This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Top Ten Therapist's Traits

Which characteristics make for a good therapist

 Many people have the idea that therapists are 'a breed apart'.  Usually I am writing to say that therapists are in fact just human, they are not perfect, that they experience the vicissitudes of life like everyone else.  Of course this is all true.
However, in my opinion, there are some qualities that an individual may have that make them more suited to this profession:
Focus.  The ability to focus, to block out extraneous sounds or sights or, at least to not be distracted by them is pretty basic and important.  Some people are quite distractable  and require a library-like environment as well as a mind that isn't preoccupied, to be able to maintain focus.
A therapist has to be capable of maintaining the focus despite what else may be happening in the waiting room, the hallway, on the street outside, or in their own mind.  
In addition, the therapist has to be able to track which means that, if there is an interruption, they should be able to return to the thread of the session.
Sometimes even the patient themselves produce a distraction; they suddenly exclaim that they remembered something they forgot earlier in the day, they failed to turn off their cell phone at the beginning of the session and it rings, or they begin bringing in related but off the course topics.  The therapist has to be able to field these interruptions and remain focused on the task at hand.
In addition, it takes a lot of ability to concentrate in order to clearly get what the patient is communicating.  The kind of listening required is not just to the topic but, also to nuances, tone of voice, attending to body language and trying to sense the unspoken parts.
Enjoying the unknown.  Therapy can be a mysterious process and so an individual who enjoys the intrigue of the unknown will be happier at work.  Sometimes a person comes in presenting a problem for therapy and it turns out that the real problem is something completely different.  A therapist who can be interested in following a sometimes winding road and enjoy the surprise, or surprises while proceeding, will do better.  The course of any therapy process is unpredictable; the therapist has to like following the signs along the way and let go of controlling the outcome.

Willing to take risks.  Again, the unknown plays a part.  When a new patient walks in the door, the therapist has no idea of who that is or what they are bringing to the table.  
Also, therapists sometimes pick up an unarticulated aspect of a problem being presented or an apparently out-of-awareness trait in the patient that is pertinent, and once having decided it will be useful, has to be willing to take the risk of communicating that to a patient who may be caught off guard.

Be an idea person.  Therapists need to have some skill in conceptualizing.  Idea people who have an imagination and who are prone to think inventively will make good therapists.  This usually arises from the intuitive function.  Therapists still need to have some practicality.  After all, some problems brought to treatment have practical aspects that need to be sorted out.  It can't all be about ideas and concepts but, the capacity to conceptualize and think creatively is valuable.  Many patients present an array of material and the therapist has to be able to take those disparate parts and feed them back to the client in a cohesive way---or, at least that ability will be very helpful.

Artist Unknown
 Finds other people interesting.  One who is interested in the variety that is represented by knowing a number of people well will find doing therapy ever challenging.  Not being bored by hearing another try to explain their point of view, wanting to know what is behind the public mask, and being really intrigued by that is a good characteristic for a therapist to have.  One cannot feign this interest; if attempted, not only will the client  sense it but, also the therapist will lose focus, concentration, and connection.  If the therapist is genuine about wanting to learn about the person before them, it will contribute to an involved, alive, productive dynamic between therapist and patient.

Have a compassionate nature.  Someone once told me, "You have a big heart".  Being able to offer true compassion can go a long way in the therapy relationship.  This characteristic is an asset for the therapist and the patient; compassion can be healing. 

Curiosity.  Having a curious nature will make a therapist feel and appear engaged.

Mental organizing.  An aptitude for mental organizing is an asset for a therapist.  By this I mean things like being able to prioritize, listening to a lot and finding the essence in the message, and scanning verbal material for signs.

Ability to manage the self.  A therapist has to learn to be able to put their own personal concerns aside when they are in a session.  This is a skill that takes practice.  It helps with the first quality, the ability to focus.  
Things happen in life, to everybody, but when the therapist comes to a session with a patient, they need to be able to leave those things of theirs for later.  The more their own personal life is settled, the easier this will be.  This is why, as I've said before, we should all be willing to go to therapy ourselves.  But, if something difficult and unexpected does occur, the therapist has to be able to self-manage.  It just isn't fair to the patient to not be fully present.

Sense of humor.  I didn't count this on my official list because I don't think it is essential.  A therapist who is of a primarily serious nature could do just fine.  But, some patients like to joke around a little and sometimes humor is also good for the therapist's state of mind.  A little levity in a session is a good thing in my book.  Depending on the therapist's style, humor can add a little but it isn't a necessity.

