What Skills Should a Good Therapist Have?

by Harley Therapy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

The right training and qualifications are an important thing to look for when seeking a good counsellor, psychologist or psychotherapist. Yet at the heart of therapy is a relationship. So, what skills should a good therapist have?

Here are some of the personal skills a good counsellor or psychotherapist should posess:

They have advanced listening skills

A good therapist does not give you either opinions or advice. They listen carefully to what you have to say and often reflect what you’ve said so that you can hear it for yourself. They also ask good questions that can help you to see new perspectives and come to your own conclusions; what is right for you might not be right for someone else. They remain focussed on the person they are listening to.

They are also practised in hearing what you don’t say, and seeing patterns in the way you discuss things, as well as noticing body language. They can help you notice these things too, in ways that enable you to understand yourself better.

They help you to feel comfortable

It can take a few sessions with any therapist to feel more comfortable or trusting of them and it is usual to feel nervous at first. Good therapists are easy to talk to and help to make you feel comfortable. They listen to what you have to say and do not use the time to talk about themselves.

They are authentic

A good therapist or counsellor does not play ‘the role’ of being a therapist. They don’t put up a facade or a professional front and they are comfortable to be themselves. This is important because only by being themselves will therapists be consistent over time. It is difficult to trust someone who changes over time.

They are reliable

A good therapist is clear about when your sessions are, where they are and how long they will be. If they need to cancel a session, they should give as much notice as possible, and they are on time for your sessions.

They are empathetic (not sympathetic)

Empathy in psychology involves actively working to share and understand the emotional state and experiences of another person. A good therapist tries with great sincerity to understand what you are going through from your perspective.

On the other hand, sympathy can often be experienced as belittling, even though it is a sort of compassion. When a therapist offers sympathy, it does not require them to see a situation from another person’s perspective and does not enable someone to feel understood. In this way, sympathy doesn’t offer the other person any real support.

They provide an appropriate environment for the therapy

Therapy should take place in a quiet, private, uncluttered space. You need to feel relaxed and focused in therapy. Even if you see your therapist by Skype, they should ensure that they are in a clear, private space to talk to you from.

They maintain professional and ethical boundaries

A good counsellor or therapist will not ask you to meet them outside of your sessions, buy you gifts, contact you outside of your session or overstep your personal boundaries. They will also respect your privacy and not share what you say with anyone, barring their supervisor or if they are legally bound to do so.

They will have support

Registered therapists in the UK should have a supervisor who helps them with their work and ensures that they are keeping their clients’ best interests in mind. All of the therapists on this website are registered with professional bodies in the UK. Many therapists will also have attended therapy themselves, meaning that they have personal understanding of the process.

All of the therapists on our platform are registered with appropriate UK bodies and held to their registered body's ethical guidelines and practices. To start online, face-to-face or telephone counselling with a trained therapist today, you can find a therapist here.

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