I wrote a piece a while ago called ‘The 10 worst therapists’ that highlighted some of the worst flaws and traits I see in therapists across all the professions. However, I thought I should also look at the other side of the coin and discuss what are the 10 attributes and traits of the best therapists I know across all the professions.
Now before I start, this is not an exhaustive list and these are by no means my own traits far from it. If I’m being honest here I have to say I fail on many of these from time to time because… I’m human. However, I think if we all try to score as high as we can in these traits, as often as we can, then I don’t think we can go far wrong. So without further ado, here are the traits and attributes I think make the best therapists.
No 1: Caring
It almost goes without saying that therapists should be caring but the best therapists will be those who are genuinely interested in their patient’s issues and problems and want to help and assist them with their goals and aspirations as much as they can. The caring therapist will be both compassionate and considerate and able to demonstrate this to their patients with ease and authenticity.
However, I do recognise that caring for others can be hard to do all the time with everyone you see. However, if you find yourself NOT caring about your patients more often than not, then you need to get out of this profession fast.
No 2: Passionate
The passionate therapist will be driven about what they do and why they do it. A passionate therapist will constantly look for ways to learn, understand, and improve. Passionate therapists will take pride in what they do and why they do it.
However, there is a fine line between passion and obsession that can become both ugly and embarrassing. Obsessive therapists tend to over-promote and over exaggerate what they do and how they do it, but there are also those therapists on the other side who are lethargic and apathetic, coasting along not giving a flyingfuck about anything or anyone. Dont be either of these!
No 3: Knowledgeable
Notice how I didn’t say experienced or qualified. Of course, experience and qualifications are important, but they don’t guarantee the most knowledgeable therapist. The knowledgeable therapist will be aware of the current evidence and attempt to stay up to date with changes in practice to ensure that they offer the best advice and treatment for their patients.
Unfortunately, there are some therapists who have been qualified for years who begin to think that they know all there is to know and so stop seeking new knowledge and soon become out of date. But then on the other side there are newly qualified therapists who arrogantly think that they know it all as they have had the latest training not understanding that this maybe out of date as well.
No 4: Uncertain
This may seem a strange trait to include as uncertainty is often seen as a negative trait especially healthcare. However, I find the best therapists will be uncomfortable but understanding of uncertainty, recognising that often there are no black and white answers or treatments (except of course that deadlifts cure everything).
The uncertain therapist is able to manage uncertainty with themselves but also their patients informing them of the areas of knowns and unknowns clearly and confidently. The uncertain therapist works with their patients guiding them through uncertainty rather than thinking they know what is best for them. Uncertainty is something we all need to accept and tolerate more as it can be a really useful force that forces us to think more.
No 5: Accessible
There is no point being a great therapist if no one can hear or see you. The best therapists are both present and available online and in-person. The accessible therapist has time to talk and discuss things through with other therapists and of course their patients with appointments that allow sufficient time for patients to be heard and treated and not feel rushed and hurried out the door.
Again there is a fine line as some therapists can be too accessible, seeing everyone and anyone they can, sometimes double, or even treble booking patients in at the same time. Just remember that a busy therapist doesn’t automatically mean they are the best therapist.
No 6: Sharing
The best therapists feel confident and comfortable to share their ideas and information freely and frequently. The sharing therapists will give their views and opinions on how and what should and could be done on various things in various ways. The sharing therapists are also confident in transparency happy to allow others to observe them working.
Be wary of the therapist who only shares their views and ideas on their courses or behind a pay wall. In this age of social media and instant access, the best therapists will share their thoughts and information freely in variety of ways such as blogs, podcasts, and webinars for all to see and access.
No 7: Funny
Humour is important in healthcare for a number of reasons. First, it can help remove barriers and allow patients to relax, open up, and even be distracted when in pain. Humour can also help build therapeutic relationships between therapists and patients breaking down traditional hierarchal barriers and helping to establish rapport and common ground.
The funniest therapists are also often the best critical thinkers, as my mate Erik Meria talks about here. Being funny requires the same attributes and skill set as critical thinking, no funny, no thinking. Also, there is nothing worse than a therapist who is oh-so-serious all the time, and who can’t appreciate a joke, some satire, or even a bit of ridicule and sarcasm which is commonly considered to be the lowest form of humour, but actually is one of the highest forms of intelligence.
No 8: Good Looking
Now before you rush to the comments section to say I’m shallow and judgemental, just here me out! The best therapists are often the best looking therapists. This is not the most politically correct statement but the cold, hard, unfair, and ugly facts are that us humans are all more likely to listen to, trust, and accept what a good looking person has to say over a not so good looking person, it’s human nature and backed by science.
Fortunately, most therapists are pretty damn good looking people, with a few frightful exceptions, usually the pale, pasty, podgy, PhDs, who spend roo long behind computer screens and powerpoint slides. However, most frontline clinical therapists tend to practice what they preach and take good care of themselves, living healthy, active lifestyles. However, if you are blessed with a face that only a mother could love, don’t panic as it’s worth remembering that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and although you cant polish a turd, you can sprinkle some glitter on it!
No 9: Humble
Humility is a trait that a lot of people think they have, but don’t actually have, its the same for intelligence and attractiveness. The most humble therapists often don’t know it yet have the confidence and dignity tomnot constantly shout about how good or wonderful they are in treating, teaching, or just existing as a therapist. The humble therapist doesn’t constantly flash their patient testimonials or course feedback comments all over the social media at any opportunity.
The humble therapist is often confident enough to let their results speak for themselves and will not take compliments well, feeling awkward with praise for doing what they see is ‘just their job’.
No 10: Honest
I saved the most important trait for last. Being honest is something that is important in all aspects of life, but particularly when you are in a position of trust and responsibility, working with those that maybe vulnerable when in pain, disabled, scared and uncertain what to do.
The honest therapist lets others know what they can do, but more importantly what they can not do, and they don’t claim perfect results, quick fixes, magic or miracles. The honest therapist is also not afraid to tell others when they don’t know something or when someone else is better suited to help them.
The honest therapist is also not afraid to call out others dishonesty or bull shit, and is often accused of being harsh or negative. However, honest therapists are happy with their healthy genuine negativity rather than others fake faux toxic positivity!
So there you have it, my top 10 traits to be the best therapist possible… possibly… maybe! As I said at the beginning these are not all my own traits or an exhaustive list and one that could be added to. In fact, I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on what traits you think make for a great therapist so leave me a comment below.
As always, thanks for reading