Certified Financial Counselor™ Certificate Course


Stephen Horan, PhD, CFA, CIPM, CAIA
Stephen Horan, PhD, CFA®, CIPM®
"This course will do more than make you a better advisor. It will transform your role from advisor to counselor, produce richer client relationships, and yield better results."  (more)
Robert Keebler, CPA/PFS

"I began listening to Dr. Murtha’s first class with a great deal of skepticism. I’ve seen classes on financial psychology before and, frankly, they’ve always been a disappointment. But after only a few minutes, I was mesmerized by his technical knowledge of financial counseling and teaching style. While financial psychology classes are generally fluff, Dr. Murtha’s course brings clarity and science to the topic. This course is a must for any tax and financial planner advising wealthy families."


Fritz Meyer

I'm so impressed with Dr. Frank Murtha's course. What a valuable addition to A4A's battery of tools for advisors. Being good at the "soft skills" of relating to clients with the right vocabulary is every bit as important as financial planning and investment expertise. A4A's clients are really fortunate to have access to Dr. Murtha.

Andrew Fama, MRFC, JD, AEP, RF®
"This 12-class series is a must-see for me. Frank Murtha offers a wealth of new information and concepts which we can apply to our mutual benefit with clients." 
Ruth Delaney, CFP®, CLU, ChFC®
"This guy is great! He's given us a goldmine of information."
Jonathan Forbes  CFP
 Jonathan Forbes, CFP®
"I am so excited for the scope of this course. It will be really beneficial and helpful. Thanks for putting it together!"
Steven Nivens, CFP®, CLU
Steven Nivens, CFP®, CLU 
"I'm overwhelmed by the number of new ideas I'd like to incorporate into my practice.  I've always been drawn to "the process" of what we do.  Frank Murtha shows us why and how to do it better."
Karin Maloney Stifler, CFP, AIF 

A4A's Financial Counseling Certificate program provides the 'missing piece' in what it takes to be a top caliber financial advisor. I haven't been this excited about honing new skills and capabilities in a long time. Andy and Dr. Frank, thank you for making me a better and more impactful CFP® professional. What you are teaching will enrich clients' experience and wellbeing and advance the profession.

Dennis Dachtler
Love it!  It's the best ideas to use if you are a fiduciary! 

Earn The Certified Financial Counselor™ Certification


Why take this course?


This is NOT a not behavioral finance course


Making money is NOT the goal of investing


The Crisis Plan®


The Certified Financial Counselor™ (CFC™) certification course equips financial professionals with the knowledge to fulfill the role of​ financial counselor. ​


Only those meeting The Financial Counseling Institute’s standards for certification can call themselves a CFC™.​


CFC™ certification requires successfully completing 12 classes and assessments.


Buy NowTwo classes and assessments annually refreshing your knowledge and skills must be completed annually.​


Frank Murtha, Financial Counseling Institute

Frank Murtha, who holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, is the instructor of the course. For over two decades, he has pioneered the application by financial advisors of the principles of behavioral finance and financial planning psychology. He started The Financial Counseling Institute in 2021 to focus on teaching financial professionals counseling skills.



Excellent Ratings By Advisors Who Take The Course  

The average rating from advisors who attended the Certified Financial Couselor Certification Course is 97%!    
  • Four Update Classes For CFCs™ Annually continually refresh, reinforce, and reinvigorate the key counseling concepts required under current conditions. (CFCs™ are required to successfully complete at least two CE/CPE credits annually to maintain the CFC™ designation. Register for the next update class. 
Quarterly Update Classes In 2022
Financial Counseling Under Stressful Conditions; Certified Financial Counselor Update, May 2022
Bear Markets And Financial Psychology, August 2022
2022 Certified Financial Counselor Update, Class 3
2022 Certified Financial Counselor Update, Class 4


  • A Personal Invitation – to ask questions, discuss cases and meet virtually with Dr. Murtha -- on the first and third Wednesday every month at 12:00-2:00 p.m. EST.  Please request an This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 24-hours in advance.
  • "Frank Talks," a semi-annual meetup of CFCs in which Dr. Murtha reviews client cases (anonymized for privacy reasons).
  • Digital badge validating you meet requirements of Financial Counseling Institute annually.
  • 1-minute video for your website about the value of the CFC designation to clients and prospects



Why Counseling Skills Are Important To Financial Professionals

The job of financial, tax and investment advisors has evolved from a transactional, sales-oriented customer-broker relationship in the 1970s to a profession requiring technical knowledge and a code of ethics. In the past two decades, the burgeoning social science of behavioral economics, technology, and the growing wealth of Americans further changed the nature of a financial professional's job by making client relationships more collaborative and personal, compelling and requiring today’s professionals to possess counseling skills.

