Knowledge and practical experience are very necessary aspects to properly practice the profession of psychologist. They carry a lot of weight, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones psychotherapists need to give therapy properly.
There are several key aspects to becoming a good clinical psychologist, the obvious ones like empathy or having a good active listening to the rest of the code of ethics and also having good emotional regulation.
These and many more are the keys to being a professional psychotherapist which we will discover below.
What are the keys to practicing professionally as a therapist?
A positive relationship between therapist and patient is a predictor of therapy success, as well as being a requirement for being a good psychotherapist. The more positive this relationship, the more confident the client will be in explaining their problems in more detail, while being more supportive of exploring them and introducing new strategies into their lives to deal with them. .
The professional’s knowledge and experiences are crucial aspects for the proper exercise of a therapeutic approach, but it is also essential that he has developed certain therapeutic skills such as empathy, active listening or emotional intelligence. The patient and therapist should experience a team spirit, establishing a positive connection and a commitment to achieving therapeutic goals, a commitment in which the professional’s skills exert a notable influence.
But the need to establish a positive relationship doesn’t mean it’s like the one we have with our friends or family. The relationship in therapy must be asymmetrical in two ways.
On the one hand, it is emotionally asymmetrical, because it is the patient’s problems that should take center stage, not ours as psychologists, while on the other hand is asymmetric because we are the psychotherapists who have the professional knowledge to help the patient improve their quality of life and mental health.
In addition, it is necessary to establish formal rules of operation, the space, duration and frequency of the sessions and the commitment that the patient will actively collaborate with the professional to help him solve his problems.
Skills and requirements to be a professional psychotherapist
Want to know what it takes to be a good psychologist? There are many aspects that need to be taken into account during psychotherapy to make the therapeutic process as efficient and smooth as possible. However, they can all be grouped into the following points.
1. Mental flexibility
Psychologists know many different people, each with their own opinions, views, and beliefs, ideas that can be as varied as they are shocking.
For this reason, in order to be able to practice psychotherapy correctly, it is necessary free oneself from prejudices, stereotypes, beliefs and received ideas in addition to applying the unconditional acceptance of what the patient thinks. This does not mean that we have the same opinion as our patients, but we must be open to difference and the unknown.
To achieve such a level of tolerance, as professionals, we must have dared to step out of our comfort zone.. We all have these kinds of metaphorical “zones”, made up of habits, customs and routines that provide us with security and comfort. In the particular case of psychologists, it is a question of daring to put aside our beliefs and our points of view to mold the patient and to trust him.
Every psychologist must put into practice the art of questioning, discovering, investigating and assimilating what surrounds us, because it can be a real source of inspiration.
It is essential in the clinical practice of any psychologist that he knows how to put himself in the shoes of his patients.. The psychotherapist must have the mental mechanisms and strategies necessary to understand the fears, needs and particular circumstances of the patient which made him feel who he is today. Only by gaining this understanding of the emotional state of the patient will the psychologist be able to deal with the case.
Introspection is another key necessary for any good psychologist to appreciate themselves.. It is a complicated task, but very beneficial to our clinical practice. We cannot understand our patients without first performing a self-observation exercise, analyzing and understanding ourselves.
It may sound simple, but it takes careful thinking and discovering our strengths and weaknesses in order to grow as a person and apply psychotherapy correctly.
It is only by knowing ourselves well that we will achieve better management and control over the mental states of others.
4. Authenticity and respect
With authenticity and respect we refer to being consistent in staffing, avoiding defensive responses and showing care and empathy, in other words, being with the patient. It is essential to pay attention to the qualities and resources that the client has used to manage their discomfort on their own before going to psychotherapy..
As professionals, we can afford to reveal ourselves from time to time, giving information about ourselves. This shouldn’t be very common as we shouldn’t steal time or importance from our patient. If personal information comes to light, it should be disclosed with a dropper and with the clear purpose of increasing our patient’s collaboration and trust.
5. Active listening and observation
Active listening is a prerequisite for practicing psychotherapy. It is not only a question of listening to the patient, but also of being very attentive to him, to be aware of everything he tells us without interrupting him except to ask him the appropriate questions.
Not only will active listening help us better understand what the patient is going through, but it will also allow us to better establish the therapist-patient relationship.
