The range of people and challenges that any psychotherapist can face on a daily basis today can be broad. Diverse populations and an increasingly varied set of needs require flexibility and skill when it comes to providing a professional response. A strong foundation of key skills ensures any psychotherapist has the tools to deliver a successful service to anyone who comes through the door. These are the 6 most essential skills to cultivate.
- Curiosity and commitment. These two qualities are what any psychotherapist needs to successfully create an environment in which positive change can happen. It’s vital to remain curious and interested in people and their experiences, to be able to listen and be present through clients recounting painful experiences and to have the commitment to stay the course of learning and improving in a career like this.
- The art of listening. Active listening isn’t just about hearing what someone is saying but also the way they’re saying it and what they’re not saying. Being able to set aside judgment and observe, rather than evaluate, are key skills that will enable clients to trust and open up. Listening is something we all think we do but few people do really well - for psychotherapists it is as essential to learn how to listen objectively and fully, as it is to be able to communicate active listening, for example via a non-reactive stance.
- Flexibility. The skill of flexibility involves being able to effortlessly move from one client perspective to another even though the people coming into the practice may be vastly different in terms of background, culture or needs. Key to this is knowing when to say no where a client is clearly simply not a good fit. Sometimes on recommending a client to another practitioner who may have a more appropriate skill set is going to be the most effective way forward.
- The ability to self-reflect. Effective psychotherapy often starts within - by being trained to feel well, think well and act well a psychotherapist can go on to relate to clients, to engage and empathise. This is the idea of using the self as an instrument - to be able to use training to think critically and conceptualise the client and to act in the service of the client. That starts by looking within.
- Being trustworthy. Trust is built with clients in many ways, for example by being accessible, sticking to agreements and showing up with authenticity and empathy. The empathetic connection is particularly important, as it’s this that will enable the client to truly progress.
- Allowing for lighter moments. The issues that clients can bring to their sessions can feel heavy and may be hard to hear. A key skill for any psychotherapist is knowing when to make space for humour, allowing lighter moments to arise instead of squashing them down and understanding when this is appropriate and when not.
This is the kind of foundational skill set that will support any mental health professional in building a strong and successful career. The Grove is a leading provider of quality CPD courses in mental health. Our cutting-edge range of accredited and practical courses is designed to enhance your practice.