Financial Psychology Requirement Added by CFP Board


Recognition of the importance of psychology in the financial planning process came on March 30, 2021, when the CFP Board announced the findings of its 2021 Practice Analysis Study. It was the first update in the job requirements of a CFP® since 2015. It resulted in a major revision to the principal knowledge topics a CFP® professional is required to master. A completely new topic of knowledge was added: the psychology of financial planning. As a result, as of Jan. 1, 2022, the psychology of financial planning became 7% of what you must know to maintain a CFP® designation.


In recognition of the importance of psychology in financial planning, the Certified Financial Counselor™ certification course is designed to meet the new knowledge requirements for CFP® professionals, CFA®, CIMA®, CPA financial planners and other practitioners.


Maintaining The CFC Designation

To maintain the Certified Financial Counselor certificate, CFC professionals are required to complete two refresher classes annually, which are taught by Dr. Murtha quarterly. 


Additional Credits
To earn credits beyond those required to maintain a CFC™ designation, Financial Counseling Institute enables practitioners to earn two additional CE credits annually. In addition, when the S&P 500 closing price drops 20% from its closing high. or in times of crisis, additional classes will be scheduled as needed.





12 - Class Curriculum

Financial Counseling: Introduction and Overview
1 CE Credit
Trust, The Foundation of Relationships
1 CE Credit
Investor Emotions Part 1 – Fear and Anxiety
1 CE Credit
Investor Emotions Part 2 – Anger, Grief and “Greed”
1 CE Credit
Counseling Strategies and Techniques
1 CE Credit
Investor Identity
1 CE Credit
Investor Personality
1 CE Credit
Investor Personality (Part 2)
1 CE Credit
Mental Health Issues
1 CE Credit
Working with Couples and Families
1 CE Credit
Review and Implementation
1 CE Credit
Applying Financial Psychology In Current Conditions
1 CE Credit

Certified Financial Counselor Course FAQ








Class 1. Financial Counseling Introduction and Overview (1 Credit)

Financial, tax and investment advising have undergone a significant change  over the last several decades, evolving from a customer-broker relationship that was transactional and sales-oriented in the 1970s, to a profession  requiring technical knowledge in the 1980s and 1990s. Spurred on by the burgeoning social science of behavioral economics for the past two decades, the nature of client relationships has grown more personal, collaborative, and individualized, requiring today’s professionals to possess counseling skills.

Introduction to Financial Counseling Overview (20 Minutes)

- The professional landscape

- The evolution of the field

- Theoretical Foundations

    - Traditional Finance

    - Behavioral Finance

    - Counseling Psychology

- Fundamental Concepts





Why Financial Counseling?: The Value Proposition (15 Minutes)

- Everybody talks the talk

- Advisor Alpha

- Misconceptions

- Exercise:  What is Most Challenging in Your Practice?


Highlights Of Major Topics In The Course Outline (15 Minutes) 

- Look ahead at future classes

- Discussion on why these modules are included

- Emphasis on specific knowledge, skills, and takeaways from course material



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Class 2:  Trust, The Foundation of Relationships (1 Credit)

Trust is a widely invoked though often misunderstood concept. It is the foundation of the counselor-client relationship. Moreover, it is prerequisite in retaining clients, gathering assets, and gaining referrals. This class dissects trust into easily understood components, and prescribes practical steps to building and maintaining this critical professional trait.

Trust: How important is it? How does it fit in? (12 Minutes)

  • Maslow vs. Investor “Hierarchy of Needs”
  • The foundation of the pyramid

Type 1: Technical Competence/Expertise (12 Minutes)

  • “Most important” client motivation
  • The heart of FA value
  • Ways to convey that trust
  • Conversations
  • Physical representations.

