It has been said that a good therapist “comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.” I believe this is true in many respects. But in addition, a good therapist had many more qualities and plays many roles.
A good therapist gives clients what they need to help themselves. This could mean any number of things – as long as those things are not immoral, illegal, or indecent! Flexibility is essential, and a good therapist can think outside the box and draw from various tools depending on what the client needs. A good therapist walks a delicate boundary line which may vary from client to client. I have always said, if I am not human, therapy won’t work, but if I am too human, it also won’t work. But the professional boundary is essential. The people close to a client in the client’s personal life may love them, but a therapist is there at an objective distance to help a client transform his or her life for the better. Where a client may “like” me, it is not required.
Certainly a good therapist maintains the strictest confidentiality and ethical standards of clinical practice. A good therapist empowers the client, is a mirror for the client, and is a good listener. A good therapist is compassionate and comforting, as well as candid and challenging. A good therapist is both creative and sensitive to the values of a client and his/her culture. A good therapist recognizes the importance of a strong therapeutic relationship and connection with the client, and as a result is not offended if a client decides to seek treatment elsewhere. If the therapeutic relationship “clicks,” treatment will be successful. If for whatever reason a client feels that the relationship with me does not click, I would be happy to help them find another therapist.