What makes a therapist really good?
For a few years now, when you ask me what is the one most important thing that distinguishes a good therapist, I have been answering LOVE. Now that sounds a little extreme, you think? When you are loving and accepting with the client even when he is blaming himself and rejecting parts of who he is, you create the best situation for the client to face whatever negative experience he is having: failure, guilt, fear, or depression.
What does it mean for a therapist to love the client? Of course, it is not sexual, nor dependent in any way. As in any other relationship, real love doesn’t need anything in return (not admiration, not agreement…). The lovingness of a therapist expresses in him seeing the good side and meaning of even the most negative experience or action. It shows because the therapist trusts in the capacity of the client to heal himself, to want to become better, to be able to deal with whatever situation life has brought to him.
Yes, therapists are only human, and they can also get attached to that love and want something in return. And then they may go over their own limits or leave the realm of professionalism. But in my opinion, that is a risk I am willing to take, and there is always a way back. (Life doesn’t let us therapists get away with being unprofessional. When we’re unprofessional, our job gets hard, tiring, and inefficient. So we always get clear signs when something is going wrong).
It is more important that I can say to my clients: “I am the therapist and you are searching for help. But I am human, just like you. I know what it means to suffer, just like you. And I don’t have all the solutions, just like you. I believe that you can be happier and healthier. And I can offer my knowledge about the process of getting there. And no matter how you see yourself right now, I know that you have everything you need to make a change.”
Until now, I have not seen a way of being loving when you are not there as a person but only in your role as a professional. So my solution is: I want to be personable and personal in my work. I want to trust that the RSY methods, or maybe the personal relationship my clients and I experience, can bring about healing and growth. And I want to be humble and always aware that whatever solution and relief the clients experiences, it comes from a bigger context and because life has it in store for this person at that moment.