1. says

    This was a much needed post for me to read right right now. And although, I feel the post has actually has helped me, I am wondering how does an MFT work with only financial issues with a client? Isn’t it out of scope of practice? I have a client that I am really struggling with right now because when the client talks about financial issues, I always feel the need to focus in on the connection with his relationships (children, dating, etc.) instead of financial matters because MFT’s are required to work within the confines of a relationship issue. I have thought that discussing a budget would be completely out of scope of practice, just as discussing a diet with a client would be. I understand different psychology disciplines (LCSW’s, MFT’s, Ph.D, etc) are able to work with different issues. However, I have really been struggling with this because it has become more clear to me that my client only wants to discuss financial matters. As I mentioned, I am comfortable talking about financials with a client as long as they relate to relationships, but I have recently been feeling like a referral to a money coach is much needed in this particular case and that it is becoming out of my scope of practice. Could you please help me to understand how an MFT could ethically work with financial issues? How might I continue to work with this particular client under my license? And when it is appropriate to refer due to out of scope of practice? I very much appreciate this! Thank you.

  2. says

    Hello Laurel and thanks for your excellent comment. I am not an MFT so can not address how to incorporate money within the boundaries and ethics of your profession. However, I have always believed that therapists who avoid or ignore the financial component of the presenting problem/issue do a serious disservice to clients because money is a part of everyone’s life and by evading it the message to the client is that that is acceptable behavior when it absolutely is not and can only jeopardize progress and change in client work. I would be happy to discuss this further by phone or e-mail both of which can be found on our website. Thanks, Reeta

  3. says

    Hi Reeta,

    If I may interject, do you think you could please clarify how the guidance that you are providing via certification differs from that of a financial advisor (and when you would recommend referring a client to a financial advisor)? By doing so, you may help eliminate any concerns that a social worker or any other mental health professional may have.


  4. says

    Thanks Dorlee for providing me with the opportunity to clarify my response. It seems I neglected to explain that Financial Social Work students and graduates are taught that certification makes them more knowledgeable mental health providers with the ability to recognize how money factors into their clients’ problems and to integrate FSW in their client work; it does not make them financial professionals, planners or advisors. FSW graduates DO NOT give financial advice. Referrals are just as important a part of FSW as in all other types of counseling. Knowing and addressing the financial component of the client’s life and problems facilitates Financial Social Work practitioners in helping clients navigate the often intimidating world of finance and reduce the distance between a referral and a follow-up by providing compassionate, trustworthy resources and referrals in consumer credit counseling, bankruptcy, divorce, investing, etc. Many of our graduates do specialize in Financial Social Work but most integrate it into their traditional practices; most of our non-social work and non-counseling graduates use it in not for profit settings as part of financial literacy and asset building programs.

  5. says

    Reeta and Dorlee,thanks for this.

    I am sending this ASAP to my current and recently graduated supervisees. I make it a point to talk about money with them consistently in our supervisions and in the classes I teach. Every semester I hear students lament how they have gone through graduate school without anyone ever mentioning money or having a business plan!

    I usually tie this disconnect to our discussion of gender and how social work as a largely female profession has often re-enacted the paradigm women have encountered in their work and money lives: Be silent, don’t ask for money, and be grateful for what you’re given.

    As a male social worker I feel that part of my being an ally is to share the more privileged attitudes I was taught as a man: Speak up, you’re worth a lot, and go out there and knock ’em dead in your work. I try to correct folks gently when they call social work a “female-dominated profession,” because there is a big difference between higher numbers of women in our profession, and domination vis a vis power. Men in social work tend to have an easier time getting hired, command higher salaries, and advance more quickly than our female colleagues, and that is domination and privilege in my book.

    Reeta, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on the relationship between money and ambition, and issues you see arise from that relationship.

    Thanks again!

  6. says


    I could not possibly agree more with you on each of the excellent points you made and so appreciate your taking the time to share them. I believe that social workers have the education, training, experience and skills to truly be the best agents of sustainable, long-term financial behavioral change.

    Unfortunately, money is rarely a part of the social work curriculum (although I am hopefully making inroads to change that) as my curriculum is being taught at the University of Kentucky. Over the years, I have heard
    two prevalent themes from social workers: we shouldn’t talk to clients about money, and I have too many of my own financial problems to be able to help anyone else with his or hers.

    When you bring up the relationship between money and ambition I think you are raising the issue of self-esteem, self-confidence and sense of self. When those are lacking. people tend not to believe they can be successful. Instead they choose to remain in jobs they are unhappy with, as well as unhealthy and even toxic relationships, because they can’t imagine a better future for themselves. That isn’t lack of ambition but lack of self-worth, and it impacts every area of a person’s life by closing the door to hope. These feelings often result from confusing self-worth with net worth and what you have with who you are. I could go on.

    Money and change are complex topics individually, let alone together, but with the right training and understanding, it is possible to not only engage clients but to get them excited about taking control of their money and gaining control of their lives.

    I hope to continue this dialogue with you,

  7. says

    I agree completely that money is one of the last taboo topics, especially in social work. I also agree that social workers need to start by examining our own relationship to money. I’ve found that this comes up a lot with my consultees (especially women) who are establishing a private practice — they are very uncomfortable setting fee structures and most of them undervalue their work and their time. I’ve found that people’s beliefs about themselves and the world are usually reflected clearly in their relationship to money. It was always a topic that came up in my ongoing work with trauma survivors.

    Reeta, I’m intrigued by your new method, “Financial Social Work.” In this age where we (i.e., practitioners and educators) are being asked about the evidence base behind what we do, I’m wondering if you can point me to any outcome studies on Financial Social Work–I would be interested even in some good case studies that include behavioral outcomes.

  8. says


    I couldn’t agree more that all practitioners should know/want to know more about the evidence base regarding the methods incorporated in client work.

    In truth, the creation of Financial Social Work has required over fifteen years of my full-time attention to building the knowledge base, developing the certification and client program and addressing the needs of our students, graduates and the organizations implementing the work. It has been creative and rewarding work that has demanded unwavering dedication. However, only recently has it begun to be recognized for its relevance to the social work and counseling professions.

    I welcome any and all research of my model. Unfortunately, cost and access to research is limited. A very small research project was done through UNC Chapel Hill’s school of social work in 2009; I presented with the researcher at CSWE in Portland, Oregon in 2010 (I can provide you with the publication which resulted.) Currently, my model is being extensively researched in Pennsylvania. This project is a multiple-year undertaking working with clients in three transitional housing agencies and one behavioral health setting.

    The majority of the “evidence” on Financial Social Work is anecdotal. However, the countless client success stories (shared by our graduates) attest to how the work engages clients and facilitates financial behavioral change, as well as those personal stories shared by our graduates on how the certification has helped them to take charge of their own financial futures.

    Additionally, the large number of agencies and organizations who certify ten, twenty, thirty employees and/or even their entire staffs demonstrate the relevance and need for Financial Social Work’s behavioral approach. They serve as referral sources for FSW to other agencies, organizations and practitioners focused upon ending poverty, building assets and helping individuals to improve emotional and financial stability.

    I would be happy to put you in contact with some individuals who could explain how FSW makes a difference within their organizations, for their staff and for their clients. Just let me know.

    I hope this is helpful, Reeta


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