What Makes A Good Therapist – 17 Qualities Checklist (2021)

6 min read

When looking for a therapist, the first thing that may come to mind is their qualifications. Yet that’s not enough to determine their effectiveness.

But what makes a good therapist?

In this article, you’ll find the most fundamental qualities of a good therapist. But before you start reading, it’d be advisable to learn how psychotherapy works with the following video.


Let’s dive right into it.

1. Trustworthy

For any relationship to work, there must be trust. This is even more fundamental in therapeutic relationships. You need someone who you can feel comfortable talking to. Even if you went there to deal with your trust issues. 

But how do you know you can trust a particular therapist?

A therapist with a genuine desire to help others can be trusted. Although it’s natural to feel uneasy about talking your issues out with an unfamiliar person, if they enjoy helping you, you can sense it and will relax after some time. They’ll make you feel you’re in the same team that is geared towards solving your issues.

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2. Empathetic

A good therapist is emotionally attuned. They can understand your experiences and identify your emotions even without you mentioning every single feeling you have. Even when they don’t agree with your thoughts and choices, they still get you.

Since they can put themselves in your point of view, they’re able to sense feelings and thoughts you don’t realize or are not revealing. They’re able to get out of their world, see the world as you see it, understand you, and help you understand yourself too.

3. Easy to Talk to

Someone who knows a lot about human behavior might seem uncomfortable to be around. However, one of the qualities of these highly informed professionals is that they’re easy to talk to.

A therapist shouldn’t make you dread sessions. Even when they’re unveiling uncomfortable truths, effective therapists have a way of making you feel like you can always speak your mind without fear.

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4. Clear Communicator

Where there’s in-depth understanding, clear communication resides. A good therapist doesn’t speak vaguely or while holding back their professional view of your situation. They don’t confuse clients by saying what they don’t mean or meaning what they don’t say.

Coupled with trustworthiness, effective therapists ensure that they tell you what you should hear so you can deal with your case constructively. No matter how tough the conversation will be, they’ll be willing to communicate.

5. Good Listener

If they’re easily bored by a conversation, can’t stop interrupting when you talk or spend the most part of the session speaking, they aren’t good for you. Listening is one of the most crucial qualities of a good therapist. 

But how do you know your therapist is a good listener? 

Firstly, they’ll intently listen to you speak, showing it with interactive body language and verbal affirmations. However, a better way to know they listen is whether they remember what you discussed previously. If they can remember the integral elements of the conversation and even names of the people, things, and places you talk about, you’ll know they listen.

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6. Observant

“How did you notice that?” “I didn’t tell you that, how did you know?” “What made you understand that I’m scared?” If you keep thinking this way while with your therapist, chances are, they’re highly observant.

A good therapist doesn’t just learn about you from the things you tell them, they observe your body language, your tone, and even the clues between your sentences. They can point it out to you sometimes if it’s relevant to your therapeutic development. 

7. Practically Empowering

You know those kinds of people who see the world for what it could be — those that believe in us no matter how terrible we are? A good therapist should possess this attribute.

In the field of psychology, this quality is known as unconditional positive regard, a term coined by Carl Rogers, one of the humanistic therapy founders.

A therapist good for you will validate your strengths and help you see your capabilities so you can be empowered. Don’t confuse this with blind optimism for they won’t stop there. They’ll also come up with suggestions that help you apply your strengths to attain the results you desire.

8. Authentic 

A good therapist doesn’t strive for perfection. They don’t act like they have all the answers either. They show you they’re human by firstly, owning up to their story.

However, it doesn’t mean a therapist has to share their life story with you. If they’re responsive and real in your sessions, you’ll know they’re authentic. The consistency of who they are would reveal through how they carry themselves. 

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9. Client-focused

Being authentic doesn’t give the therapist the right to impose their beliefs on you. They need to focus on your problems, your point of view, solutions to your problems — everything about a therapy session should be harnessed towards helping you.

Some may take approaches like using some of their personal stories to bring a particular point home. Whatever the case, they should be thinking about solving your problems, not putting themselves in the spotlight or making the session their own therapy session.

10. Critical Thinker

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay 

Observing a client’s behavior is one thing but coming up with sound explanations that fit their character and life story, that’s something else. A good therapist is a deep thinker.

They don’t rush to conclusions without filtering their thinking. Neither do they give generic answers to your questions. They analyze every piece of new information they get against the rest of the details through the lens of their education. This helps them make deep connections to draw confident answers from.

11. Willing Ally

One of the qualities of a good client-therapist relationship is a sense of partnership. Even when trust is involved, a therapist shouldn’t come across as a condescending professional who’s showing you your problems and telling you how to live your life.

A good therapist is usually willing to be an ally in your quest to find answers. This is one of the interpersonal skills that help form a relationship we refer to as a therapeutic alliance.

12. Strategist

Apart from guiding you through therapeutic steps, a therapist needs to have an effective treatment plan for achieving the results you need. If your sessions are about everything and anything without having an end goal in mind, chances are, they are not what you need.

A good therapist listens to your needs and creates a plan for attaining them. This way, you can identify progress, measure outcomes, and see how worth your therapy is. Every session would be a step you both take to progress in your therapy journey.

13. Progress Oriented

A plan without follow-up is ineffective. An ideal therapist will communicate how often they’ll check up on you and actually do so. They’ll want to know how far you’ve progressed according to the development plan

Depending on your reasons for seeking therapy, checkups will also inform them whether you need therapy anymore. If you still do, they’ll suggest the best strategies moving forward but if your needs have been fully dealt with, a good therapist will tell you.

14. Adaptable

Skilled therapists are not rigid in their techniques. They don’t treat each client the same way. When a particular treatment plan isn’t working for you, they’ll tell you and advise a better way to handle your case.

If you feel like some strategies aren’t working for you, communicate. A good therapist will listen to you and let you know whether it’s normal to feel that way according to the phase you’re in or if you should switch strategies.

15. Boundary Setter

Your therapist should be professional enough to set and communicate boundaries regarding your relationship. They should be operating within ethical standards and keep any personal attachments out of that relationship. This helps keep your headspace at the therapy goal and alleviates any confusion.

For instance, if you start talking as friends at any time, anywhere, it means there are no boundaries. Furthermore, a romantic relationship should be out of the question if they’re your therapist.

16. Evidence-based

A good therapist uses proven interventions to help their clients reach the solutions they need. They should be operating in accordance with the Evidence-based Practice Guidelines of the American Psychological Association.

You can check out some types of therapy like insight-oriented therapy, art therapy, and rapid transformational therapy to help you know more of what you need in therapy.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

17. Perpetual Learner

People change, research advances, and therefore, treatments improve. A good therapist needs to be aware of the latest relevant research and evidence-based practices that can improve their services. They need to be continually learning.

Many therapists increase their knowledge through seminars, courses, and other educational mental health events. This might reveal in the form of recent certification or knowledge of current mental health trends among others.

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Conclusion

You need a therapist that can help you improve mental health. Look for the above qualities of a good therapist and you’ll have gotten a great ally in your journey.

Does your therapist possess these qualities? Let me know in the comment section below. Remember to share this article with your friends!

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