What Makes a "Good" Therapist?
A mere desire to help other people does not make a skilled therapist, although it’s at least a good start. At the same time, book-smarts alone don’t complete the picture, either. Adequate training, licensing and experience are key, but so are a robust philosophy of life, a certain level of common-sense savvy, and a strong emotional core. In short, there are many things that go into making a qualified psychotherapist. To demonstrate my professional qualifications, I provide a summary of my unique experience and training below. As far as my own philosophy of life is concerned as it relates to how I work, however, please read on...
Where Answers Come From: Therapists as Cave Diggers
I believe that people generally carry the answers to their unique dilemmas deep inside of them, but often need someone to ask the right questions, provide the right “homework,” educate, inspire, get creative, or merely accompany them into the caves of their insides to gain those insights. Guided by vastly different theories of counseling, not all therapists do that, but I certainly do. In fact, that’s precisely my aim. I am a cave digger. An explorer. An excavator, and an elevator. But most of all, a co-journeyer...
As all of these things, I want to provide just enough education, guidance and support to help clients feel empowered, inspired, and able to make the changes that will help them to feel less stuck, lighter of heart, and more free to navigate life on new terms. To do this I accompany them fearlessly into their very own caves of wonder, doubt, confusion, and pain–without judgment (as it’s been said: ‘But for the grace of God, there go I...’, so there's simply no room to judge), without condemnation (there’s enough of that in life), and without fear (fear is love’s opposite and closes minds to solutions rather than opening them).
The Role of Optimism: Few Easy Answers
While I believe that optimism and courage are key elements along life’s journey, I also believe that unchecked optimism is equally imprudent, because, in fact, life IS hard, pain is difficult to endure, and there are very few easy answers in the obstacle-strewn paths and caverns of the human predicament. But answers, there are. My job as both a therapist (qualified by my own experience, skills and imagination)–and as an 'optimistic realist,’ if you will–is to excavate those answers with you, and to provide you the tools and inspiration you need to climb your way out with them. But you don’t have to do that on your own. I guess the fact that I actually do that with you also makes me a co-journeyer with my clients–or, in the words of counseling theorist Rollo May, a likewise wounded healer.
Wisdom, Insight and Imagination
Expert cave-goers (also called ‘spelunkers’) are very aware of the dangers that can occur in the dank, dark, often slippery slopes of the depths. They travel carefully, and use the caution of personal experience and the wisdom of mindfulness to explore their caverns safely. Likewise in the process of therapy, wisdom only comes from one of two places: Either from the personal experience of having suffered and also come out the other side–OR from having a really sophisticated imagination. I believe that really savvy therapists have both...
Skilled therapists are able to share from a wealth of personal experiences at just the right times in order to build rapport or be helpful (always being sure to keep the focus on the client’s needs, of course), or they are able to imagine the client’s experience and see things precisely from their point of view. In short, really effective therapists work from a place of having endured qualifying life experiences, or are genuinely endowed with empathy. There is no substitute for either. Beyond that, a good therapist needs to be able to connect successfully with his or her clients, relying on a balance of adequate, therapeutic self disclosure while maintaining a client-centered focus.
In summation, a good therapist needs to be caring, creative, and authentic.
What Makes a "Qualified" Therapist?
In therapy, like in caving, there is also no substitute for the right equipment and training. That said, I provide the following description of my own training, credentials, and professional experience...
In addition to the traits that help effective therapists explore the caves of human hearts productively, qualified therapists also have specific skills, training and experience. The minimum amount of these is determined by licensing and titling requirements that vary from state to state. In Georgia, the minimum requirements include education in an accredited, Masters level program, passing a Board Certified exam, and approximately four years of supervised experience. With a current license in the state of Georgia, I have more than thirteen of those, all told.. Also of note, I have an undergraduate degree in Theology, specific training in eating disorders therapy, pre-certification in career development facilitation (career counseling), and a logged array of experience in couples counseling, coaching, triage, treatment for substance dependence, spiritual exploration, decision-making, and more.
I've described my qualifications and my beliefs about what makes a good therapist. At the end of the day, however, I'd like to believe it's the heart and soul that I put into my work that makes the difference. It's like the "Uncle" of Counseling (Counseling theorist Carl Rogers), says--70% of the therapeutic effect of counseling comes from being and feeling Heard. That said, I'll look forward to answering any additional questions you might have about the process--and to lending you my heart, my head, my time, and my ears.