Welcome back, friend.
A couple of weeks ago I asked my friends on TherapistTwitter what they thought were essential skills that every therapist needs to and can learn.
Here were the Top 11 responses:
- Communicating hope
- Active listening
- Connected to our emotions
- Awareness of one’s own culture, perspective, and privileges
- Genuine curiosity
- Open to personal growth
- Knowing when to say “I don’t know”
- Being comfortable with the “not knowing” without trying to fix things
I’ve distilled these down to 4 core skills that I consider make up the roots of a great therapist.
Those 4 skills are:
- Self-awareness and regulation
- Open Curiosity
- Precise and hopeful communication
I see these skills as cascading from one to another:
- We begin by understanding ourselves: our thoughts and feelings, our expectations, and insecurities etc. We learn how we get in the way of our clients’ progress, in the way of our relationship with our clients. And then we learn how to regulate ourselves to minimize this, how to leverage our experience into therapy rather than letting it get in the way. We learn how to be calm, grounded, and adaptable.
- From here, we can begin to attune with our clients. The fog of our own experiencing is lifted enough for us to begin to see and feel from our clients’ perspective. We draw from our own emotions to empathize with our clients rather than detach from them. We learn to help our clients feel felt.
- This inner attunement fuels our curiosity. We want to know more: what happened to them that they feel this way? talk this way? react this way? When our clients push back or lash out, we lean back upon our own steadiness and grounded-ness, allowing us to remain open and non-judgmental rather than reactive and defensive. We learn to treasure the not-knowing.
- And finally, only after all this inner work and attunement and curiosity do we begin to offer our perspective. But we learn to keep it brief and pointed. The longer we talk the more we lose them. We also learn that beyond any answers, our clients are yearning for hope again, that someone, anyone believes the sun will rise again over the shadows of their life. We learn how to give this to them. Sometimes with words. Sometimes with the faithfulness of showing up week after week with compassion and warmth.
I could be wrong, but regardless of what theory or license you practice from, if you grow the roots of these 4 skills down deep in your bones, you’re going to be a wonderful therapist.
And the thing is, you already possess them. All of them. They’re most likely unrefined, but that’s ok.
It’s just a matter of cultivating and growing them further.
Well, that’s all for today.
Until next time,