Education, study and knowledge

The 9 attributes that the therapy professional must have

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Many authors have been in charge of determining which are the characteristics and competencies that a good psychology professional should possess applied to therapy.

As we will see, not everything is based on theoretical knowledge of intervention techniques; other, more interpersonal aspects have a considerable influence on the success of therapy.

  • Related article: "4 Fundamental Therapeutic Skills in Psychology"

The effectiveness of the patient-therapist relationship

The exercise of the profession of clinical psychologist involves mastering two very different types of knowledge. On the one hand, considerable theoretical learning is required of the different therapeutic intervention techniques that correspond to the psychological current applied by the professional (cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalyst, phenomenological-existentialist, contextual, etc.).

The second type of competence focuses on the internalization of a series of personal skills that will be decisive in the type of therapeutic bond established between patient and psychologist

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. Thus, the latter will significantly affect the effectiveness of the treatment carried out. In the renowned research of Lambert (1986) on the factors involved in therapeutic success, the following proportion was found among the different factors involved:

1. Extra-therapeutic change (40%)

It refers to those aspects of the patient and the context in which he develops; the personal and social circumstances around you.

2. Common factors (30%)

They include elements shared by all types of therapy, regardless of the applied psychological current. This proportion reflects the quality of the therapeutic relationship between both parties. In this sense, Goldstein and Myers (1986) defend the three main components on which a positive therapeutic relationship should be based: feelings of mutual liking, respect and trust between both parties.

3. Techniques (15%)

They relate to the specific components that make up a particular therapy class. This percentage reflects the interaction between the patient and the theoretical-practical components used. by the professional, that is, how the patient internalizes the methods and contents that make up the intervention.

  • You may be interested: "Types of psychological therapies"

4. The placebo effect (15%)

It is linked to the patient's expectations and the credibility that the psychological intervention generates.

Attributes of the professional therapist

As can be seen in a high percentage of the causes that motivate psychological change, variables that depend on the skills derived from the professional are involved. As Cormier and Cormier (1994) pointed out in their studies, the efficiency of this figure is based on a balance between your own interpersonal skills and those of a more technical nature.

According to the aforementioned authors, the characteristics that an efficient therapist must possess are the following:

  1. Possess an adequate level of intellectual competence.
  2. Have a dynamic, persistent and energetic attitude in professional practice.
  3. Show flexibility in the management of theories, techniques and methods, as well as the acceptance of different equally valid lifestyles.
  4. Act based on a balance between support and protection of the patient.
  5. Be guided by constructive and positive motivations, showing a sincere interest in the patient.
  6. Have a sufficient level of self-knowledge about their own limitations and strengths (theoretical and interpersonal).
  7. Self-perception of sufficient professional competence.
  8. Internal psychological needs resolved and ability to self-regulation that prevent the interference of personal aspects of the figure of the psychologist in the development of therapy. This phenomenon is known as countertransference.
  9. Strictly comply with ethical and moral principles collected in the professional deontological code (confidentiality, referral to another professional, supervision of the case and avoidance of the establishment of non-professional relationships between the two parts).

Factors that favor the therapeutic relationship

Apart from the previously mentioned capacities, Bados (2011) mentions another series of aspects relative to the therapist that facilitate the establishment of an adequate link between the therapist and the patient:

2. Cordiality

A moderate expression of interest, encouragement, approval and appreciation are related to the establishment of a more favorable work climate. At this point, a balance can also be found in the manifestation of the physical contact emitted, since these types of gestures can be easily misinterpreted by the patient.

3. Competence

In this area, both the degree of professional experience of the psychologist and the domain in the administration and application of the contents included in the specific therapy are decisive. The results of Howard's research (1999) seem to indicate that the dominance of this last aspect over the first is more associated with a good result of the intervention.

Cormier and Cormier (1994) present the following samples of non-verbal behavior as a reflection of professional competence: eye contact, frontal body arrangement, fluency in speechthought-provoking, pertinent questions and verbal cues for attention.

