Financial therapy, like any other psychotherapy, can be intense. At the root of many destructive financial behaviors, such as overspending or under-earning, are a host of seemingly unrelated traumas that have never been acknowledged or addressed.
It’s essential, then, to provide a safe, confidential atmosphere for clients to examine these past issues. That is exactly what Dr. Ted Klontz and I have tried to do in our financial therapy workshops at Onsite Workshops in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, over the past five years.
This time, at our 18th workshop, that atmosphere was going to be different. A camera crew from ABC’s 20/20 news show was going to be on campus for the entire six days to tape the experience.
ABC first became interested in the workshop from a New York Times story on financial therapy that quoted Ted, his son, psychologist and researcher Dr. Brad Klontz, and me. In October 2008, the network aired a short piece on Good Morning America featuring Ted and Wynonna Judd, one of our early workshop participants. Then ABC asked us if they could get a more in-depth look during a workshop and feature it on 20/20.
As exciting as that was to us, the logistics were daunting. The dynamics of capturing the transformational experience without compromising the very elements that make such a transformation possible proved to be a challenge.
The core elements of the workshop consist of a balance of financial planning skills and experiential therapy. The financial planning skills cover the nuts and bolts of money management, providing for the future, and investments. Experiential therapy is the artful use of meditation, music, drawing, journaling, role playing, and other exercises designed for learning on a deeper, more intuitive level.
The purpose of the workshop is to help participants understand their money history, how their past is influencing their money behaviors, and what they can do to permanently rewire their brains to create a better and more fulfilling life. It includes intense emotional work that isn’t exactly compatible with the presence of cameras, bright lights, and film technicians.
The challenge was to allow filming while maintaining participants’ safety and confidentiality. After several months of negotiations, we agreed that ABC could interview the participants and film the lectures, group exercises, and group processing. The crew would not be allowed into the small group rooms where participants applied experiential therapeutic techniques to their personal stories.
Participants were informed of these guidelines prior to signing up for the workshop. Initially over 20 participants applied. Ten were in the final group.
Even with the protections in place to keep the experience as safe as possible for the participants, I was concerned. I didn’t know how having a camera present for about half the experience would affect the outcome.
As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. The crew was amazingly respectful and sensitive to the process. The participants were incredibly transparent with their stories and experience. The transformations that occurred during these five days were every bit as real and powerful for the participants as those in any of our previous 17 workshops.
ABC will conduct follow-up interviews with the participants over the next few months. We don’t know what the final product will look like, as they must edit over 25 hours of tape down to about 20 minutes. We have been told that the show will propably air some Friday in late July or August.
I admire the participants for their willingness to share this process with millions of people in order to let others know about the power of financial therapy to change their lives. This may be “reality television” at its best.