Mental Health: How Financial Advisors Help Clients Cope With Anxiety

Advisors know how to respond to clients’ financial concerns. But when the anxiety is related to mental health and has nothing to do with money, relationships can become strained.




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After nearly two years of pandemic-related stress, clients may feel adrift, fearful and uncertain about life in general. They may come across as unusually helpless, indifferent, or unable to think clearly and make sound decisions.

Counselors are not professional therapists, so no one expects them to provide mental health counseling. Yet they may find themselves at the front desk of a distraught customer looking for relief.

While some advisors dread such heart-to-heart conversations, others embrace them. Clients who confide in their advisor – and feel better afterwards – tend to stay loyal through thick and thin.

“You need to have a relationship where the client trusts you enough to discuss their feelings,” said Jay Zigmont, a certified financial planner in Water Valley, Mississippi. “You need to have this safe environment and make them feel comfortable discussing their feelings stem from.”

Resist judgment

To build trust, acknowledge a client’s emotions and sanity. Resist judgment (“You shouldn’t feel this way”) in favor of reflecting on the situation (“I can tell it’s hard for you”) and let people open up.

“You can’t rush to come up with a solution,” Zigmont said. “First, understand what’s holding them back on the emotional side.”

Gentle questioning allows counselors to get a better sense of clients’ concerns and mental health. Although respondents may hold back their deepest feelings, at least initially, caring about their well-being can in itself be comforting.

Stay calm and calm as you listen. Showing too much emotion right away can cause customers to shut down.

Dig to find out what drives mental health

Anxious people often want to let off steam. Giving them the chance to express themselves freely is a gift, especially if you seem genuinely attentive, eager to learn, and willing to tolerate pockets of silence.

“Pausing and letting silence fill a conversation is an effective way to give someone the space to share more,” said Elliott Appel, a certified financial planner in Madison, Wisconsin. “Instead of trying to fill every conversation with words, I verbally and non-verbally empathize with my body language.”

Encouraging clients to open up to you may not alleviate their mental health issues. But it will help you build rapport and set the stage for more revealing and candid exchanges.

Better yet, help them identify the source of their anxiety. Encourage them to examine why they are anxious and what is causing it.

“If you let them, they’ll let their guard down and share the pressures and challenges in their vision for the future,” said Mike Kurz, a certified financial planner in Frisco, Texas. “Acknowledge what you hear from them” and try to separate what is under their control from outside forces.

Even if they are struggling with worries, you can play a positive role by allowing them to reassess their mental health. Suggest that they adopt a larger goal through which they experience negative feelings.

For example, Kurz may ask an anxious client, “How would you rate your life on a scale of 1 to 10?”

“If they say ‘6,’ then I might ask, ‘Why not zero? What brings you to 6?'” he said. Acknowledging the rewarding aspects of their life reminds them to be grateful and puts their anxiety into a bigger perspective.

Know how childhood experiences affect mental health

Shifting a client’s focus from current worries to future happiness can reframe how they deal with swirling fear and uncertainty. Their mental health becomes less immobilizing if they conclude that conditions will improve over time.

Scott Alan Turner, a certified financial planner in Hudson Oaks, Texas, likes to ask his anxious clients, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years? »

At first, they tend to give vague answers. So Turner might go on and say, “Paint me a picture of what you see yourself doing 10 years from now.”

Guiding them to a better future lifts their spirits, he says. As they imagine themselves living more fully, they are better equipped to deal with current difficulties.

Like a therapist, Turner could also probe to find out why clients feel anxious. But rather than bombarding them with a battery of intrusive questions, he prefers to keep it simple.

“He tries to dig in and get them to understand where their feelings are coming from,” he said.

Inviting them to share childhood memories is a springboard for self-discovery. So Turner might say, “Tell me about your upbringing.

Highlighting lessons clients learned from an early age—or exposing long-held attitudes or beliefs they learned from family members—sheds light on how they respond to life’s challenges .

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