, like, wait, which one is this? Right? Because with guilt too, I think about times where I was late for a client session, for instance, like I remember one client session where I had this client who was just like very quiet and kind of shy, and I went out to the waiting room to, like, get myself some tea. I’m like, do, do, do, do, do. But all this time she’s sitting in the waiting room, I think, Oh, she’s so early. I go back to my office. Do, do, do, do, do I like, go work on some notes, and then I realize, oh my God, our appointment was earlier today. We had changed the time, and she was so shy and like, didn’t want to impose. She just sat there and just waited for me until I came out. And like, that’s a situation of guilt where I didn’t go into the shame spiral of like, I’m the worst therapist in the world. I was just like, Oh, that’s not it. So at the end of our session, I, like immediately remedied it. And even though I still met her for the full time, I credited her back that amount and I said, Your time is valuable. That was my mistake. I’m crediting you back that time. And I think about how me being able to take action because it was guilt, not shame. Being able to take immediate action can actually be very therapeutic for people, right? Like that was actually a very healing experience for her. And she emailed me afterwards to thank me for like the respect that I showed in being able to fix it. And so that’s like, you know, when we can fix it. But when we go into that shame place, we get paralyzed and then it becomes what started as a problem becomes more of a problem if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing and we stay in that spiral. So what I’m hearing there is like this is a great illustration of how our stuff can become therapeutic stuff. I’m also curious, when do you- like when we’re sitting in our therapist’s chair and we’re talking to our clients, what are some of the clues that we can tell their money stuff is present and there’s maybe opportunity there to dig into that with our clients.
Wendy [00:12:37] Yeah. Hmm. So where I would like to take this is to a couple of things. One, as I’m training therapists to be financial therapists, in putting this together, I created ten principles of financial therapy. And the first one, it has to be first. The rest, I don’t care what order they go in, but the first one is abundant compassionate curiosity and zero judgment. And so whenever- to me that is sort of like the tool to have in your pocket. Most of us already have that tool as a therapist about a lot of things. People can talk about sex, they can talk about trauma, they can talk about childrearing, all these kind of things. And we are attuned to quickly not judge mostly. But when it comes to money, if we’re not aware of our money keywords and our money story, then we may transfer those over. So if someone says, for instance, that they went to buy something and it was expensive or it was cheap, we’ll just kind of mess around those two keywords. So what I encourage therapists to do is to have a very smart kind of play therapy approach. I still remember in play therapy, they were like, Hey, if a kid picks up a dinosaur and says it’s an airplane, you’re like, It’s an airplane. You know, like, you just go with it because it’s the meaning. And if someone says something is expensive and they say, Oh, well, I got these shoes and they were really expensive. And then they say, well, they were, you know, and you find out later they were under your threshold of expensive, let’s just do that. So we’re not applying numbers here. Sure. Then your initial response may be, oh, that wasn’t expensive, because you want to let them off the hook. Because it wasn’t expensive, because it didn’t meet your threshold. But what is important is that they saw it as expensive.
Linzy [00:14:17] Right.
Wendy [00:14:18] So really recognizing that, asking them not being afraid to say what feels expensive to you, they’re like, oh, anything over $20 is expensive. You’re like, okay. Then you’ve got their reference point. Whereas if everybody’s a little bit different, the next person may come in and say, Yeah, I got these tickets and they were really cheap. And you want to say, what’s cheap to you? $20, you know, same dollars. But in therapy, it’s relative. You really want to know what’s relative Because what happens, for instance, you know, if you notice, your client is often saying, I went and got so-and-so, but I had a coupon or it was on sale or something like that, they’re telling you something. They’re not giving you shopping tips. But if you don’t- if you haven’t worked through this yourself, you may look at this and you may be like, What’s that website? I want to write that down. I want that sale, you know, because you have a belief that everything has to be on sale. So then you want to see it. So you don’t want to transfer that, but you want to say, what do you notice? You know, just they’re repeating a pattern to you. What do you notice? That everything has to be marked down. And then there’s some beauty there, you know, that’s therapeutic. Again, you’re approaching it with that compassionate curiosity, no judgment, so that they can have that and you’re not transferring your belief or your threshold. I talk a lot about thresholds, but I’ll pause and see if that makes sense before I go into thresholds.
