Larry Freeney is a Licensed Counselor who assists his clients in living their best lives. He does this by helping them overcome their negative self-talk, incompatible identities, and their restrictive life scripts. As a new AFC® certification candidate, Larry hopes to assist his clients with the financial aspect of their lives.

AFCPE: Tell us a little about your professional journey. What or who inspired you to pursue a career in counseling?

Larry: I began my pursuit of the mental health profession in 6th grade after my mom attempted suicide. I wondered what made people feel like taking their own life and I wondered how I could help them work through it. I pursued and completed a BA in Psychology and a MA in Counseling. I have worked as a Juvenile Supervision Officer for the Juvenile Justice Department, as a Behavior Technician (ABA) for Therapy and Beyond, as a Counseling Intern in private practice, and as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern at The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD.

I currently work as a Parish Counselor for Rejoice Counseling Apostolate. As I finish my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision at Sam Houston State University, I hope to continue to acquire new skills to help improve the lives of my clients.

AFCPE: Your current research is on perceptions and lived experiences of Millennials with student loan financial stress. At what point in your career did you recognize the overlap between mental health and financial health?

Larry: The overlap between mental health and financial health has been evident throughout my counseling career. People with poor financial health tend to have higher levels of anxiety and depression. Those with high levels of anxiety and depression oftentimes have issues handling their money. Many times, people are not taught what money is and, more importantly, how to use it effectively and efficiently. As those with poor mental health tend to neglect their physical health, many with poor mental health also have difficulties handling money.

AFCPE: Are you able to share any early findings from your research?

Larry: One study found that roughly 75% of adults suffer from some sort of financial stress. In another study, financial stress was cited as a contributing factor in over 78% of attempted suicides by college students. This is a staggering number. With the high correlation linking financial stress and suicide attempts in college students, I felt it was necessary to expand my skills to help clients work through both the mental and financial aspects. To not do so would be a huge disservice to those I serve.

AFCPE: Wow, those statistics are staggering, and really highlight the importance of this research. In what ways do you think personal finance education could benefit social workers and other mental health providers?

Larry: Personal finance education would benefit everyone. Those who do not learn to master money are doomed to be enslaved by it. Social workers and other mental health counselors would benefit from learning how to manage their own personal finances and to assist their clients in working through their harmful financial habits and the underlying mental health conditions. Just as all mental health counselors will work with addiction at some level, I believe all counselors should have the knowledge and the skills to work with basic financial literacy and education. To do otherwise, leaves a large gap in a counselor’s skillset, especially with the amount of financial stress prevalent today.

AFCPE: I’m curious, how did you learn about the AFC® certification program and what inspired you to pursue the certification?

Larry: I learned about the AFC program through a quick Google search. Three years ago, I went on a self-development journey where I decided that I wanted to learn everything I could about personal finance and, in turn, find a way to help others master this area of their lives. After reading up on the program and talking with the Director of Certification, I knew it was the program that would provide me with the skills and the credentials for what I feel called to do.

AFCPE: We are living in an uncertain time. What advice would you give to someone who is struggling – either financially or mentally – due to COVID-19?

Larry: First and foremost, give yourself grace. Do not be so hard on yourself. Most people are not able to be at their best now, and that is okay. Take everything a day at a time, keep a journal to process your daily thoughts and feelings, and spend some time in nature. Stay connected with family and friends and continue to dream about the future. Never stop dreaming.

Larry Answers the Friday 5

  • Your Why: To add over a million dollars of value to those in my life and to encourage them to dream a little bigger.

  • Your favorite quote: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” – Suzy Kassem

  • Your hero: Jack Bogle

  • Your favorite resource: ChooseFI Podcast, Book, and Academy

  • Your favorite advice:

    • For someone starting the journey to financial well-being: Wealth-building is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore, wealth is built one day at a time.

    • For a new professional: If you want to increase your wealth, add more value to others. If you want to make a million dollars, add one dollar of value to one million people.


Connect with Larry on LinkedIn.

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