Confidence.  I think this one will occur naturally if the therapist has the others on the list.  That list will contribute to successful therapy episodes and, thus, will contribute to the therapist's confidence.  A therapist who is a confident person will impart a sense of ease and encouragement to the patient.

This particular post just begs for input from other therapists.  Some of you may think other qualities are more important, some may think some of these are not of primary importance to an effectively functioning therapist, some may have additions to the list, some may heartily agree with my list.  Please comment.

All readers, please share your opinions and experiences. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A New Season Can Impart a Sense of Personal Rebirth

Today is the 1st day of Spring in my part of the world 

 Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes
of growth, renewal, and transformation in our lives.

Author Unknown

                                                                                                          Artist, Vanessa Sorensen

Another Voice on the Privacy Issue

The unnoticed exposure

"Well, except for the diagnosis issue, are there any other reasons to avoid filing insurance claims through the office?
Perhaps the most important issue to many clients is the lack of privacy they sense when their therapy records are open to their insurance company. While the old-fashioned stigma of visiting a mental health professional has largely disappeared, most people do not want others having access to their therapy files. Therapy is, typically, a private, personal process and confidentiality is a concern of all professionals. However, to maintain tighter control on mental health expenditures, third-party payers may insist on having full access to client records."
Andrews and Associates

Here is a link to the post that introduced this topic: 
Another related discussion:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Considering Medication?

The decision to begin using psychotropic medication warrants some thoughtful consideration

 An excellent article on the pros and cons of using anti-depressants:  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The End Goal

Seeing clearly what you want to accomplish can help you to formulate the steps you take to get there

"If I see an ending, I can work backward."

~Arthur Miller

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dial 411 for Information

  If you would like to see an interview done with me by LoveAnswer, here's the link:  This site has also published an E-Book about mistakes that men make with women and some suggestions to men on what to do about it.  I wrote some of the pieces for this book but the contributing authors are not named.  See if you can recognize my work!
* * * * *
 Dial A Therapist's Thoughts for 411 posts on learning and memory, the butterfly effect, transparency, 1st therapy session, how therapy works, true intention and how to use it, feelings, dream boards, fear of death, children's imaginary companions, and many, many more.  Isn't even that little sample list interesting?  If you just landed here, doesn't that sound inviting?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Then and Now

A follow-up post to the post, Search Keywords/It Takes Two To Tango

In this post, I mentioned, in passing, that part of the therapist's job of learning about a patient is done by observation.  The reference is in the 6th-7th paragraph and is about the "clinical" aspect of a patient's behavior toward the therapist.  One of the readers, who especially liked that post asked me to expand upon those few sentences.

One thing that I said was that current action-on anyone's part- can reveal how that person was treated in the past.  (A related post is  For example, someone who was scorned as a child or ridiculed a lot---sometimes this can happen at the hand of other kids, siblings or peers but, it is most potent when it comes from a parent---can grow up to be a person who interprets many things from others as criticism.  It may sometimes be entirely incorrect but it is heard through the filter of the past.
A child of a parent who has lots of their own need for attention may learn to stay in the background, to not rob the parent of the limelight.  As an adult, they may be obsequious.  
There's but 2 of many examples possible.  A therapist can notice things like this and draw tentative conclusions.  In other words, the therapist will keep such observations in mind as possible avenues to explore.  In addition, the therapy relationship itself can be healing for this type of historical problem.  In the 1st example, the therapist is going to take a position of acceptance from the outset.  That will also usually be the fallback position.  Does the new client come in and begin to open up or are they very cautious and guarded?  This can tell a therapist something about their ability to trust.  Does the patient do a lot of scanning, trying to determine whether or not what they say is landing well with the therapist? This would be an indicator of possible substance abuse or addiction in the patient's family of origin.  I could write many examples; suffice it to say, the patient's behavior is information to the therapist on how to help. 

The therapist is not there to judge but to try to understand.  This attitude will provide a healing experience for that patient.  Also, if the therapist gives some feedback and the patient, through that
distorted filter, takes it as criticism (as in the 1st example), that can be worked through in the therapy process.  
It becomes an opportunity to mend that psychic tear.

(There is a post that mentions this topic from the patient's point of view:;postID=4634973442525805532)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Poll Results

Formatting the blog for your convenience

The results of the poll (thanks for voting!) were surprising to me, and interesting.  I would never have guessed that the Archive is the most used access to posts that lie beyond the landing page.  
I have rearranged the side bar information to reflect the poll results:  The Search bar and the Follow by e-mail tied at %44 and Labels came in last.  
If you have other suggestions for how the blog is set up, please let me know. Your collaboration with me gradually creates a better blog.