Advisory firms turn to life coaches, psychologists


Financial advisors are finding it beneficial, in various ways, to include life coaches and counselors into their operations. Some advisory practices are referring out or contracting with these professionals, while others are developing them from within.

“So much of my job includes conversations that are more life-oriented than financial,” said Doug Kobak, certified financial planner and principal and CEO of Main Line Group Wealth Management. When someone is at a senior level or running an organization, their personal and professional lives can become very blurred, he said.

“Clients sometimes need to step back and assess what their true goals are and to understand that not working 24/7 doesn’t mean they don’t care about their businesses,” Kobak added.

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To address this need, Kobak refers out to a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with clients to attain life balance. She provides counseling to help them look at where they’re putting their energy and why, he said.

“It takes me out of an area I’m not trained for — life planning,” Kobak said, adding he finds it “very complementary” to have an independent third party ask questions and sketch out a process to help clients reach psychological goals. “It opens the door for me to do more robust and realistic planning.”

Rick Kahler, CFP, owner of Kahler Financial Group, has formally included a contracted licensed professional counselor as part of his practice for many years, including him in team meetings for every new client.

“We do this to normalize the idea of a referral to a financial coach or counselor,” Kahler said.


Rick Kahler of Kahler Financial Group, an expert in financial therapy, provided definitions for two commonly used terms:

• Financial coaching: Helps clients look into the future they want to create, especially with respect to financial goals.

• Financial counseling: Helps clients look into the past at events that formed what they think, feel and believe about money.

Who is a coach?

Because financial coaching is a new discipline, coach training standards are still evolving. One way to evaluate coach backgrounds, said Holly Kindel of Mosaic Financial Partners, is to do a search on the International Coaching Federation site to determine if they went through an ICF-approved training program.

Who is a counselor?

According to the American Counseling Association, “professional counselors have a graduate degree in counseling. A master’s degree is the entry-level requirement. Counselors focus on client wellness, as opposed to psychopathology.” Counselors are a separate category from psychologists and psychiatrists.

One of the firm’s certified financial planners is in the process of becoming a licensed professional counselor, and will serve in both roles when she finishes next year. Currently practicing under supervision, she is providing financial counseling to clients, as well as teaching so-called psychoeducation classes to the staff. (Psychoeduction, in general, refers to providing those seeking mental health care, and their families or other concerned parties, with information related to suspected or diagnosed condition[s] and related issues.)

Kahler clarifies that his in-house counselors focus on clients’ psychological challenges around money and therefore do not provide life coaching or other therapy.

Holly Kindel of Mosaic Financial Partners is a CFP who became a life coach 10 years ago to enhance her financial advising effectiveness. She holds the Certified Professional Co-Active Coach credential from The Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California.

“It’s a win-win,” she said. “For the advisor, there’s a lot more clarity and purpose around what you’re doing and why.

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