Type 2: Ethical Trust (12 minutes)

  • Not to be taken for granted – client psychology, famous cases
  • Best-interest (fiduciary standard)
  • Ways to earn trust
  • Communications about fees
  • Consistency of words and actions
  • Transparency

Type 3: Interpersonal Trust (12 minutes)

  • Personal in personal finance is underrated
  • Communication preferences
  • Keys to a productive counselor-client relationship.
  • Caring, Understanding, Respect and Empathy (CURE)
  • Carl Rogers Humanistic Psychology

A comprehensive strategy for building and keeping trust – The Newsletter. (7 Minutes)

  • Critical components of a good newsletter
  • Recommendations for format

Wrap up/Questions (5 Minutes)


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Class 3: Investor Emotions Part 1 – Fear and Anxiety (1 Credit)

Investing evokes the entire spectrum of human emotions, from positive to negative, and the emotion that stands out as the most influential is fear.  The ability to recognize, understand, and constructively react to client fear is key to successful client management.  Fear manifests itself in different forms, from the most latent (e.g., worrying) to the most acute (e.g., panicking).  This class examines where fear comes from and what it looks like from the perspective of a client. It enables a financial professional to better fulfill the role of counselor by helping clients identify and manage their financial fears.   


  • Introduction to Fear (10 Minutes)
    • Evolution
    • Neurobiology
    • Role of Personality
    • Prospect Theory
  • Deeper Look into Financial Fear:  Critical Factors (15 Minutes)
    • The role of trust
    •  Limits of Reason
    • The power of short-term
    • The power of verbalization
    • The difference between fear, loss, and pain.
  • Practical Strategies for Dispelling Client Fear (20 Minutes)
    • IDEAS Script
    • Two Part Process
    • Reframing
    • Future Focus
    • Regret
    • Strategic Emotional Communication
    • Slide Show Method
  • Crisis/Stress Management Plan (15 Minutes)


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Class 4: Investor Emotions: Anger, Grief, And Greed (1 Credit)

While fear is the dominant investing emotion, it is far from the only one.  Any emotional reaction that distorts judgment presents problems.  This Class explores the other common emotions that influence client investment decisions and suggests ways to help clients make decisions.

  • Introduction to Emotions Overview (10 Minutes)
    • Emotions – an obstacle/agent of change
  • Anger (20 minutes)
    • The nature of anger
    • “Reactive” emotion, operational definition
    • Personality factors
    • Neural Re-routing- Four step process to moving clients past anger
  • Grief  (20 minutes)
    • Grief as loss, sadness
    • Personality Factors
    • Kubler-Ross 5 Stages
  • Greed  (10 minutes)
    • Greed is often exuberant FOMO
    • Personality factors
    • Tips for moving people past greedy traits
      • Curiosity > Criticism
      • Facts > Fantasy



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Class 5: Counseling Strategies And Techniques (1 Credit)

This class teaches how to employ financial counseling strategies and techniques with clients, particularly those who are the most emotional. How to move clients past fear, greed, anger and other emotions and how to maximize your influence as a professional to help clients make better decisions.  We will cover the most important counseling skills (building blocks), as well as Strategic Emotional Communication, which we will apply to client examples.


  • Introduction to Counseling Strategies (10 Minutes)
    • FAs traditionally do not get training in this skill set
    • Background
    • Humanism
  • The Building Blocks: 6 Essential Skills (15 Minutes)
    • Listening:
      • Nancy Kline
      • Attending
      • Listening/Observing
    • Queries:
      • Key questions
      • Open ended
      • Encouragers
    • Empathy:
      • Common misconceptions
        • Clarifying
        • Reflecting
        • Amplifying
      • Genuineness:
        • Honestly
        • Presentness
      • Caring/UPR
        • Carl Rogers
        • Necessary and sufficient conditions
        • Conveying warmth, concern, acceptance
      • Concreteness
        • Specificity
        • Focus
        • Clarity
      • Listening (10 Minutes)
        • Nancy Kline’s techniques and training
        • Listening Environment
      • Strategic Emotional Communication ( 15inutes)
        • IDEAS acronym
        • Two stage process
          • Emotional
          • Rational
        • U.R.E. Method Revisited
      • Case Study/Practice of Strategic Emotional Communication(10)
        • Emotional Client
          • IDEAS
          • What would you say?



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Class 6: Investor Identity (1 Credit)

Knowing yourself is a key step in successful investing.  Financial traumas or successes you and your family experienced predispose certain financial personality types to different investment and financial planning mistakes.  The way you are wired hinges on your financial personality traits.  Financial Identity –  an understanding of how and why investors think, feel and behave is a major component of financial counseling, as is the ability to assess an investor’s financial personality traits. - This class introduces the concept of Financial Identity and presents a systematic way of identifying financial personality traits to better serve clients.


