One of Amanda Mills’ clients was a successful businesswoman who claimed the only thing missing in her life was a man. And better finances.
After a chat with Mills, however, the woman realized her money was a mess because subconsciously she actually wanted to keep men at a distance.
It’s the kind of “Aha!” moment that fills many of Mills’ sessions. As one of the few financial therapists in the world, she’s able to get clients talking about money and its emotional underpinnings.
Often what they discover leads them to more in-depth psychotherapy — Mills has colleagues that she refers out to. As well, Mills has suggested clients take martial arts classes to help them feel more secure, instead of putting that pressure on money.
Mills did not start out in the financial industry. Originally from Toronto, she did a BA in English at Carleton University in Ottawa, and then moved to Montreal. There, she took a basic accounting course, liked it, and then got a job as a bookkeeper.
She moved back to Toronto and began managing Theatre Passe Muraille, which was two full years of income in debt at the time. She did that challenging job for nearly three years. “I got dismayed that so much time and energy went into cash flow. It was taking time away from the art.”
She started up a small accounting firm called Artbooks that aimed to help arts organizations with their finances so they could get past the money and focus on creation.
For 15 years, that company kept her busy. But she started to notice that one client would have $500 in the bank and be stressed, while another with the same amount felt elated. She always kept a box of Kleenex in her office, and it got used a lot.
“That’s when I began to see that money isn’t about the economy, it’s about the feeling,” she says.
She’d already taken numerous courses and workshops on various therapy techniques, and helped co-write a book on childhood trauma. So she combined these skills with her financial know-how and launched her financial therapy business Loose Change.
Now, for half the year, she sees clients through Artbooks, specifically to do their taxes. And once taxes are done, she talks with Loose Changes clients about the stress and strain money puts on their lives. (She also runs weekend workshops to talk money, confidence and myths.)
It takes about three sessions to find out what’s keeping people from coping with their financial issues.
“It’s a place where people can think clearly about money with no judgment,” she says. And the Kleenex box: It still gets well used.