Most of the degree programs in financial planning are typically offered through university business schools, but at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, the Institute of Personal Financial Planning, where students can study financial planning both at the undergraduate and graduate level, is part of the College of Human Ecology.

This sets it apart from other educational institutions, according to Kristy Archuleta, an associate professor at the Institute, because “financial planning is really about people.” The College of Ecology is also the perfect place for the Institute given its strong focus both on individual human behavior and societal interaction in the family, the community and beyond, and how both of these shape people’s attitudes vis-à-vis money and financial planning.

Archuleta, who has a Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy with an emphasis on personal financial planning, was instrumental in spearheading the creation of a new graduate certificate program in financial therapy. The program, which debuted in the fall, is a pioneer in efforts to provide educational training to graduate students and working professionals – financial advisors and mental health professionals, primarily — who want to improve their clients’ financial health by understanding their social interactions and by integrating relational, behavioral, cognitive and emotional elements with personal finance.

The goals of the certificate, Archuleta said, mirror those of the Financial Therapy Association, an organization formed in 2010 to help promote financial health by sharing the latest research, public policy and practice management standards as they relate to financial therapy.

“Our course is built around really understanding all the components of the behavioral, cognitive and financial aspects of financial health,” Archuleta said. “Financial therapy is still an unregulated field but through the course, students will be able to better understand the interplay of psychology, human relationships and money, and this will help in implementing practical techniques to work better with their clients.”

Today, most financial advisors are working hard to better understand how their clients think and feel in order to help them plan their finances better. Human behavior and emotion are important factors in financial planning, and yet, said Archuleta, despite the extensive scientific research that exists in behavioral finance and the growing number of practical application tools available to financial advisors, “how many advisors make the most careful financial plans for their clients only to see they’re not acted upon?”

Being able to understand human relationships is key to the better understanding of human behavior, she said, because “people make decisions about money and finances based not only on individual psychology and emotions, but also based on relational aspects. These are not explored so carefully in many personal financial planning programs.”

The 12-month Financial Therapy Certificate is a great value-add for any financial advisor looking to better understand their clients’ behavior within their respective ecosystem, so to speak, Archuleta said. It can be done entirely online and will help them provide clarity on yet another dimension that conditions their clients’ financial behavior.

“I believe it’s a tool that will allow an advisor to provide a much more nuanced kind of financial planning by learning to think of an individual as part of a broader social system,” she said.

Since its launch, the certificate has generated a great deal of interest from both graduate students in the Institute of Personal Financial Planning and also from financial advisors across the state of Kansas. Courses include a money and relationships class, which focuses on couple and family relationships around money; an introduction to financial therapy course; an applied behavioral finance course; and a financial therapy and research course.

Archuleta is the co-author of the recent book “Financial Therapy: Theory, Research and Practice” and is one of the founding members of the Financial Therapy Association.