Christian Counseling: How To Tell If You Have An Effective Therapist

There is no shortage of studies that confirm mental health treatment is effective in helping people make positive changes. One important criterion in determining treatment effectivenss is a therapist's effectiveness. 

Susan Krauss Whilbourne wrote in Psychology Today (August 8, 2011) an article entitled, "Fulfillment at any Age" in which she highlighted psychologist Bruce Wampold's suggestions about what makes an therapist effective. Such a therapist is able to or has the following:

1. A sophisticated set of interpersonal skills, including warmth, acceptance, empathy and ability to track clients' feelings. 

2. Form strong alliances with a variety of clients.

3. Trustworthiness.

4. Explain why clients are experiencing their unique symptoms.

5. Attend to and evaluate a client's progress.

6. Adapt treatment to a client's needs and personality.

7. Inspire hope and optimism regarding improvement.

8. Be culturally sensitive - show respect.

9. A goodly amount of self-insight - able to keep separate one's own issues from contaminating  a client's.

10. Received ongoing continuing education.

11. Researched the best treatments for specific mental health problems. 

12. Established and committed to a treatment plan.

A major research effort is underway to further delineate what characteristics make for an effective therapist. Until such time we are given the results of those studies, the above description is a reasonable guideline to aid a client in evaluating his or her own therapist, which is one of the necessary criteria to help ensure a postive treatment outcome.  


2 comments (Add your own)

1. Anon wrote:
I think a list of qualities of an effective therapist may be helpful for a client to evaluate their therapist but are probably easier for a therapist to evalutate themselves.

These types of qualities are hard for a client to determine in the first 4 to 6 weeks of therapy. I found a list of red flag/ undesirable behaviors on a popular psychology website to be more helpful when it comes to evaluating a therapist early in the relationship.

It is very difficult emotionally to have become attached to a therapist that you later find has bad "habits" that impact your therapy and its effectiveness...

05/01/2013 @ 1:28 PM

2. Frank Mancuso, Ph.D. wrote:
You make a good point about a client in early sessions not having adequate time to evaluate a therapist's effectiveness. What can be of help during that time is determining if there is a reasonable alliance or connection and trust is developing, even if it is slow.

As is the nature of a relationship, a therapist and client will learn more about one another over time--good things and sometimes not so good. It is the responsibility of the one who has awareness of a relational problem to bring it up in conversation, so that both can work toward understanding and resolution.

Should resolution about a significant issue fail, it would be best to have a face-to-face discussion about possibile termination and see what shakes out from there. Significant issues that remain between a client and therapist will impact the outcome of treatment, if not now, later, when it may be more difficult to leave and when it takes the motivational wind out of one's sails for seeking further help with anyone.

Whatever level of attachment exists between client and therapist should not preclude a client from being open about what concerns her or him about the treatment process or the therapist. If a therapist can't handle being challenged (part of what every client needs to do to evaluate a therapist), it is a sure sign you should seek help elsewhere.

05/02/2013 @ 11:07 AM

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