How to Be There for Your Financial Coaching Clients (and Yourself) When Life Has Thrown Them a Curveball


Today I want to talk to you all about supporting a financial coaching client during a crisis or trauma.

Coaching isn’t always about the celebrations or exciting financial goals. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are fun, and when those moments happen we celebrate them in a big way with our clients. But coaching deals with a range of emotions – the highs and the lows. 

One of the benefits of hiring a financial coach for many clients is to have someone not only to help them navigate big financial decisions and strategize to reach their goals, but also to have someone to support them when tragedy strikes. 

That’s what I want to talk about here.

As you work with more and more clients, it is highly likely that you will find yourself working with people who are going through major life challenges. Over the years, I have seen my clients go through job losses, experience major medical events or diagnoses, lose family members and other loved ones, navigate depression, divorce or infidelity, and deal with addiction. Most recently I worked with a client whose daughter was violently raped.

The morning I met with her was emotional to say the least, but it had me reflecting on what an amazing role it is to be a coach. And more importantly, how we need to be able to meet our clients right where they are and serve them however they need to be served in the moment. 

I hope that you will not ever need to have the type of conversation that I did that morning, but if you coach for a while, difficult or emotional conversations will happen. I want to share with you how to navigate these conversations and show up for your clients in the best way possible when tragedy occurs.

Here are 8 ways to show up for your client during times of trauma in their life. 

  1. HEAR THEM. This is the first and best way. Sometimes people just want to be heard and you can be that person who is ready to listen. 
  2. Verify they want to be coached. They may not be in the right headspace on the day of your scheduled session, so coaching at this time might not do either one of you any good. Before you dive into financial coaching, make sure to ask if they’re up for it. 
  3. Ask what will help them the most – and if they are too emotional you choose. This is your chance to flex your problem solving muscle.
  4. Set other goals aside and focus ONLY on the situation at hand. They need to feel as if they have control of something at this moment. You can provide them with some control.
  5. Take care of any pressing matters right there on the call or in your session so they don’t have to worry about it later. They will have other things to worry about so take the financial part off their mind.
  6. Give them very clear cut answers or guidelines and release them from worrying about anything else for the next X amount of time (i.e. everything is planned for and you have my permission not to be in your budget at all until we meet again next IF that seems reasonable). Or at least assure them that everything is taken care of for the next X days while they regroup.
  7. Understand they are going to have a LOT of unknowns right now. Think about the big potential expense categories and shift any savings or spending to that specific category so money is there “just in case”.
  8. Love on them. Support them. Be grateful that you can be there to hold space for them in this moment.

After you’ve served your client as best as you can, it’s time for your own gut check. 

Coaching is emotional and because of this, you need to be aware of how you process your clients’ trauma as well. It is important to be aware of your OWN energy when you have tough coaching days. 

You might be going back-to-back going from one client coaching session into the next, so it is important that you are aware of your own emotions. You may be on an emotional rollercoaster and you don’t want to bring the stress, worry or trauma of the previous session into your next. 

Two things you do NOT want to do after a traumatic coaching session:

FIRST – Show up to the next session and share with your client that you have had an emotional day or a tough session. Definitely don’t share that you just talked to a client who is dealing with X. It is NOT your client’s responsibility to share that burden with you. They are showing up for you to serve THEM and not to support you on a tough day.

SECOND – Carry that heavy energy with you as you enter the next call. I know this can be hard, but you have to set that story down and leave it before you step into your next session. Your job is to be fully present for each of your clients. Things can be happening in your own life or in the lives of your loved ones – but you can’t bring that burden into a coaching session. It’s not fair to your client.

What You Do Want to Do

Your job is to show up as renewed and focused as possible on serving the client in front of you now. This takes a lot of self awareness and sometimes practice. But observe your energy as you are about to go into a coaching session and be sure you are showing up as the highest level of yourself to serve the client in front of you.

I know I have had a lot of these conversations over the years. On the day my client’s daughter was raped, I shared tears with that client – and then served her in the best way I could. I was able to give that client permission not to worry about anything money-related and allow her to focus her attention on her daughter. 

I truly feel blessed to help my clients through some of life’s most challenging moments. It is a gift to be able to help our clients in this way. And while I was emotionally spent at the end of coaching that day, my heart was very full. 

If you’re looking for training and resources to help you get better at coaching clients – both through difficult situations and long-term, check out the Financial Coaching Toolkit. This on-demand collection of videos and materials is designed to help you get better at the coaching side of financial coaching. With more than 65 exercises and 25 hours of training, you are going to have plenty of financial coaching tools at your disposal.