With the growth of psychology, psychotherapy and counselling in the 21st century, we have witnessed a growth in the area of professional psychotherapy and counselling. Indeed, at the time of writing there are over 700 types of psychotherapy themselves in the United Kingdom. So when I was looking at what perhaps is the essential habits that need to be addressed or the essential qualities that needs to be addressed for an effective psychotherapist in today's world, what sort of habits does the effective psychotherapist need to establish?
Ok, so I've come up with some effective habits that I think need to be observed in the workings of a professional psychotherapist’s life. These are as follows;
Firstly confidentiality. In the world of psychotherapy the effective psychotherapist needs to have confidentiality of course, essential for their practice. They need to cultivate and I think explicitly state the notion of confidentiality and what it means. Confidentiality means for me to be the most important feature in their professional work. In fact clients will not only expect this but will, in most cases, demand it. When a confidentiality is broken by the therapist the client will usually feel letdown, betrayed and fundamentally insecure or unsafe. They will usually leave therapy perhaps and may indeed take out a complaint in extreme cases against the psychotherapist. So it’s a very important habit for any successful psychotherapist practicing in the 21st century.
Second, safety and security is an essential habit to get into. The psychological safety and security of their clients must be paramount. So I suppose what do we mean by the term psychological safety? When I use the term psychological safety I mean how the client internally protects themselves or indeed abandons themselves. Many of the clients the therapist may work with have not internalised their protective nurturing other than that which is on their side in the terms of safety and security. These type of clients often may present in a chaotic or neglected manner. In other words they psychologically don't take care of themselves in either an emotional or practical way. So in that example the therapist needs to have a habit of actually making sure or establishing a routine where the clients will take on the therapist's psychological protectiveness. So the therapist needs to model psychological protectiveness and this will not only provide a sense of safety and security for clients, it will also be the mechanism of osmosis, helping with the creating of a more protective psychic skin. This psychic skin will create a more robust sense of self for the client, especially when dealing psychologically with their more chaotic, sensitive self. Indeed the importance of this cannot be underestimated and must become an effective habit in the army of the professional psychotherapists today.
Next, the psychotherapist needs to have the habit of wisdom. I think this is important in the context of this blog in the imparting of the wisdom of the therapist within the therapeutic dialogue. Wisdom is not only essential per se, it's also important to know that wisdom for the therapist is also gained through heart, hard earned experience of many hours of working with clients within the therapeutic process. Not only is it important for the client to often see you as a sage or mental figure within the therapeutic journey, it is also vital for the therapist to pass down some of their wise words and wise attitudes to the client in the service of emotional help and wellbeing. The parting wisdom does not mean a complete sharing of yourself as this can be often inappropriate and counter to the therapeutic process. Indeed in this context the best combination would be considered wisdom with clinical judgement. Does this mean then that the inexperienced therapist will not be seen as a wise person? No, because often wisdom is a way of being and can therefore run through the essence of the therapeutic relationship.
Next, habit robustness. The psychotherapist needs to be robust. It is an important habit for a therapist to cultivate and indeed it is this robustness or strength of self that the therapist portrays that is so important of the client when working through their struggles and adversities within the therapeutic process. Often on a psychological level the client needs to feel and almost touch the strength of the therapist so they can psychologically internalise the therapist’s vital strength in their quest of health. For the therapist themselves it is the strengthening of their psychic self or the development of the robustness of the therapist’s self which will be crucial in providing a psychological container for the client to express their anxieties, fears and emotional insecurities.
Finally another discipline which is really important is the use of humour. Another positive habit for the therapist to develop which will make their psychotherapy practice more effective I believe is the use of humour within a therapeutic process. For any psychotherapy to be effective and secure well being, the therapy journey will inimitably pass through some areas of lightness and darkness. Indeed it is often through these dark times that real therapy happens. Often we can see that through acute discomfort motivation will occur and if we can grab hold of this motivation, the road to cure will often follow. However, it is with this in place, we often witness great courage and the human spirit will prevail on the road to victory and celebration. In a transition between the light and darkness, it is often necessary to use humour as a light relief, otherwise the darkness may become so overwhelming that the client may stay with the “psychological safety” or their default swift pattern. Humour is more than not a spontaneous transaction or set of transactions which the therapist will often use in a clinical manner with the client. The clinical thinking does not have to take away the authenticity and genuineness of the humorous intent. In fact the humour will hopefully provide a time of intimacy and therapeutic closeness within the therapy setting. Humour of course is natural to the human condition and can be a useful tool for the therapist to utilise in the service of therapy to cure and well being.
My invitation in this blog is for psychotherapists and counsellors to allow themselves to use humour with clinical forethought within the psychotherapy journey. Finally courage needs to be cultivated as a habit for the psychotherapist or counsellor. These qualities need to be developed per se. It is very, very important that the therapist can take the extra risk, go the extra mile for their clients. Courage is modelled down so that the clients can not only feel the courage but be empowered to take courageous risks themselves. In my professional experience it is the courage of psychotherapists that often becomes the bedrock for the client to empower themselves in the journey of their therapeutic life.
So these are some of my thoughts on the blog in terms of habits the psychotherapists and counsellors need to cultivate and need to build on so they become the bedrock of their psychotherapy practice.