Knowing how to listen makes the consultation relaxed. By creating a climate of complicity, the patient will be more free to explain what his problem is, calmly and sincerely.
The patient should not be interrupted so that he can express himself freely. He will thus be able to answer his own rhetorical questions that he himself asks aloud.
It is also important to observe how he tells us things and how he behaves in gesture. Silence is not the mere absence of a word, but a pause that can tell us a lot of things. The practitioner should observe how the patient experiences these pauses, expressing emotions such as nervousness or discomfort through their non-verbal language. This is why we must pay attention to the movement of the hands, the posture and the gestures. Everything, absolutely everything, conveys information in one way or another.
6. Trust and security
It is essential that as professionals we transmit trust to our clients, making them aware that we will do everything possible to help them, that we are there for them and that with our professional practice our goal is not not at all to harm them. little.
Confidence is transmitted by feeling it in yourself. In other words, in order for the patient to feel confident in therapy, the professional must first trust their own skills, knowledge and experience. If the therapist’s way of speaking does not show a certain air of determination and confidence in his words, it will be difficult to convey it to those who ask for help.
We don’t mean to be too technical or to demonstrate how much we’ve studied. Showing confidence is not synonymous with being pedantic.
The idea is that by being tactful and without being too direct, we convey the lines of action in a clear, concise and reliable manner. We must avoid being ambiguous, not to give mixed messages, to be inferior to our patient or to hesitate., behaviors that undoubtedly harm the therapeutic relationship.
7. Be a good communicator
In addition to listening, it is very important to know how to convey what we want the patient to understand. It is necessary that the psychotherapist has good communication resources to ensure that the patient understands what the purpose of therapy is and what tools will be used, making him understand that he will have to play an active role throughout the therapy. but under the guidance of the professional.
Becoming a good communicator is probably one of the biggest challenges psychologists face on a daily basis. The reason is that, although we already have many years of experience, there are always times when we have to adapt our words to the patient, who will have a certain cultural level. Some will struggle to understand a concept more than others, and that’s why we will be there to make your job easier. It is essential to have good communication skills.
8. Analytical capacity
It is common for patients to like to talk a lot. They talk and talk, and they are right that they came to psychotherapy. To be able to act, the professional must be able to interpret and select what the patient explains to him and which is related to his main problem.
Because it is not advisable to cut off the flow of the conversation, the psychologist’s capacity for analysis and selection is fundamental. Stick to what’s important, with the information to throw away to get to the root of the problem.
We have reached number 8 on our list, but I consider that there are two other aspects that we cannot ignore in the good practice of clinical psychology.
9. Emotional intelligence and self-regulation
It’s almost a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Every therapist must have some emotional intelligence and self-regulation. If you do not have it, you must go to a psychologist before applying any therapy because otherwise it will be very difficult to provide quality psychotherapy.
Emotional intelligence isn’t just about having empathy, but being able to recognize our own emotional states, knowing how to name them, and applying tools to deal with those emotions.
10. Compliance with ethical and professional requirements
This point is another obvious fact but unfortunately there are not a few psychologists who seem that this code of ethics is not there. Although the debate over whether psychology is a science is intense, and we always find opinions of all kinds, even among colleagues in the profession, what is not debatable is that psychotherapy must be based on empirical evidence and meet ethical and professional requirements..
Basic requirements that must be observed include confidentiality, referral from another professional if we do not see ourselves in a position to take charge of the case or deal with the patient’s problems for any reason and to avoid ‘another type of relationship occurs beyond the professional. Following ethics is not a skill, but an ethical, moral and professional obligation and there is no risk at all of saying that a psychologist who does not respect it is not a good psychologist.
Within these requirements is also that of ongoing formation. Psychological treatments are updated frequently, as well as how to diagnose and treat the disorders. If we want to give the best possible psychotherapies to our patients, it is essential that we are aware of developments in the field, making sure we are up to date and not using techniques which science has proven ineffective.
Do you want to train in psychotherapy?
If you want to train and professionalize yourself in the care of patients from psychological therapy, you might be interested in the Online Postgraduate Professional in Integrative Psychotherapy organized by the Mensalus Institute.
This postgraduate training program lasts 6 months and includes both theoretical and practical courses and all kinds of materials and documentation, all in a 100% online format.