5 Steps A Therapist Uses To Recognize Their Own Financial Trauma


  • Jacent Wamala is a licensed therapist who decided to become a financial mindset coach.
  • Wamala’s pivot in her career began with certain choices she made to mend her relationship with money.
  • She recommends identifying your blockages, changing your mindset, and writing down your feelings.
  • Learn more about Personal Finance Insider.

Jacent Wamala is a licensed marriage and family therapist who decided to become a “money mindset coach” with the goal of helping people improve their relationship with money.

Originally, Wamala had not planned for this career change, but while she was in college, her father died and she got divorced, which caused her to accumulate a large debt.

After reading “The Smart Money Woman” by Arese Ugwu, her perspective on money began to change. That’s when she wrote on a piece of paper that she wanted to be debt free in three years and have a net worth of $70,000.

Wamala became intentional to repay his debt. But, as she paid off over $60,000 in debt in 3 years, she unpacked some of her financial trauma.

Since then, she has helped many clients do the same. Wamala shared five strategies with Insider to help anyone improve their relationship with money.

1. Identify your financial trauma

Wamala said improving our relationship with money starts with understanding the experiences that gave us blocks about money.

“How you think about money is going to shape your experience,” she said. “It affects what you think is possible for you, or what you think you deserve.”

She said these blockages can come from all kinds of negative experiences.

“Financial trauma could be caused by the death of a family member without a will or an estate plan in place, which would create hardship for the family,” Wamala explained. “On the other hand, it could result from growing up with a lack of money.”

Wamala suggests writing a letter to describe your relationship with money to identify financial trauma. Next, you’ll want to think about what it might be related to, taking inventory of your relationship history with money.

“Growing up, how did people talk about money or interact with money around you?” Wamala asked. “If everyone in your family said money was evil, that’s probably why you think you shouldn’t make a lot of money.”

“Very often people recreate experiences from the past in their present,” she added. “Taking inventory allows you to separate what happened in the past from where you are in the present moment.”

2. Change your thought processes around money

Wamala discussed the importance of changing your mindset about money once you identify your financial trauma. This may involve rethinking how you talk about money, educating yourself, and thinking about your financial life.

“I had a lack of money mindset,” Wamala said. “As a result, I lacked clarity and vision for my life and my money. I see a lot of parallels my clients have on this.”

Wamala shared that she only made $17,000 the year before she started her debt-free journey. But once she started to change her mindset and became intentional about her finances, she said she had tripled her income by the end of the following year.

3. Find helpful resources and supportive people

“Financial trauma is like quicksand – it’s hard to work through it on your own,” Wamala said.

She stressed the importance of using resources such as books and podcasts, and added that it’s really important to find people on the same path as you to improve your finances.

This support system can exist through a community, or even through specific people in your life who support your journey.

4. Redefine your rules of engagement with money

Wamala emphasized the importance of creating a conscious plan for your finances. Relying on systems will help you learn how to build resistance to your unhealthy financial habits.

Ask yourself what you want your money to do for you. then figure out what you need to do to make it happen.

“When I get paid, a certain percentage is always transferred to my savings. I have already set up the system for my 401(k) to withdraw a certain amount from my paychecks. I have a monthly money meeting on the calendar to check my accounts and make sure everything is fine. And I make a plan for what I want my money to do next month,” Wamala said.

Once you have the systems in place, you can make room for other things. If you tend to overspend or really struggle to spend, for example, Wamala suggests setting aside a specific amount of money to spend on yourself.

“Look at your money every day. It’s so much easier to make a habit of doing something every day. Look at your bank account and your expenses, even for five minutes a day. At some point there will be a change because you’re going to understand how you feel when you look at your bank account. You’re going to see charges that aren’t supposed to be there, and you’re going to want to do something about it,” Wamala said.

5. Write down your feelings before and after setting financial goals

Wamala suggests writing you two letters in a year. In a letter, you will congratulate yourself for having continued to improve your relationship with money and for all that you have been able to accomplish thanks to your determination and your persistence. The other letter will mention that you’re still in the same position because you didn’t do the work, and it’s affecting your finances, your health, and even your relationships.

“I challenge anyone to write those two letters and have them side by side where you can see them daily and let that inform how you are progressing through the year,” Wamala said.

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