Linzy [00:15:44] Yes, yes, yes, it does make sense. And I do think that is a really helpful reminder, because I think many therapists have not worked through our own money stuff. Right. And so that is an interesting observation that you make that somebody says something and we want to move on from it. Like we’ve missed the fact that there’s richness there. Right. There’s something, there’s a reason they’re telling us this or like there’s beliefs there that warrants exploration. But if we are not comfortable with money, we’re going to want to skip over it. Right. And find a way to be like this isn’t relevant to the clinical information. Where’s the clinical information? And so I love pointing that out, that there there’s something there to be explored. And so, you know, pay attention if your clients are talking about how much things cost, what is that.
Wendy [00:16:31] Or any kind of repeated words about it. Okay. So many things. So I want to talk about thresholds, but that also kind of brings up well, let me talk about thresholds, because this is important to really recognizing a lot of people have mental price marks or thresholds and they don’t even realize they do. And this is where, for therapists, from where you are, sitting in the chair, looking at your price point. So just doing a meditation, just doing a journaling exercise will help you bump into what is your threshold. Or it could also be called a block. It could be, you know, this invisible ceiling of, what if I charge 100 an hour? Or what if I charge 125 an hour? What if I charge 150 an hour? You know, like really going through and writing down each of those and you’ll hit the one of. Well, I’m not worth that. Right? That’s a block. It’s a threshold. It’s like I can’t charge stacks. I’m not worth it. And so it’s helpful to see that or if someone is- a lot of times now financial therapy, just parenthetically, it’s not it’s not coaching or advice giving. So somebody may say, I just can’t get my money together. That is not an invitation to come in and give them a budget. In fact, as you might imagine, one of the principles of financial therapy is kind of that idea of budget is to money, what diet is to food. So we want to move away from any sort of boxing in any way. But I know some therapists will feel compelled to come in and show them or if they say, I can’t figure out how to pay for my session. You know, some therapists will go in and say, well, let’s write down all your expenses and let’s write down all your bills. And then what you’re going to see is, well, no, they can’t afford to pay, you know. Then what are you going to do? But also, that’s not therapy. That’s not financial therapy. It’s coming in, going, What do you notice? How does this feel? How do you work towards solving this? You know, that kind of stuff, too. So looking at that, looking at not giving me a problem solving and also recognizing a lot of people spend under their- I’m allowed to spend under 50, anything that’s under $50 is fair game. Anything that’s under $100 is fair game. That’s a threshold. In other words, it’s like anything under $100 I get to ignore and avoid. And everybody’s a little different.
Linzy [00:18:46] Yes. Yes. And those threshold pieces, you know, when you notice threshold, like, for instance, talking about fee threshold, because that’s obviously something that therapists think about a lot. Yes. If you are doing that journaling and you notice like, I’m allowed to charge 150 an hour, that’s fine. But if I go up to 190. That’s too much. That’s too much. What is the next step for a therapist once they’ve identified where a threshold is?
Wendy [00:19:12] Yeah, a couple of different things that I encourage them to do first. Just sit with it. So that’s a big part. You know, this is therapeutically we’re slowing the process down, so sit with it. Then the next part might be to do the math on an annual basis and see how that number hits you. So maybe 190 an hour equals, you know, whatever. I cannot do math while I talk. But really recognizing, okay, what does that mean? And then also what they’re not asking- where I help therapists, where I encourage them to start is before you think about the clients, just sort of close that curtain a little bit and let’s look at your home. What is the money you want to bring home? What is the money you’re wanting to contribute to your family? And sometimes they can’t even touch that yet. So until we can touch that, we can’t set a fee. You know, so we’re setting a fee based on some beliefs. But, you know, and mindset is a belief that may or may not be a truth. So we’re setting a fee based on that, based on what we’ve read or what we’ve seen or whatever. But I really want you to come back and say, what does your family need to make the family work? Often that’s been hugely avoided and they’re just using their therapy as a stopgap for solving problems and surviving at home. Right. And that’s painful. And then you’re always on edge. And then a client doesn’t pay. And it- you know, it’s a Jenga game at home, and you’re just like, boom, there it goes. So we want to start with that. Then we want to come back into also look at your story. Where did that become too much money or something like that?
