Mental health has always been shunted away to the back seat for most of history. Even now, there are many who view therapy as a sort of coddling of the mind.
While such attitudes are difficult to change, it doesn’t change the fact that the number of people who need and seek help is increasing every year.
As more people start to visit therapists and share their lives with them, a few questions that can arise are “What makes a good therapist?”, “What are the qualities of a good therapist?” These questions are important because finding good therapy is the need of the hour.
According to the CDC, 50% of Americans will suffer from a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives.
One of the worst things you can do when you already aren’t in a good place is see a therapist who ends up being a toxic influence in your life. (Yes, this happens more than you think!)
In this article, we are going to look at three core qualities that you should find in a good therapist.
1. They Ensure They Understand What You Said and Never Misinterpret You
This is one of the foundational skills for therapy, but it’s sadly something that many therapists lack.
A good therapist listens attentively to what you are saying, paraphrases it back to you in a sort of summarized version in their own words, and checks if they got you correctly or if they missed anything.
For example, if you have just talked for five minutes about how you feel disillusioned with your life and family and you don’t know what to do anymore, your therapist might say something like:
“I can imagine how stressful this has all been for you…if I understood you correctly, you have been feeling like you don’t know where your life is headed and the relationship with your family isn’t as good as you would like it to be and all these aspects are making you feel quite hopeless and dejected. Did I get that right?”
The importance of such paraphrasing is well documented. It not only helps the therapist get on the same page as you, but it also proves to you that they have been attentively listening and have grasped the core meaning behind what you are trying to convey.
This is a very good sign.
A bad therapist, on the other hand, would rarely take moments to confirm their understanding of what you are expressing and simply assume that they get what you mean 100% of the time.
It can be difficult to find a therapist that adheres to a high quality. The field is rife with burnout, which leads to bad experiences for clients.
Thankfully, there are databases that allow you to find a therapist who is qualified and experienced. These databases ensure that the therapists listed on them are highly qualified professionals with a lot of experience in their respective fields.
You are often able to view the sort of areas that they specialize in, which can be helpful in deciding which one to pick. Using websites like these also makes the entire experience much more fluid and convenient.
Scheduling can be done through the website’s interface, and the fact that you don’t have to walk into an office in public helps maintain your anonymity in case you don’t want people to know you are seeing a therapist.
2. They Are Genuine and Non-Judgmental
Genuineness, or how authentic your therapist is, is something truly important. A therapist who is genuine is able to be fully present with the client and is not putting up a facade or pretending to be something they are not.
When you see a therapist being genuine, it allows you to feel comfortable being yourself and makes it easier to share your thoughts and feelings. A genuine therapist can make you feel at ease, and this quality, combined with a non-judgemental attitude, can do wonders for the therapeutic relationship.
Non-judgmental therapists are open-minded and accept the client’s feelings, behaviors and thoughts without placing any judgments on them. A non-judgmental therapist can accept that every person has their own unique experiences, beliefs, and perspectives.
3. They Are Comfortable With Silence
Oftentimes, when a person is sharing something heavy and serious, their speech may vary in length because of the weight of the subject or emotions.
They may run on for an entire ten minutes without stopping. They may also tear up, stutter, and stumble over their words. Some go silent for several minutes, at a loss for words that convey what lies in their heart.
A good therapist is patient and gives you as much time as you need without feeling the need to talk during silent moments.
Silence, though awkward for many therapists, can be one of the best tools used in a therapeutic relationship. It allows you to process and reflect on what you have just shared, how you shared it, or the comments of your therapist from a few moments earlier.
Silence also creates an almost meditative or mindful atmosphere that you might rarely experience in the real world.
Therapists undergo a lot of training in interpersonal skills and techniques, but it doesn’t mean they are infallible. Without conscious effort, it is tough for them to not allow their own biases to creep in and affect the therapeutic process.
While you may not find a therapist who is perfect in every way, you can certainly keep an eye out for those who show such qualities as the ones mentioned above.
If you are still curious about learning more about what makes a therapist good, you can look up books like Gerard Egan’s “The Skilled Helper” that go into great detail about what factors or traits make a good therapist.