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The Dreaded “T” Word

pioneer.jpgWell, I guess it’s official. According to three articles published this month in financial planning publications, I’m a pioneer.

Columnist Olivia Mellan said the integrated financial planning work we do at KFG is “the direction in which the planning profession will evolve.” Her article in the July issue of Investment Advisor Magazine discussed my method of doing “life planning” by incorporating therapy services into my practice.

Mellan’s conclusion comes on the heels of a similar one reached by Bob Veres, editor of Inside Information. His July issue featured my practice as well as that of Cicily Maton, CFP®, who also has expanded her financial planning practice to include “financial therapy.”

Referring to the idea of a financial planner/therapist alliance, Veres says, “We can now see where the evolution wealth-manager-top-dog-2007.jpgof life planning services is taking us–and how it may benefit [planners] and [their] clients more than you realize.” Later in the article, he adds, “My instincts tell me that this planner-therapist alliance may be the endgame for where the life planning service is going.”

The July issue of Wealth Manager Magazine also featured my work, saying, “Kahler has become a trendsetter and has grown accustomed to being told he is ’years ahead of the curve.’”

The disadvantage of being in the forefront of change is that you may look back and wonder if you are a leader without any followers. Unfortunately, most traditional financial planners and even some who do “life planning” are not embracing the notion that the future of financial planning will include adding a therapist to the team.

The attitude of the profession today can be wrapped up in the comments a peer reviewer used to describe a white paper I wrote on the topic. “The arguments that Kahler uses to suggest the future of the profession is in the planner-therapist relationship are well thought out and intriguing. I just hope he is wrong!”

Any time the word “therapy” is associated with any white paper, speech, or workshop that I’ve written or given, the interest level from financial planners decreases dramatically. When I’ve taken the same content but eliminated the word “therapy,” planners become more receptive. Part of the problem is that financial planners, like many other people outside of the mental health field, have a lot of misunderstanding and confusion over what therapy is and what it isn’t. Most of their impression of it is negative, which explains why most planners run out of the room screaming when the “T” word is mentioned. It will require some education within our profession before the “planner-therapist” connection will become mainstream.

In her column, Mellan accurately depicts this resistance. She refers to a discussion she recently participated in oliviamellan.jpgat a NAPFA convention. Advisors agreed there were many commonalities between financial advisory services and psychotherapy, but they were reluctant to even use the term “therapy.” According to Mellan, “This wariness has kept lots of advisors from taking greater advantage of what therapy professionals have learned.”

Holly Gillian-Kindel, CFP®, a financial planner from San Francisco, suggests that for most financial planners, the thought of working with a therapist feels challenging in three ways: financially, logistically, and psychologically. Holly suggests the biggest reasons planners resist alliances with therapists are, “worry that you might have to deal with your own psychological issues and letting another professional ‘in’ on your relationship with a client.” I think Holly has hit the nail on the head.

So, for the foreseeable future, clients wanting integrated financial planning, and the tremendous benefits it produces, will have only a handful of planning firms nationwide from which to choose. I am glad that Kahler Financial Group is one of those firms.

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