What makes a good therapist?

 We know that psychotherapy works across all modalities for about 75 to 80% of all clients. The therapeutic relationship itself is key to the success of the process. Therefore, the next question is: What makes a good therapist? A review of the existing research was summarized by Bruce Wampold into the following traits of a good psychotherapist: 1

  •  Has a sophisticated set of interpersonal skills.
  • Builds trust, understanding and belief from the client.
  • Has an alliance with client.
  • Has an acceptable and adaptive explanation of the client’s condition.
  • Has a treatment plan and allows it to be flexible.
  • Is influential, persuasive and convincing.
  • Monitors patient progress.
  • Offers hope and optimism (realistic optimism, not euphemisms).
  • Is aware of a client’s characteristics in context.
  • Is reflective.
  • Relies on best research evidence.
  • Continually improves through professional development.

Scientific research demonstrates that psychotherapy with an effective therapist works even better in the long-term and its effects are more enduring than medication. Psychotherapy is not only more cost-effective, but  it leads to fewer relapses of anxiety or mild to moderate depression than medication use alone.

We live in a world saturated by advertisement. Pharmaceutical companies promise you quick fixes, and taking a pill is faster than seeing a therapist once a week for an hour.  The evidence shows is that pills don’t work as well as therapy. Based on these findings, the Norwegian Health Authorities have already issued guidelines concerning the treatment of mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and they suggest that psychological interventions, not medications, should be applied first.

Psychotherapy should be the preferred treatment for most non-psychotic conditions, but major pharmaceutical companies heavily market their medications directly to the public and to health professionals, which creates false expectations in clients, and a strong demand for chemical fixes in people affected by anxiety or other emotional problems. Therapy gets sharper, more effective, and more enduring, but it continues to lose influence in the mental health field to medication-based approaches, which are also propagated by psychiatrists.

The goal is to make psychotherapy a first-line treatment for people who seek help. Eventually, people will realize that eating pills is not a solution to their life problems. Finding a good therapist can really be a life-changing event.

Notes:

  1. Wampold, B. E. (2013). The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Models, Methods, and Findings (Counseling and Psychotherapy: Investigating Practice from Scientific, Historical, and Cultural Perspectives) (1 edition.). Routledge.

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