By Paige Rocker, LPC Associate
Supervised by: Jennifer Buffalo, LPC-S, LMFT
Have you ever thought about what a “good therapist means to you”? In the mental health realm, as a therapist, the relationship is considered one of the most important variables influencing success in therapy. This does not mean your therapist is trying to be your friend. While we are all humans, we go to our friends for advice, and these conversations do not often end with goals, purpose, or plans. Therapy is purposeful and practical. Who the therapist is personally and their distinctive qualities are just as meaningful for the therapeutic relationship, if not more than his/her professional skills. For example, thinking about feeling inspired or the hope and optimism that comes with handling improvement.
Realism and hope go hand and hand.
Thinking about this now makes me think back to a time I was in the hospital, and a health professional’s bedside manner made me want to escape the hospital itself (luckily, I did not). I never thought about how critical it was for genuine kindness and positive regard to make me feel safe and secure. The ‘bedside manner’ of a therapist could also be applicable in our field of practice. When seeking a therapist, be sure to focus on the professional experience they provide and the unique qualities they bring to the table. Before making a choice, take a moment to see if they align with your values.
Here are some characteristics that research has shown are essential to look for in a therapist (in no particular order):
- Cultural Awareness: Therapists are aware of cultural issues and sensitive to the differences and similarities between cultures when communicating or interacting with members of other cultural groups. Cultural humility is a practice by which clinicians recognize that competency cannot be fully gained in this realm. Therefore, approaching with curiosity and humility on the part of the therapist is crucial.
- Openness: Therapists are willing to move the curtain back when necessary to give the client a sense of who they are outside of their clinical role.
- Believing in the Therapy Process: therapists believe the therapeutic process is meaningful and can create change.
- Being Present: The therapist is not distracted but embracing the present moment with clients.
- Courage: therapists allow themselves to feel vulnerable, admitting mistakes and imperfections.
- Acceptance: Therapists experience a nonjudgmental and curious attitude toward clients while creating a warm environment.
- Trust: Therapists have an attitude toward a proposition that someone is dependable.
- Willingness to establish an alliance with you: Therapists develop goals that the client and therapist agree on, care about the client’s goals, and are interested in being creative to find what works best for the client.
Which of these values would you want in a therapist? Any characteristics you would add? Please leave a comment below!
At Luminary Counseling, PLLC, we believe that choosing a therapist is a very personal matter. Not every therapist will be a good fit for every client. Clients must feel a sense of trust that this therapist can help you. We are committed to supporting you on your journey! We offer FREE 30-minute consultations to ensure you feel connected and safe in this journey!