10 Things All Great Therapists Should Know

What makes a good therapist? A positive attitude? Active listening skills? Trust and an honest desire to problem solve? The ability to empathize? These are just a few of the many traits that distinguish an effective therapist from a mediocre one.

To work in this field requires more than just the right education and a comfy couch. In order to build rapport and trust, a great therapist must have certain skills beyond a degree to develop therapeutic and caring patient-centered relationships. Check out our list below to learn what it takes to help clients reach their highest level of mental health.

#1 – The Right Education Makes All the Difference

In order to work as a therapist, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field, and most likely an advanced degree with specialization from an accredited college or university. And it’s imperative that you attend the best program of study possible, as you’ll learn the latest theories and necessary skills to work effectively with clients. An education goes far past procuring employment.

#2 – Not All Therapists are a Match

A good therapist will tell you that not all patients are equal and not all require the same treatment. So it’s up to you to notice when a client requires services better provided by other professionals. Your skills must match patients’ needs.

#3 – You Are Not a Machine

Working in this field can be taxing, even more so if you try to fix every problem, every relationship, and every individual case that walks in your office. You’re not a magician, and you certainly can’t make problems disappear overnight, or ever, for that matter. You can only do what you can do. And don’t forget it!

#4 – Listening is More Than…

  • Hearing
  • Nodding Your Head
  • Being Attentive
  • Staying Quiet
  • Waiting Your Turn to Speak

Listening is a very active experience that requires more than just “tuning in.” It is a specific strategy that a good therapist knows inside and out. Learn about the rules of active listening to discover how to communicate more effectively.

#5 – Counseling is More Than…

  • Listening
  • Talking
  • Giving Advice
  • Instruction
  • Identifying Problems

Yes, the above are a big part of the job, but in much more complex and sophisticated ways. And a good therapist will tell you that listening takes more than ears and talking takes more than just a loud mouth.

#6 – Respect is Vital

Each patient that comes through your door deserves your attention, your respect, and your honest assistance, regardless of the reason for treatment. Dignity and utmost respect go a long way on the couch.

#7 – Agendas are Roadblocks

A therapist with a spiritual, political, social, or religious agenda often focus less on the patient’s needs and interests. Keep your beliefs out of it. Remember, therapy is about the client, and not about you!

#8 – Boundaries are Roadblocks

If you want to create an open and safe atmosphere for your clients, don’t impose unnecessary boundaries that limit treatment.

Yes, certain boundaries are needed to protect both the therapist and the patient, but too many limitations can cause obstacles and make for constraint. Visit the American Counseling Association for more information on ethics and ethical dilemmas.

#9 – “Yes” is Not Always the Answer

It’s okay to say no to patients when they ask, “Do you know what I mean?” Don’t say yes if don’t mean it. These moments can serve as convenient points for more productive discussions. Take the time to work through the grey areas to learn as much as possible about a patient’s needs and experiences.

#10 – Never Stop Learning

Stay on top of your game and add more tools to your tool belt by reading and learning much as possible:

Top Counseling Degree Programs

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