“What is a good therapist?” is a frequently asked question. I have been asked that question a lot and it usually brings me an uncomfortable feeling…like the gurus know all the answers and so do you. But I can tell you, after having a few clients, that what they are asking is actually very simple. A good therapist is a person who is able to listen and respond to clients with sensitivity and compassion. If you don’t have empathy and sensitivity, you won’t be able to provide good listening or even compassionate treatment.
When someone talks about a ‘good’ therapist, they’re not talking about one that treats the client with kindness. They’re referring to someone who is kind enough to give the client space and let them work things out themselves. I’ve had many clients say to me, “I feel like I’m getting nowhere with this therapist. He just listens and doesn’t pay attention when I talk about my problems.” This is not a good sign and should not be considered a sign of a good therapist.
With therapists like this, the client feels like the therapist is ignoring them and doesn’t seem to understand their problems. You may think that your therapist is like this but trust me, it is far from true. Instead, you need to find a therapist who is sensitive to your needs and wants to work with you in finding a solution to your problems.
But how can you tell if you’re working with someone like this? The first sign that you need to look for is their response to your questions. Most clients would say that they feel comfortable and informed when you ask them questions pertaining to their problem. The reason why they feel comfortable is because they understand that you’re there to help them. And they feel informed because they understood that you’re an expert in the field of that particular area. This is how clients feel when you ask them something relevant to their particular problem.
Another sign that you have a great listener is the way they listen to you. When you’re talking to clients, one of the ways that you can tell how well you’ve understood them is by how they answer your questions. A good client will always give you the right answer to your question. When you listen to clients effectively and carefully, they’ll feel important even when they don’t have a specific complaint against you.
One great question to ask clients is what is their opinion on a particular situation. When you ask clients this, you not only give them a direct answer, you also get them to state their opinion. So instead of “umm” or “I don’t really know,” you can ask them outright whether they think that their complaint about the service they received was reasonable. A client’s honest opinion is always more valuable than a client’s canned opinion.
Finally, when you interact with clients, make sure that you take the time to genuinely listen to them. Rather than becoming fixated on what they say, try to take the time to hear what they say in relation to you. For instance, if the client complains that they felt uncomfortable during a particular treatment, and that during another treatment they felt good, listen to them and see if it is an isolated incident. If not, consider how that treatment may be causing other problems for the client and try to find a solution for that problem. This may mean that you have to adjust the way you are holding sessions or how you are communicating with your clients to address that problem.
While it is certainly easy to understand the idea behind these questions, therapists must practice the art of listening carefully to clients. In order to truly understand clients and develop an understanding, you need to be able to hear what they’re saying. This way, you not only can help clients improve but you also will be able to help them gain confidence, as well as their trust in you. When a person feels comfortable enough with you to open up to you, then you have a very good therapist on your hands.