One of my most popular posts is ‘the 10 worst therapists’ which highlights some of the common flaws and issues I see in the worst therapists across all the professions. However, I thought it’s time to look at the other side of the coin and discuss what are the 10 most common traits and attributes of the best therapists I know and see across all the professions and how we can try and aspire towards achieving them all.
Now this is not an exhaustive list and there are many other traits I could have added, but these are what I think are the important ones. I also hasten to add that these are not all my traits before you think I’m some kind of egotistical knob head. If I’m being honest I reckon I score about 5 or 6 here fairly consistently, with me slipping on the others from time to time. And I seriously doubt any of you can honestly say you are all 10 all the time unless you are a complete deluded narcissist. However, if we all tried to score as high as we can, as often as we can, then I don’t think we would go far wrong helping more of our patients. So without further ado, here are my 10 best types of therapist.
No 1: The Caring Therapist
It almost goes without saying that therapists should care about their patient’s issues and outcomes. The best therapists will be genuinely interested in their patient’s problems and will want to help and assist them with their goals and aspirations as much as they can. The best therapists will be compassionate and considerate and can demonstrate this to their patients with ease.
I recognise that caring can be hard to do all the time with everyone you see, and I have discussed before how no therapist can care more about a patients issues and outcomes more than the patient themselves. But there are some therapists who are clearly better than others when it comes to caring, with some who just shouldn’t be working with people in pain and distress. If as a therapist you find yourself not caring about your patients then you need to get out of the job fast.
No 2: The Passionate Therapist
Now I don’t mean passionate as romantically, I mean passionate about their profession and their role. The best therapists will be driven about what they do and why they do it. A passionate therapist will always look for ways to learn, understand, and improve. Passionate therapists will take pride in all they do and are confident to tell others.
However, this is a fine line as passion can soon turn into an obsession that becomes ugly and embarrassing. Overly passionate therapists tend to over promoting and over exaggerate what they and their profession can do, and then there are those on the other spectrum who are full of lethargy and apathy about everything and anything. Simply put passion needs to be strong but balanced.
No 3: The Knowledgeable Therapist
Notice how I didn’t say experienced or qualified. Yes, of course, experience and qualifications are important, but they don’t guarantee the best therapists. The best therapists regardless of how many years they have been doing the job will be knowledgeable about the research and current evidence base. The best therapists will say up to date with changes to practice to ensure that they offer the best advice and treatment for their patients.
Unfortunately, some therapists who have been qualified for a while can begin to think that they have seen it all and know it all. But then there are also some newly qualified therapists who cockily think that because they have had the latest training and information they know it all. There is an old saying that you can have 10 years experience or 1 years experience 10 times over. I think the best therapists have both.
No 4: The Uncertain Therapist
This may seem strange to include as uncertainty is often seen as a negative trait in lots of areas but especially healthcare. However, I find the best therapists and most other professionals will be confident with uncertainty and recognise that often there are no black and white answers or treatments (except of course dead lifts).
The best therapists are comfortable and confident with uncertainty and are able to pass this onto their patients informing them of all the options and pros and cons of these. The best therapists work together with their patients rather than being certain that they know what is best for them. Uncertainty is something we need to accept and tolerate more and despite fears and concerns, uncertainty is really useful as it forces both therapists and patients to think.
No 5: The Accessible Therapist
There is no point being a great therapist if no one can see you. The best therapists are available in clinics often and have appointments at times to help suit patients lifestyles, not just the routine 9-5. The best therapists also have appointments that allow sufficient time for patients to be heard and treated and not feel rushed and hurried out the door.
But there is a fine line as some therapists are too accessible, seeing everyone and anyone they can, sometimes double, or even treble booking patients in at the same time. Having a therapist flipping in and out from room to room will not, and can not allow for a good history, exam, or treatment, let alone develop a good therapeutic alliance. A popular or busy therapist doesn’t automatically mean they are the best therapist.
No 6: The Sharing Therapist
The best therapists feel confident and comfortable to share ideas and thoughts freely and frequently. This is to patients but also to other therapists. The best therapists will give their views and opinions on how and what should and could be done on various things in various ways. The best therapists are also confident in transparency happy to allow others shadow and observe them working.
Be wary of the therapist who only shares their views and ideas on their courses, or pay for view online content, or at conferences during their keynote presentations, all of which are useful and helpful sources of information, but, in this age of social media and instant access, the best therapists will also share information freely on blogs, podcasts, and webinars for all to access.
No 7: The Funny Therapist
Humour is important in many things, but in healthcare, it is really important for a number of reasons. First, it can help patients relax, stay calm, even be distracted when in pain, or stressed, or anxious. Humour can also help build therapeutic relationships between therapists and patients breaking down traditional hierarchal barriers and helping to establish rapport and common ground.
However, humour is important in healthcare as the funniest therapists are also often the best critical thinkers. As my mate Erik talks about here being funny requires the same skill set as critical thinking, no funny, no thinking. Also, there is nothing worse than a therapist who is oh-so serious all the time and who can’t appreciate a joke, some satire, or even sarcasm which is commonly considered to be the lowest form of humour, but actually is the highest form of intelligence.
No 8: The Good Looking Therapist
This is also another trait you may have not been expecting but simply put the best therapists are the best looking therapists. Now, this is not the most politically correct statement but patients are simply more likely to trust and accept what a good looking therapist has to say over a not so good looking therapist, it’s human nature and backed by science.
Now, fortunately, most of the therapy professions are staffed by some pretty damn good looking people, with a few frightful exceptions. Most therapists tend to practice what they preach living healthy, active lifestyles and taking good care of their themselves and their appearance which helps them achieve successful outcomes. However, if you are blessed with a face that only a mother could love, don’t panic as it’s worth remembering that beauty is only skin deep and in the eye of the beholder, but maybe just dim the lights a little eh!
No 9: The Humble Therapist
Humility is a trait that a lot of people think they have but don’t actually have. If you think you are humble it’s most likely that you are not, a bit like attractiveness (see above). The most humble therapists have the confidence and dignity not constantly shout about how good or wonderful they are in treating, teaching, or just existing. The best therapists don’t constantly flash about their patient testimonials or course feedback comments all the bloody time.
The most humble therapists will be confident in letting their actions speak for themselves and will not take compliments well, feeling awkward with praise for doing what they see is just their job. However, as with all things, there is another side with the humble therapist in that they can be reluctant to say anything negative or challenge things for fear of appearing confrontational. The best humility I find is found within quiet confidence but with a sharp edge of criticism.
No 10: The Honest Therapist
I saved the best and most important trait for the end. The best therapists are simply the most honest therapists. Being honest is something that is important in all aspects of life, but particularly when you are in positions of responsibility and working with those that are vulnerable and susceptible such as people in pain often are.
The best therapists are brutally honest about what they can and can’t do, and don’t claim that their treatments perform magic or miracles. The best therapists are ruthlessly honest about what they can and can’t help people with, and are not afraid to tell patients to go elsewhere and see someone else better suited to help. The honest therapist also isn’t afraid to tell patients not to come back or book in a follow up just to check how things are going knowing that these are often not needed. The best therapists are also not afraid to call out others bull shit and bluster when and where necessary.
So there you have it, my 10 best types of therapists, as I said at the beginning it’s not an exhaustive list and one that could be added to many times. In fact, I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on what traits you think should be included that make for a great therapist so please leave your comments below.
As always, thanks for reading
Adam (about a 6/10)