Qualities of a good counsellor:
1. Good interpersonal skills. The counsellor shows warmth, acceptance and empathy. Focussing on your issues not their own. A good therapist shows interest in you, your life and how you feel. They communicate in a language that you understand.
2. A trustworthy counsellor. You should feel you can build up a good working relationship. Your counsellor will keep all your information confidential (except in exceptional circumstances in which they believe you are at a risk of self harm, harming someone else or committing a serious crime. This should be explained at the beginning of therapy).
3. Establishing a good therapeutic alliance with you. You should feel your values and goals are listened to. You should feel that you are supported and working together.
4. Be able to explain your symptoms to you in a way you can understand, and be flexible if your symptoms or circumstances change. You should be able to explore and understand the possible causes of your symptoms.
5. Commitment to an acceptable treatment plan. You should be assessed and a treatment plan agreed. You should be able to understand the treatment plan and the therapist’s way of working, their interventions or suggestions.
6. Communication of confidence about the course of therapy. You should feel the therapy is helpful and progressive. You should feel secure that the therapist is confident in their professionalism.
7. Attention to the progress of therapy and communication of this interest to the client. The therapist should check in with you about how you feel about the treatment you’re getting.
8. Flexibility in adapting treatment to the particular client’s characteristics. You should feel the therapist is tailoring the therapy to suit you and your needs.
9. Inspiration of hope and optimism about your chances of improvement. This can be a great motivator for positive changes and really helps in the success of your counselling. A good therapist is not unrealistic but you should feel hopeful about feeling better.
10. Sensitivity toward your cultural background. The BACP ethical framework supports this.
11. Possession of self-insight. The therapist should be self-aware and able to separate their own issues from those of the client. Therapists should be able to manage their responses to the issues their clients present to them. They should not be discussing their problems, therapy is time for you and your issues.
12. Reliance on the best research evidence and involvement in training, education and continuing professional development.
Adapted from Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD 2011 Norcross, J.C. (Ed). (2011) Psychotherapy relationships that work. New York: Oxford University Press