Linzy [00:20:52] Yes. Yeah. And, you know, with that piece at home, something else that I noticed with that piece is like also when you don’t know how much you need at home, the tendency can be that nothing is enough, right? Because you’re like, I probably need more at home, right? And so, you know, when we’re just like pulling – like lots of folks who come into Money Skills, and I’m sure you see this behavior, too, in the folks that you support – they’re just pulling money from the business whenever they need to pay a bill at home. So there’s no clarity on how much is actually needed at home. But also there’s just this kind of like urgent, almost like vortex nature to the home finances where it’s like I just feed the monster as much as I can, which means and you know, clinically what that means is like you are probably saying yes to folks when you’re too tired, you’re overbooking your week, you’re agreeing to times that really aren’t great times for you to work because you don’t want to say no to the money because it’s like more and more and more. And it’s such a losing game, right? Like it’s it’s so unsustainable to not have that clarity. But I do agree, like it is kind of almost like a black box for some folks of just like home finances can feel very scary to look at, to like, get real about their numbers. Even folks who’ve done quite a bit of work and thinking in the business, home can still feel very loaded and heavy.
Wendy [00:22:06] Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Because so often we’re split. We have sort of I mean, I will confess I have a business mind. And then I have a home mind. They don’t always talk to each other.
Linzy [00:22:16] No, absolutely. Yeah. And like, something that I encourage folks to do, which is kind of a- it’s a bit of a stopgap measure, but it does help, is like if you do have the business stuff working, like use that to power up your personal goals while you’re still working on the home finance skills. Like pay for your retirement from your business. As if your business self is super good with money, but home self it’s still blurry or there’s issues because partner has different ideas about money because there’s all those dynamics too. At least use that machine to take care of you financially while you’re working on like the personal finance stuff. Because it takes a minute. Right. Like there’s a lot of pieces to untangle there. Yeah. So, Wendy, I want to hear one more. Can you give me one more of the principles of having these conversations with clients?
Wendy [00:22:57] The principles of financial therapy, well, yes. So, gosh, I love them all. They’re like my little children. Although-.
Linzy [00:23:06] I know there’s ten, so I’m like, let’s be selective. I know you love them all, but what’s your favorite?
Wendy [00:23:09] Well, I really like this one because this is where I often wind up starting with people is a plan is only as good as the adjustment process. And this comes out of how many times- and again, people listening, don’t raise your hand, I know you’re driving because I was driving earlier today and listening to you, so. How many times you’ve started a pretty multicolored budget, quote unquote, air quotes, budget. And we want to look at where did it dissolve? Because usually it dissolves in the first 30 to 90 days. So we want to come back to that. Typically, what I have found is it dissolves because there’s not an adjustment process. So it looks really pretty. Yes. But we’ve got to know how to adjust it, whether it be for ourselves, our partner, life partners or business partners, whatever. And so the adjustment process is what I work with clients on a lot before we even get to a plan. And, you know, I know this frustrates the hell out of them. They’re just like, Can we get to the numbers, get us some homework, you know? And I’m like, Yes, we’ll get there. Trust the process, which I know is horrible for us to say no. So it’s so true. So but really understanding and the adjustment process is a lot about, in short, communication skills. So we’ll just say that because we want to use good communication skills and also about knowing where we want to go. So a lot of money is done by looking in the rearview mirror and going, What the hell just happened? You know? But we want to look out. We want to look out at least 12 months. And this can be done. It can be done. It feels daunting, but it can be done. And so we start with that kind of idea and begin to create something that’s more mindful and meditative.