  • Introduction to Investor Identity (15 Minutes)
    • Needs
    • Values
    • Beliefs
    • Goals
    • Strengths/Weaknesses
    • Personality
    • Why investing is like Junior High School
    • Erickson and Psycho-Social Development
    • Benefits of helping clients develop a strong sense of their investor identity
    • Components
  • Investor Needs (15 Minutes)
    • Trust
    • Self-Approval
    • Safety
    • Happiness
    • Purpose
    • The Hierarchy of Investor Needs
  • Values and Beliefs (10 minutes)
    • Risk Taker/Avoider
    • Self-approval
    • Important Investing Beliefs
    • Belief Questionnaire
    • How values influence financial decision-making
    • Beliefs
  • Goals (10 Minutes)
    • Must haves
    • Targets
    • Aspirations
    • Client goal-setting
  • Strengths and Weaknesses (10 Minutes)
    • What do clients see as strengths?
    • What do clients see as potential weaknesses?


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Class 7: Investor Personality (1 Credit)

The most comprehensive component of Investor Identity is Investor Personality.  Using the NEO Personality Inventory Five-Factor Model and referencing data from Market Psych Insights (MPI) Investor Personality Assessment, this class addresses the concept of Investor Personality and how it affects client decision-making.  It will explore the history of Personality Psychology, explore relevant personality sub-factors, and explicate the Big 5 Traits (NEO) their relationship to investor identity and implications for investing and the client-advisor relationship.


  • Introduction to Personality Theory (15 minutes)
  • Progression of Personality Theory
    • Freud
    • Jung
    • Allport
    • Goldberg, Oregon Research Institute
  • Types vs. Traits
    • The Big Five Traits – CANOE/OCEAN Acronym
  • Nature and Nurture
    • Gender
    • Age
  • Conscientiousness vs. Spontaneity (20 minutes)
    • Conscientiousness sub-traits
    • Spontaneity sub-traits
    • Implications for Investing vs. Relationship
  • Relationship to aspect of Investor Identity (e.g, Needs, Values, etc.)



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Class 8: Investor Personality Part 2 (1 Credit)

This class is the continuation of our explication of Investor Personality.  In this module we will cover the remaining Four Factors and explore their implication for clients’ investment approach and their relationships with you.  


  • Emotional Stability vs. Emotional Sensitivity (13 minutes)
    • Stability sub-traits
    • Sensitivity sub-traits
    • Implications for Investing vs. Relationship
    • Relationship to aspect of Investor Identity (e.g, Needs, Values, etc).
  • Extraversion vs. Introversion(13 minutes)
    • Extraversion sub-traits
    • Introversion sub-traits
    • Implications for Investing vs. Relationship
    • Relationship to aspect of Investor Identity (e.g, Needs, Values, etc).
  • Openness vs. Traditionalism (13 minutes)
    • Openness sub-traits
    • Traditionalism sub-traits
    • Implications for Investing vs. Relationship
    • Relationship to aspect of Investor Identity (e.g, Needs, Values, etc).
  • Agreeableness vs. Self-interestedness (13 minutes)
    • Conscientiousness sub-traits
    • Spontaneity sub-traits
    • Implications for Investing vs. Relationship
    • Relationship to aspect of Investor Identity (e.g, Needs, Values, etc).


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Class 9: Mental Health Issues (1 Credit)

Financial problems are a leading cause of depression and other mental health issues. This class imparts practical tips for recognizing when to refer clients to other resources for mental health issues and how to handle this delicate subject.  This class will examine the effect of stress on clients, with a focus on strategies for helping clients mitigate stress’s impact.   We will also discuss common Axis 1 and Axis 2 Psychiatric Diagnoses that financial professionals are likely to encounter, with strategies and tips for identifying and managing clients who suffer from them.


  • Introduction to Mental Health in Financial Counseling (10 Minutes)
    • Overview with stats
  • Life Events (15 Minutes)
    • Covid
    • Deaths
    • Divorce
    • Jobs
    • Health
  • Axis 1 Diagnoses (15 Minutes)
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Thought Disorders/Dimentia
      • Definition
      • Manifestation
      • Associated tendencies
      • Investor implications
  • Axis 2 Diagnoses (20 Minutes)
    • Personality Disorders
    • How to manage people with:
      • Dependent
      • Narcissistic
      • Borderline


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Class 10: Working With Couples And Families (1 Credit)

Couples – often married, but not always – present a discrete set of dynamics for a financial professional, as do families with intergenerational wealth issues. This class covers key issues, considerations and practices when working with couples and families, as well as some conflict management strategies to help get couples and family members to work past difficulties.


