While there is specific knowledge that you will have to amass through formal education and hard skills you’ll develop through clinical work, there’s much more to being a successful counselor.
There are soft skills you should develop and hone before you begin your own practice. Here are a few examples of the traits and characteristics every good counselor should possess.
Curiosity and Interest in Others
While there are many different types of counseling careers offered at places like Careers in Psychology, they all focus on helping others to become better people. You won’t be effective in this endeavor if you find it difficult to feel engaged in the situations that other people face.
You should be genuinely curious about others, possessing an interest in hearing about the personal lives of those who come to seek help from you.
Able to Reflect on Oneself
Before you can help others, you must first have the ability to look inward with an honest and open attitude. If you can’t recognize your own flaws or personal growth issues, you may find it more challenging to help others.
A counselor who isn’t open to self-reflection may be displacing their own thoughts or fears onto their clients, and that will prevent them from effectively helping their clients. Take time to look inward and to address the negative thoughts or feelings you find there.
Approach Situations in an Unbiased Manner
Everyone has their own opinions that they bring with them into any situation, and recognizing your own biased opinions will help you separate them from your role as a counselor. You will want your clients to feel free to share their thoughts with you openly, so it’s important to help them feel as though you’re not judging them for anything they say in a session.
Setting aside your own biases will be beneficial in helping you get to the root of your clients’ problems because it will encourage each client to be more open with you.
Ability to Remain Tight-Lipped
Confidentiality is a serious concern for anyone who seeks out the help of a counselor, so your ability to maintain your oath is essential. There are some laws that may require you to reveal what you know, such as in cases where there’s a potential for a client to physically harm themselves or others.
In that case, you are bound to share that pertinent information with the proper authorities. It’s important to know how changing laws affect your oath of confidentiality in that regard. Otherwise, your vow to keep sessions confidential will help you earn a good reputation as a trustworthy counselor.
Practice What You Preach
It’s also important for counselors to employ good mental health practices in their own lives. If you don’t find a way to unwind, relieve stress, and find joy in life, you’ll become inundated with the problems and negative viewpoints of your clients. This can lead you to feel overly stressed and ineffective as a counselor.
You should spend a minimum of one hour each day focusing on healing yourself. Take a walk, hit the gym, or relax in a warm bath. Do anything that you enjoy to help you relieve stress and maintain a positive outlook.
You may possess some of these skills already. Even if you don’t possess these skills, you can develop and strengthen them by consciously practicing them in your daily life. In time, this will help you grow as a more successful and more effective counselor.