5 Important Qualities of a Psychotherapist

Great psychotherapists share certain characteristics..

Psychotherapy can be an extremely life changing process for someone, however, it is also one of the most personal endeavors that exists. When selecting a psychotherapist, it is crucial that you connect with someone you feel comfortable with and can trust. This article will review five important qualities of a psychotherapist: credibility, integrity, warmth, appropriate boundaries, and level of comfort between psychotherapist and client.

1. Credibility 

It is important that your psychotherapist has a legitimate degree and license to practice psychotherapy. There are many different types of psychotherapists that exist. The type of psychotherapist that one chooses to work with is less important than the fact that the psychotherapist is credentialed. It is often possible to verify someone's credentials on their state's board's website. 

2. Integrity

As with any profession, integrity is key. When someone is expected to share personal information as in psychotherapy, integrity is even more critical. It is important that a psychotherapist follows ethical and legal principles, including but not limited to maintaining his or her clients' confidentiality. Honesty and reliability are qualities that are related to integrity that are also crucial for a good psychotherapist to uphold.

3. Warmth

The more comfortable you feel with your psychotherapist, the better.

The quality of "warmth" is especially helpful in a psychotherapist, as the process of disclosing your personal secrets to the stranger known as your psychotherapist can be especially daunting. The more warm your psychotherapist is, the easier it will likely be to bare your soul.

4. Appropriate boundaries

Psychotherapy is a unique process. Even though you might talk to your therapist as if he or she is your friend, your therapist is not your friend. The relationship is not reciprocal in the way that many relationships are.

A good psychotherapist, therefore, will uphold appropriate boundaries. She or he will not let your professional relationship slip into a friendship or anything other than a professional relationship.

It is not entirely uncommon for clients to think they have fallen in love with their psychotherapists. A psychotherapist should never reciprocate such feelings and should offer a safe environment in which they can be explored, not judged, and used to learn more about the client. This is one of the many examples of a psychotherapist upholding appropriate boundaries.

5. Someone you feel comfortable with

Your comfort level with a psychotherapist is completely subjective, but it is actually one of the most important factors of the psychotherapy process that accounts for the psychotherapy outcome.

Research has found that up to forty percent of positive change in therapy is accounted for by variables extrinsic to therapy, such as whether a person falls in love or suffers a loss. Of the factors related to psychotherapy itself, the most significant variable related to positive change was the perceived quality of the relationship that a client had with the psychotherapist.

More than years of training or the therapeutic approach of your psychotherapist, what is most important is that you feel comfortable with him or her. When selecting a therapist to work with, make sure you feel comfortable.


Lambert, M. (1992). Psychotherapy outcome research:  Implications for integrative and eclectic therapists. In J.C.Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (pp. 94-129).  NY: Basic Books.

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