There are always basic techniques, time and theories that are the basis of training when attempting to help others professionally heal from psychological pain. Roughly 10,000 client hours will move you toward being an exceptional therapist. This is based on the work of psychologist. K. Anders Ericcson and later made popular by current author, Malcolm Gladwell. You can speed this up if trained by experts in your field repetitively as, Daniel Golmam Emotional Intelligence author has echoed. Professional clinicians in the making are on the fast track. They have engaged in practicums and internships for many focused hours.
Master therapists have additional skills they utilize that are not necessarily taught. The greatest therapists use Emotional Intelligence that connects with people on a more direct and deeper level. Here is a shortlist of skills they have mastered above and beyond the standard therapeutic skills.
Practice Empathy Daily
The deeper the understanding, the more connection you encounter. If people are to trust you with their pain, they must believe in your ability to imagine their journey without judgment. Empathy is the ability to seek understanding without judgment. This, like a muscle, must be worked by daily activities. The best therapist spends time daily relating to other people’s circumstances both at work and in life.
We come to thousands of judgments daily both covert and overt, there are few valuable negative judgments when you are seeking therapeutic connection. Judgment can be used on a macro-level to determine safety and companionship and so in life, there is a place for it. During therapy, however, it is often on the micro-level that we seek connection. Anyone sensing judgment on a micro-level is likely to withhold or withdraw. Sooner or later judgment will arrive. The best therapist simply suspends judgment for as long as possible, to allow other things to grow and understanding to deepen.
Thanks to stigma and stereotypes related to mental health treatment, the last thing a therapist wants is to be seen as is unapproachable, judgmental or full of jargon. The premise of therapy is someone going to a perceived expert to seek guidance. It is ok to maintain your expertise, this is why you are sought out and paid for your service. I see no reason to move above the client and see every reason to be on equal status so that they feel comfortable. We are taught as children those who are most confident see little value in bragging or ego. The best therapists are humble.
There are so many clients that it is nearly impossible to be educated on each person’s value and unique place in the world. That should not excuse us from making every attempt to do so anyway. The easily noticed points of diversity are color, gender, age, ability, and orientation. However, there remain several offshoots and subtypes. Not only should we recognize them, we should make a point to inquire, explore and uplift those as the client sees fit. The best therapists knows that the more people they celebrate the greater their reach of healing.
Master therapists do not blame clients for not succeeding in treatment. Many therapists have said: “The client was not ready or willing to change.” These therapists are unable to process the disappointment that the client’s failure produces for them. Most humans resist change or unsolicited growth. That’s why they are there. The best therapist builds this into their theory. Think of it as a change relapse; this is common in substance abuse recovery and should be common in therapy. The master therapist sees resistance as fear or as an acknowledgment that whatever intervention being attempted is not working. Although the therapist is NEVER responsible for the client’s change, the best therapists continue to encourage change even if it is not exactly how the therapist saw it working.
I hope you can be this kind of therapist or a person who searches for this type of therapist. I will continue to strive to model emotional intelligence in my own work and I wish the best healing possible for you.