What Makes A Good Therapist?

Louis Laves-Webb

September 16, 2020

Traits of a Good Therapist

Being a truly skilled therapist can require the focus of a surgeon, the improvisational skills of an actor, and the mindfulness of a monk. As in any profession, there are some who master this art in more profound ways than others. Here are a couple key elements of any gifted therapist and some things to look out for.

Our thoughts on what makes a good therapist were featured in a post on UpJourney.com. Check it out to learn more about what you should look for in a therapist.

Have empathy

Obviously, one of the most important elements of being a good therapist is having the capacity to care about another and to understand another’s point of view. This may seem initially obvious, but empathy is actually a skill set that is enhanced, developed, and cultivated in skilled therapists. Conversely, there can be some personality types, judgmental biases, or other emotional barriers within some therapists that may make empathy more challenging and ultimately can interfere with the therapeutic bond.


Gifted therapists are sincerely curious about their clients. They remain engaged and seek to truly understand the various nuances that exist within their clients. Additionally, they embrace this same curious mindset in relation to further study, research, or additional educational ideas. A good therapist truly embraces their role and remains a lifetime learner.


The path to becoming a therapist literally takes years of education, internships, and supervised experience. A good therapist has taken full advantage of this time and has embodied far-reaching and genuine effort to truly enhance themselves clinically. Additionally, they have equally participated in plenty of their own psychological work, combining a breadth of book knowledge, experiential learning, and personal development.  

Be able to not just hear, but truly listen

Therapists tend to hear things differently than the average person. A good therapist will know how to truly listen to you. They are gifted at listening to emotions, content, patterns, and subtlety all at the same time. They also utilize effective listening techniques such as: reflective listening, paraphrasing, and validation. A wonderful therapist can offer a true mirror to their clients innermost being by almost effortlessly listening in a truly extraordinary and unique way.

Be open to some measure of influence from you

A great therapist can also be vulnerable. They are a human being and, on some level, will bring their humanity to the room. Because of this, they too can be touched and impacted by the clients they work with. True benefits contain a mutuality and a confident, skilled, and gifted professional is open to this exchange.

When to Fire Your Therapist

Sometimes though, a therapist simply does not meet the minimum standard of emotional capacity, professionalism, or care, and a client may need to consider letting them go. Below are some telltale signs that it may be time to find a new therapist.

Violation of confidentiality or ethics

One the fundamental hallmarks of a therapeutic relationship is a safe, ethical, and confidential environment. In order for any sort of therapeutic process to unfold, these basics are foundational. If the therapist that you are seeing breaks confidentiality or behaves in an unethical manner, (you can look at their licensing board’s website to get an understanding of their ethical obligations) it may be time to move on.

Repeatedly not listening, talking about themselves, or preaching

The primary premise of a therapeutic relationship is that your therapist will listen to your concerns, encourage your voice, and attempt to assist you in solving your own problems. If your therapist primarily talks about themselves or is pervasively “preaching” to you about what you “should” be doing, then it may be important to bring this to their attention. If they continue to engage in this behavior for the sake of your inalienable right of self-determination then you may be best served by finding another practitioner.

Limits a client's right to self determination

The therapeutic process should ultimately be one of empowerment and self-determination. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t be challenged or guided, as long as it’s done with respect and ultimately defers to your self-determination. If it comes to the point where you simply can not have your voice, your feelings, or your self-determination, and instead are being “forced” to take on the voice of your therapist, then it’s probably time to look elsewhere.

Excessive “shaming”

The therapeutic environment idealistically should function as a non-judgmental environment. Although, there may be some “missteps” along the way, your therapist should more often than not embody this ideal. If there is ongoing and unrelenting judgement, coupled with a shaming attitude from your therapist, it is probably time to reevaluate and possibly end your sessions.

Finding a therapist that is a good fit for you can be difficult. As such, you may want to consider speaking to a therapist on the phone or through a video call to get a better understanding of whether their personalities and approaches to therapy may be a good fit. If you're looking for a therapist in Austin, check out our About page to learn more about our therapists and counselors.

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