Linzy [00:24:51] Yeah, I like that. Yeah. With that adjustment piece, too, when do you like, I’m curious if you also see this. Like, I see so much perfectionism and rigidity come into our relationship with money and then with a budget, because I know folks will have, you know, this question as they’re working on budgeting methods in Money Skills for Therapists. It’s like, But what do I do if it changes? And as it will, it is going to change. They will change, right? Yes. So it’s like, that’s not a failure. If your budget doesn’t look to plan, it’s that like being with and being flexible and yeah, the adjusting that actually makes something sustainable, right? Because we’re humans living human lives.
Wendy [00:25:31] Yeah. I think normalizing that is a huge part of what you and I are doing. We’re just saying yes, absolutely. It’s probably one of the most frustrating things that we say to professionals because I will say right off the bat, money work is never done. It’s never done. Yeah. So we’re building you know, think of it in terms of a framework. That’s why I like percentages instead of like- and also we want to look at how many times the word “should” comes up. So if they’re building their budget off of what Google says a family of three or whatever should be spending, yes, we already are going to have a problem. So look at that. We want to spend some time and yeah, first with our own spaghetti on the wall, see what sticks. Okay, so maybe we thought X number of dollars was a good target and then we found out that it’s really more like this, taking that shame out and also taking that image, that idea that there was some malicious intent somewhere because there just wasn’t. We’re all just trying to figure it out as we go. So really softening that compassion can make a big difference too.
Linzy [00:26:35] Mm hmm. Beautiful. Wendy, I’m so glad you came on the podcast today. It’s been wonderful having you. For folks who are listening, where can they find you? They want to get further into your world.
Wendy [00:26:44] Absolutely. So Financial Therapy Solutions dot com is the website and there are currently a couple of workbooks on there if they want to dive into this a little bit. And then also I’m working- they’ll be links by the time this comes out. Awesome links for a foundational course to begin that process because I stay full most- there’s like there’s, I think less than 100 financial therapists. We need more. So hopefully this has at least helped more therapists just begin to open up some money dialogs at least. So I’m working on a course that will help with some of the foundational, some of these things, some exercises and worksheets and things like that, that will take this to the next level.
Linzy [00:27:24] Wonderful. Okay, so folks, go to Wendy’s website, get her freebies, watch out for her course. Thank you so much for joining me today, Wendy.
Wendy [00:27:31] You bet. I loved it.
Linzy [00:27:46] In my conversation with Wendy, something that really sticks out is just this piece about how, as therapists, we can kind of skip over opportunities to talk with our clients about money. Right. We avoid things if we haven’t done the work. Which means, conversely, if we do our own work and if we are digging into our own money stories and basically building up our own tolerance to be curious about money and be with money in our own lives, that can also translate into our therapeutic relationships. Right. And we know, I hope, you know, listening to this podcast, that money is such an important part of our lives and such an unavoidable part of our lives that can be so loaded and so stressful. So I get excited thinking about, you know, folks listening today, this week, when you’re in sessions with your own clients and just having an ear out for opportunities where somebody might be giving you some clues that talking about money would be helpful for them and working on your own tolerance to sit with and be curious about. And like Wendy said, not trying to skip over it, you know, matching it with your own thoughts about money or putting your own money stories into that. But having that kind of open curiosity that we would have if a client mentioned something about a relationship or food or their sexual relationship with their partner, just have that like openness to give your client a chance to maybe tell you something that they really need to talk about, but they don’t know how to tell you that they really need to talk about it. I like that idea of a bit more financial therapy happening in the world because of this conversation with Wendy. So so I appreciate her joining me today. You can follow me on Instagram at @moneynutsandbolts. And you know what I’m going to say. If you’re enjoying the podcast, I would so appreciate if you jump over to Apple Podcasts and leave me a review is the best way for other therapists and health practitioners to listen in and benefit from these conversations. Thanks for listening today.