f you enjoy learning about CBT and putting the techniques into practice, you may wish to consider pursuing a career as a CBT therapist. In this article, you will learn about the types of personal qualities that will help you succeed. This is not a comprehensive list. Rather, this article aims to highlight some of the traits possessed by effective therapists.
Perhaps the most important quality a practitioner should possess is a willingness to suspend personal judgement. If you work with the general public, you need to be prepared to encounter people from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of these individuals will hold views that broadly align with your own, but many will approach life in a way you may find baffling, or even distasteful. You will need to know when and how to withhold your opinion, and to sit with feelings of annoyance rather than expressing them in an inappropriate fashion. You must expect the unexpected. A client may appear to possess good insight and a willingness to change at the outset of therapy, but new problems may come to light as the weeks go by. Therapists are not robots, and it is appropriate to show some emotion. At the same time, you should never tell a client that you are shocked or appalled by their behaviour, feelings, or choices.
A good therapist possesses a high level of self-awareness. They know precisely what subjects and personality types are likely to make them feel stressed or angry, and have developed a set of strategies that help them process these feelings and remain available to their clients. For example, if you grew up with a parent who struggled with OCD, treating clients with this kind of problem may trigger feelings of anxiety or sadness. No therapist is immune to negative feelings. However, they need to address their own vulnerabilities before they can treat each client as an individual in their own right, as opposed to a person who happens to remind them of their personal experiences. If you have a history of trauma or difficult life experiences, you will need to address them whilst training.
You also need to be open to receiving feedback from your clients, your peers, and your supervisor. This can be difficult if you have perfectionist tendencies, or lack confidence in your abilities. Some clients may respond well to your personality and style, whereas others will waste no time in letting you know that the interventions you are offering do not suit them and are not effective. From time to time, you may need to refer a client to another mental health professional. It is important that you can place a client’s needs before your personal pride. Sometimes, you may completely misunderstand a client, or discover that their communication style is at odds with your own. In these situations, it is your responsibility to make yourself understood.
CBT is a goal-driven approach, so you will need to be confident in your ability to listen and empathise with a client whilst pushing them to change. Although there are standard treatment manuals and approaches designed for use in specific circumstances, you will still need to use your professional judgement in deciding how they ought to be applied in specific instances. For example, a depressed client may lack the motivation required to undertake a homework task. Depending on the circumstances and the client’s personality, there are several ways you could handle this situation. If they do not appreciate the rationale behind the task, a simple explanation may be all that is needed to encourage compliance. On the other hand, their mood may have worsened, in which case you might need to seek help from other members of your team or refer the client to a service that is better suited to their needs.
Finally, a therapist also needs to have an appetite for learning. It takes several years to train to the standard required for registration with a major regulatory body in the UK, but this does not represent the end of the learning process! As a practitioner, you are responsible for your own professional development. You will need to keep abreast of new therapeutic techniques and advances in mental healthcare. Attending workshops, going to conferences, and collaborating with colleagues are just three common ways in which therapists ensure their approach is up to date.
For someone just starting out on their path to becoming a mental health professional, the idea that they need to develop all of these qualities can be daunting. The good news is that high-quality training will supply you with the resources you need to become an empathic, competent therapist. In fact, the majority of therapists believe that they never finish learning, and that the variety of people and problems they encounter during the course of their work offers them both intellectual and emotional satisfaction.