Written By: Sarah M. Ellis, AFC®
As a financial counselor you may see clients that are experiencing a personal crisis. Personal crises come in many forms such as losing a spouse, a sick family member, or moving. The crisis may be related to their financial situation, but it could be related to something else entirely. No matter what the cause, providing financial counseling to a client in crisis can be challenging. Here are some tips for managing a client in crisis.
Sometimes people just need to vent. When upset or angry about something, sometimes it feels good just to get it out. Listen without judgement and pay attention to what is being said.
After you have listened, use empathy and reflection to respond. Some simple but empathetic responses you can use include:
“I’m sorry you are experiencing this.”
“This must be very difficult for you.”
These simple responses can help your client feel heard and validate their emotions, which helps them feel valued and understood. Additionally, reflection allows you to verify that you heard things accurately. Ask questions to help determine what your client needs to be able to cope with the crisis. Once you have identified the issue or problem, then help your client develop a plan to move forward.
Using active listening is a great way to support your client and can help reduce the stress they are experiencing. Engage your client to help identify solutions and provide relevant resources. At times, it can be helpful to ask the client how they wish to be supported. This can give you and your client a clear path towards the next steps.
Once you have provided the client with resources, check in with them to see how they are progressing. Ask your client how they are doing and if they need any further resources.
Action Plan = Hope
Those experiencing a crisis may believe that their life is a gigantic mess! Or they may make poor decisions which can make the situation worse. An organized action plan with detailed steps can help organize and reframe the situation for them.
When creating the action plan, involve your client and look at all available options. Have a clear understanding of the current situation and where the client wants to be. Where is the client now and what is their goal?
Set both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals may be as simple as getting through the next week. A long-term goal might be paying off a credit card. If the client is struggling with developing goals, a vision board may help them flesh out what they want to see in their future.
Lastly, focus on the positive! During times of stress, it can seem impossible to find a positive. However, positive thinking can help reduce stress and help with coping. As a financial counselor, you can play a role in helping develop positive thinking in your clients. Help clients identify where change can occur and how that change will affect them positively. Ask them what they believe the issue is? Use humor and help them go from negative self-talk to positive thinking. For example, if a client says, “I have never managed my money right” a positive thinking response is “here is an opportunity to learn something new.”