4. Confidence

It seems that this factor depends on the perception generated by the patient from the combination of phenomena such as: competition, sincerity, motives and intentions, acceptance without value judgments, cordiality, confidentiality, dynamism and security and, finally, the issuance of non-defensive responses (Cormier and Cormier, 1994).

  • Related article: "How to increase your self-confidence in 6 steps"

5. Attraction

A certain level of perception of the therapist as attractive is positively correlated with the outcome of the treatment, as demonstrated by Beutler, Machado, and Neufeldt (1994). This attraction is based on the degree of kindness and cordiality elicited by the professional, as well as in the perception similar aspects between this and the patient (Cormier and Cormier, 1994).

Actions such as eye contact, frontal body arrangement, smiling, nodding, soft voice and modulated, samples of understanding, a certain degree of self-disclosure and consensus on the structure of the therapy increase the patient's interest in their psychologist.

6. Degree of directivity

An intermediate degree of directivity or structuring of therapy is recommended where a balance can be found in aspects such as the facilitation of the instructions to follow, the presentation of the contents of the tasks and topics addressed in the sessions, the resolution of doubts or the confrontation of certain ideas of the patient. All of it seems guarantee a certain level of autonomy in the patient, as well as the feeling of feeling guided and supported in the treatment process.

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Professional attitudes that help you progress

In the sixties Carl rogers proposed the fundamental pillars on which the therapist's attitude towards the patient should be based: empathy, unconditional acceptance and authenticity. Subsequently, the ability of active listening has also been considered very relevant.

1. Empathy

It is defined as the ability to understand the patient from the perspective that the latter possesses and, very relevant, the fact of knowing how to communicate it. Therefore, previously the therapist must be competent in understanding cognitions, emotions and behaviors as the patient would process them, not interfering with the professional's perspective. The second point is the one that will really make it easier for the patient to feel understood.

  • Related article: "Empathy, much more than putting yourself in someone else's shoes"

2. Unconditional acceptance

It refers to accepting the patient as he is, without judgment, and valuing him as a person worthy of dignity. Truax and Carkhuff (1967, cited in Goldstein and Myers, 1986). Various elements make up this type of attitude, such as: high commitment to the patient, desire to understand him or her manifest a non-judgmental attitude.

3. The authenticity

This attitude involves showing yourself as you are, expressing your own feelings and internal experiences without falsifying them. Acts such as a spontaneous smile, making comments without double meaning, or the expression of some sincere personal aspect indicate authenticity. However, excessive spontaneity is not recommended; It seems relevant that the personal disclosures by the therapist are oriented to the benefit of the patient and the therapy exclusively.

4. Active listening

It consists of the ability to receive the interlocutor's message (attending to verbal and non-verbal language), its proper processing and the issuance of a response that that the psychologist is giving his full attention to the patient.

  • Related article: "Active listening: the key to communicating with others"

Attitudes that hinder the progress of the sessions

Finally, a series of actions have been put together that can produce the opposite effect and harm the favorable evolution of psychological therapy. This list reflects the main behaviors that the psychologist should avoid manifesting before the patient:

  • Show uncertainty about the interpretation made of the problem consulted
  • Maintain a cold or distant attitude, be critical or authoritarian.
  • Asking too many questions.
  • Interrupting the patient hastily.
  • Tolerating and incorrectly managing emotional expressions of crying by the patient.
  • Wanting to be appreciated by the patient and get their approval.
  • Trying to eliminate the patient's psychological discomfort too quickly
  • Unbalance the approach between the simple and the more complex aspects of therapy.
  • Avoid dealing with conflictive topics for fear that the patient may emit an intense emotional reaction.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bados, A. and Grau, E. (2011). Therapeutic skills. University of Barcelona. Barcelona.

  • Cormier, W. and Cormier, L. (1994). Interview Strategies for Therapists: Basic Skills and Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions. Bilbao: Desclée de Brouwer. (Original from 1991).

  • Lambert, M. J. (1986). Implications on psychotherapy outcome research for eclectic psychotherapy. In J. C. Norcross (Ed.), Handbook of Eclectic Psychotherapy. New York: Brunner-Mazel.

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