What Makes A Good Therapist? 8 Valuable Traits To Look Out For

What Makes A Good Therapist? 8 Valuable Traits To Look Out For

Going into therapy can be a daunting process–right from the moment of choosing a therapist. With the sheer number of counsellors and psychotherapists out there, it isn’t surprising that many people wonder: is there a magic formula to finding the perfect one for my needs?

Unfortunately, while there isn’t an exact formula to follow; the good news is, there are some traits that you can look out for when searching for the one. To help you get started, here are 8 traits that can really make a difference in your journey.

1.They will never judge you, no matter what. (no, really)

Whether you are currently struggling with personal relationships, have a substance misuse problem, or are dealing with multiple layers of trauma, a good therapist is someone who is worthy of your trust. They’ll never see you as someone who is “broken” or “damaged” or “requires fixing”. Rather, they’ll separate you from your problems and embrace you as a unique human being.

Therapy is not a place for quick judgement or biased opinions, and a good therapist will hold space for you to openly discuss your issues and meet you exactly where you are–staying objective even during your darkest, most trying moments.

2. They focus on building a solid relationship with you.

This one is actually backed by tons of research–otherwise known as the “therapeutic relationship”–research has consistently shown that having a strong relationship with your therapist is therapeutic in itself, regardless of which intervention they use.

What does this mean for you? The right therapist should make you feel safe and supported, and that your feelings and behaviours are important and valued. More than that, they’ll provide inspiration and instil hope in you that things will get better. In fact, one study suggests that a therapist’s hope and belief in the potential for positive therapeutic change may be a greater predictor of actual positive change than the client’s hope in their own abilities!

3. They are willing to be flexible and adapt to your needs.

When it comes to therapy, one size does not fit all. The most effective therapists recognise this and adapt their approach and techniques to fit your personality, needs and preferences.

Flexible therapists are able to accommodate your goals, and notice when existing ones are no longer working in your best interests. Instead, they’ll offer you suggestions on what to work on next (but only if you need guidance!) to help steer you in the right direction. The goals set for therapy are something that is agreed upon by both of you, and therapy should always follow your lead. 

4. They are natural communicators and skilled listeners. 

If you have tried being a listening ear for someone, you probably know that it is easy to hear, but much harder to listen. Contrary to popular belief, counselling and therapy are not about giving advice and providing solutions. On top of having excellent interpersonal and listening skills, a good therapist is often able to “read between the lines”–identifying patterns that play a part in your story, or even irrational beliefs that aren’t doing you good.

Doing this requires a lot of active listening skills, being aware of subtle verbal and non-verbal cues, and regularly asking for feedback on how you feel about treatment.

5. They believe you have all the inner resources needed to solve your problems.

When you have someone who expresses confidence in you, sees your potential, and believes you can achieve what you desire, it can truly be life-changing. Effective therapists are pretty much like having that valuable ally in battle who will celebrate your successes (no matter how small), and challenge you respectfully when needed.

To maximise your results from therapy, a good therapist will also offer and teach you coping strategies and techniques, such as breathing exercises to help you take back control of your life, as well as prevent remission.

6. They spend time working on themselves. 

In Singapore, there are several professional associations, such as the Singapore Association for Counselling and the Singapore Psychological Society that oversees the certification and accreditation of counsellors and psychologists. Those who are licensed must clock in a certain number of clinical hours, undergo supervision and partake in continuing education to maintain their credentials. On top of that, licensed individuals also have to adhere to the code of ethics of their respective associations.

Whether it is staying abreast of the latest research developments in psychology, attending seminars and conferences, and regularly investing in training courses to upgrade their skills and refine their techniques–a good therapist is able to transfer this into your sessions and work in your best interests.

7. They are mindful and sensitive towards your background.

Good therapists are able to work with clients from all walks of life (or at least admit when they are unable to and offer the proper referral). This includes showing respect for your background and being aware of how family relationships, race, ethnicity, religious practices, and cultural differences can impact an individual’s mental health and well-being.

It’s perfectly OK for a therapist not to know everything about your background; however, the good ones do whatever it takes to learn about your beliefs and value systems and appreciate where you come from.

8. They do not try to be a friend.

Your therapist isn’t your best friend, parent or boss.  While they might have more knowledge and experience in dealing with specific issues, you shouldn’t feel inferior to your therapist or feel like there’s a power struggle at play.

There are times when speaking to a therapist works better than talking to your BFF–while both parties might be privy to your innermost thoughts and secrets–it can be difficult for friends to truly remain objective (and also dish out homework for you to do). Part of effective therapy is setting clear boundaries that set the tone for what will and will not happen during sessions, so it’s a good thing if your therapist isn’t trying too hard to get into your good books and be your friend.

Meaningful therapy is both an art and a science.

Therapy is challenging and painful work. And if you are taking the first step in seeking help from a professional, give yourself a pat on the back!

Like any other worthwhile endeavour, the benefits of therapy don’t happen overnight, but it’s one that will probably change your life for the better in more ways than one. Ultimately, it always pays to listen to your intuition–you’ll probably know when you manage to find a therapist that you can feel 100% comfortable with (in other words, good vibes only!) Should you feel like your current therapist isn’t quite cutting it out for you, do know that it’s OK to go in search of another.

Need some help? Check out our client-matching services and we can help connect you with a therapist today!




Where private practice meets
A Space Between provides flexible co-working office spaces for rent to therapists and other professionals in Singapore.
A Space Between is a destination for mental health therapy activities. Counsellors utilise our many conducive therapy rooms for consultations. Located conveniently downtown and offering your independent therapists rent by the hour, we house many professional mental health practitioners, including LGBTQ+ friendly ones. To find out more about the therapists practising in A Space Between, write to us at [email protected].
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