Anyone that has
been to any kind of primary care physician knows that there are things to like and things not to like about a given physician. Most people can say the same about therapists. This is not meant to be an exhaustive, all-encompassing list, and much of it is subjective. There are obvious things a therapist could do that would make him or her a less than desirable therapist. This is merely a short compilation of traits to keep an eye out for when connecting with a therapist.
1. A Good Therapist Treats The Person, Not The Problem.
There is a delicate balance between helping someone and being a friend. A good therapist can find that balance. People with problems look to therapists to help learn skills and techniques to solve those problems, and a good therapist will respect the dignity and values of the patient. Patients are not a problem to be solved, but people that need help solving problems.
2. Not Your Friend.
A good therapist will know the ethics of his or her profession. Being a friend to a client is unethical. Friends have biases and subjective opinions about their peers, while clinical therapists offer objective advice. Therapists can be friendly without being a friend.
3. Uses What Works.
Therapy is a soft-science, but it is not experimental. There is a lot of hypothesis and testing in psychology, but a therapy session is not the place for experimentation. Therapists should help patients focus on the fundamentals and teach clients how to use evidence-based tools to enrich their lives.
4. Follow Up & Communication.
Therapy is typically not about immediate results. A therapist generally gives a client some tools to solve a problem. At the next session, the therapist should ask whether or not the client had the opportunity to utilize some of the tools, and how effective they were. A therapist tool box is not one size fits all, and not every tool will work for every person.
5. Not Your Mama.
It is not the job of a therapist to clean up messes. A therapist might provide a broom and a mop, but it is up the patient to clean up the mess. A good therapist should instill confidence, competence, and motivation. Therapists help patients understand that life is complicated and messy. Everyone has some kind of mess to clean, but that does not suggest therapists should always be cleaning up messes for their clients.
These five simple things
are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of great (and not-so-great) attributes that any given therapist might have, and not every patient will connect with every therapist. It is important for the client to be honest about what works and what does not work. Like any relationship, there are responsibilities put on the client as well.