The psychologist's work can be stressful, overwhelming, and it’s not always as successful as it would. Being in contact with people who often have trouble managing their emotions or experiencing serious conflicts, this professional needs special preparation and not only in regard to the techniques of diagnosis and treatment but also about managing emotions, frustrations and impulses.
For this reason the qualities of a psychologist are emphasized and usually are also performed attitude tests before entering the career, several trials to evaluate the potential that the applicant has in terms of human relations and self-control.
What are the most important qualities of a psychologist?
1. Emotional self-control. Probably this is the most important quality, at least from the standpoint of mental balance of the professional as this feature allows him to regulate his emotions assertively and independently by what happens with the patient. Of course, emotional self-control doesn’t mean that some events do not have an impact on the psychologist because, after all, he’s a person with feelings and a past, but it allows him to regulate his feelings when facing the person, for responding not with a burst into mourn or getting angry. Emotional self-control also serves to generate confidence in the patient and the therapist is perceived as a stable person to lean on.
2. Empathy. The psychologist must not only feel sympathy for the person in front of him, but should go a step further putting himself in the place of the patient to feel what he feels and think what he thinks. Only in this way he can really help the other person, as this attitude permits him to understand the magnitude of the problem that the patient is experiencing. In fact, several laboratory studies have been able to appreciate that the brains of people who are very empathetic react the same way as those who are experiencing the problem in first hand. It's like when reading a book you get in the skin of the character and feel the same frustration, pain or sorrow. If the psychologist is unable to empathize, is likely to minimize the problem or the reason of the patient and will end up applying inappropriate therapeutic techniques.
3. Mental opening. People trust the psychologist so that often they tell him facts that go against the system of beliefs and values of the professional. In such cases, the psychologist must have sufficient mental openness to understand why a person behaves in a certain way being tolerant enough to accept such behavior. When the psychologist fails to accept the person in front of him, he will send extra-verbal signs of rejection and, eventually, these will be detected by the patient, who will not feel comfortable and will probably abandon the therapy.
4. Introspection. This is one of the less considered qualities of the psychologist but also one of the most important. Through the process of introspection the psychologist doesn’t only rebalance his emotional states to understand his impulses and desires, but also gets even closer to the world of the psyche. Introspection, being alone with oneself, is the cornerstone of personal growth but also a key to discover how the mind works.
5. Patience. Psychotherapy is often a long process where reversals occur. On the contrary to what many may think, the setbacks of the patients also affect the psychologist by the moment that this part of the process also leads him to question the method or even his ability to cope with the case. For this reason and because it’s not always easy to deal with some behaviors that can affect anyone, patience is an essential quality that every psychologist must have.
6. Integrity. The psychologist must inspire confidence so that people feel comfortable telling him problems that probably have not dared to reveal to anyone. This sense of trust can be created starting with small details, such as the body movements of the therapist to the decor of the room, but the basis resides in the value system of the psychologist. When a person feels that the professional is confident, that knows very well himself, has clear goals and is consistent with what he thinks, that person will rely and open itself to that psychologist.
7. Communication skills. Word is the primary means of psychological work, but communication skills are not restricted to this. The psychologist must be, above all, a good listener, must remain attentive to the body language of the patient to be able to decode it and transmit faith and calm through his gestures.
Norcross, J. C. (2011) Psychotherapy relationships that work. Nueva York: Oxford University Press.
Roe, R. (2003) ¿Qué hace competente a un psicólogo? Papeles del Psicólogo; 86.
7 qualities of a psychologistJennifer Delgado