What makes a good Therapist or Counsellor?

When clinical trials compare the effectiveness of different therapeutic schools and approaches, the results are very interesting.

Many studies have concluded that the difference in effectiveness between psychological therapies is minimal, however, when you examine the data* it’s clear that this result is produced by the mean and that there are clear differences in effectiveness between different therapists, regardless of which therapy they practice.  The way an individual therapist practices is more important than the approach to therapy they were trained in so, if you are seeking an effective therapist, it’s crucial to understand what to look out for.

This checklist, drawn up by ETSI, will help you and people you know protect yourselves from potentially harmful types of therapy and counselling.

An effective counsellor or therapist

— knows how to build rapport quickly with distressed people

— understands depression and how to lift it

— helps immediately with anxiety problems including trauma or fear related symptoms

— is prepared to give advice if needed or asked for

— will not use jargon or ‘psychobabble’ or tell you that counselling or psychotherapy has to be ‘painful’

— will not dwell unduly on the past

— will be supportive when difficult feelings emerge, but will not encourage people to get emotional beyond the normal need to ‘let go’ of any bottled up feelings

— may assist you to develop your social skills so that your needs for affection, friendship, pleasure, intimacy, connection to the wider community etc. can be better fulfilled

— will help you to draw and build on your own resources (which may prove greater than you thought)

— will be considerate of the effects of counselling on the people close to you

— may teach you to relax deeply

— may help you think about your problems in new and more empowering ways

— uses a wide range of techniques as appropriate

— may ask you to do things between sessions

— will take as few sessions as possible

— will increase your self confidence and independence and make sure you feel better after every consultation.

(* see Okiishi, J. Lambert, M. Neilsen, S. and Ogles, B (2003) Waiting for Supershrink: an empirical analysis of therapist effects. Journal of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy. 10 361-373. for abstract click here)

Posted by – Eleanor


4 responses to “What makes a good Therapist or Counsellor?

  1. I was very fortunate to meed the counsellor that I did, when I did. She possessed many of the attributes and methods mentioned here. As life has it people drift apart. I have no idea where she is today or if she realizes the impact she had on my life. I repay her by reaching out to others.

  2. thats a good attitude to have bob. thanks for your comment

  3. One thing I’d say, just contrary to what you’ve found, which, for the most part, I must say is excellent :). But it’s worth noting that a counsellor will not be willing to give advice to a person,or to quantify that, the counsellor’s advice will be objective and standardised, such that you could find it yourself if you looked, it has to lack subjectivity. This is a major issue with people looking for therapy, they feel the counsellor will give them advice, and it’s just not the case, that’s giving away a lot of your own power, people need to be able to look within for advice. Freud, and the old-school of counselling would offer advice, but we’ve moved on, and very few counsellor’s will do this nowadays. You are the expert of your own life, the counsellor is merely supporting you for a short time on your journey.

    Just thought it worthy of note considering how well informed and helpful this article is, it deserves to be as accurate as possible, and I assure you if you ask any counsellor they’ll confirm this point.

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