  • Introduction to couples and family psychology (5 Minutes)
    • History
    • Overview with stats
  • Financial Counseling with Couples (20 Minutes)
    • Differences between couples counseling and financial counseling for couples
    • The importance of alignment across areas such as goals, knowledge and understanding of the plan
    • Assessment, ways of injecting structure into the financial conseling process
    • Guide for addressing assessment results
    • Working with widows/widowers, best practices
  • Financial Counseling with Families (20 Minutes)
    • Family Systems theory and practice
    • Differences between family coubseling and financial counseling for couples
    • Best practices for working with families
    • Conflict management approach for families (and couples)
    • Case Study
  • Wrap up/Review (5 Minutes)


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Class 11: Review and Implementation (1 Credit)

This class reviews the entire course curriculum, highlighting the most important concepts in financial counseling and how to best implement them in your practice. 


  • Foundations (7 Minutes)
  • Emotions (10 Minutes)
  • Counseling Techniques (10 Minutes)
  • Investor Identity (10 Minutes)
  • Investor Personality (10 Minutes)
  • Mental Health Issues (8 Minutes
  • Couples and Family (5 Minutes)
  • Wrap Up/Goodbye (5 Minutes)


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 Class 12: Applying Financial Psychology In Current Conditions (1 Credit)

This class is the final installment of the Investor Behavioral Coach Certificate.  While the rest of the curriculum is rooted in general theory, knowledge and skills, this module is dedicated to the specific application of class material to client management in the current environment.  It will look at the present investment climate, assess potential client issues, and prescribe best practices for meeting their needs.  This format will also be used as educational “booster shot” to maintain certification once the course is complete.

  • Discussion of Current Conditions (5 Minutes)
    • Geopolitical Issues
    • Financial and tax
    • Market Sentiment
    • Psychological reactions
  • Case Study 1:(10 Minutes)
    • Fearful Client
    • Assessing emotions
    • Sample dialogue
    • Counseling strategies
  • Case Study 2:(10 Minutes)
    • Complacent Client
    • Assessing emotions
    • Sample dialogue
    • Counseling strategies
  • Case Study 3:(10 Minutes)
    • Despondent Client
    • Assessing emotions
    • Mental health check
    • Sample dialogue
    • Counseling strategies
  • Wrap up & Discussion (15 Minutes)
    • Applications of other potential factors (e.g., investor personality)
    • Question and answers about cases
    • Questions from audience’s own practice
    • Wrap up


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Financial Counseling Under Stressful Conditions; May 2022 Certified Financial Counselor Update (Class 1 of 4)

2022 has been a bad year for investors, heightening financial stresses and bringing out the worst traits in some investors.  This main objective of this class is to remind Certified financial Counselors™ of crucial concepts, techniques, and conversations to counsel clients through this fearful time.  

Review of fundamental concepts:

  • Why people invest: emotional versus financial  
  • The difference between investment objectives and performance
  • Seven essential counseling skills
  • Trust building
  • Strategic emotional communication
  • Investor identity

Counseling responses under current conditions

  • Financial stress level in the U.S. today versus history
  • Personality types most vulnerable in current conditions
  • Putting current conditions in perspective  
  • Questions to ask about stress symptoms
  • Words and deeds

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Bear Markets And Financial Psychology, CFC Update, Class 2 of 4, August 2022 (Class 2 of 4)

On June 13, 2022, a bear market began when the S&P 500 index dropped by more than 20% from its Jan 3, all-time closing high. This update class for Certified Financial Counselors™ (CFC™) reviews the psychological effects of a bear market on investors. The main objective is to better equip attendees with counseling strategies in advising clients during this period of risk, fear, and opportunity. Topics of this class,“Bear Markets and Financial Psychology:”

  • Brief review of fundamental principles (5 mins)
  • Current conditions and critical factors for clients (5 mins)
  • An analysis of investor emotions during a bear market (5 mins)
  • A model for working with investors on the subject of loss (10 mins)
  • Investor identity factors to consider in working with clients. (5 mins)
  • Financial Counseling strategies for reframing emotional clients (10 mins)
  • A case study based on current factors (10 mins)

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