Empathy or being able to “put yourself in somebody else’s shoes,” is a hallmark of good therapy with good counselors. Demonstrating empathy within the therapeutic setting helps our clients to feel safe, to feel understood, and ultimately to feel like he or she can make progress. Our number one goal is to build a relationship with our clients that will set the tone for a safe place for healing the heart, mind, and soul.
Are trained appropriately and meet all local and/or state guidelines for providing therapy.
Are competent and experienced enough to help you with your issues and will not be shocked or overwhelmed by your issues. While it is possible that you may see a counselor that does not have the training or experience to help you with your particular issues, he or she will let you know if that is the case and refer you to someone more qualified to help.
Will explain the therapeutic process and how you can benefit from it, without guaranteeing your success or promising that “everything will be okay.” The bottom line is that no one can make such guarantees—neither the therapist, nor you. Experiencing change takes time and work.
Will maintain professional business practices by keeping the focus on you, prepare ahead of time for your sessions, keep your appointments except in the case out of their control, generally be on time, and demonstrate that she is paying attention.
Will provide a diagnostic impression if necessary, but will remain focused on helping you to manage any such diagnostic impression in order to get better. The diagnostic impression will remain the backdrop for therapy, not the focus of it.
Understands and communicates to you that there are many effective approaches to therapy, and no one approach can meet the needs of every client. He or she models open-mindedness about other approaches to therapy and regards your thoughts and opinions about such approaches.
Explains what psychotherapeutic technique he or she plans to use, welcomes and answers any questions you may have about a specific technique, and requests your comments for any technique that may be new or different for you.
Is active in the therapy community and regularly interacts with other professionals. It is this regular collaboration with other professionals that keeps your therapist current and able to provide the best therapy for you.
Provides insight and knowledge that you otherwise might not have seen. This insight clearly comes from experience and training.
Maintains a good balance between your thoughts and your feelings without neglecting or diminishing either one.
Will demonstrates a balanced and appropriate level of emotion during sessions. Because good counselors are empathic and genuinely care for their clients, sometimes they express emotion when learning about a client’s experience. For example, if the client has experienced the loss of a loved one, the counselor may show sadness. While some emotion is appropriate, an abundance of emotion is generally not okay. Good therapists maintain their focus on you and not their own emotions.
Helps you to work through highly vulnerable feelings or memories in a safe and therapeutic way. Because of your work together, he or she knows when it is safe to deal with these feelings or memories and when it is not. He or she neither pushes you to “go there,” nor prevents you from “going there.” You are the expert on you so you will need to speak up.
Have also experienced being in therapy. Many counselors choose this field because they have had positive therapy experiences themselves, and they want to do the same for others. This allows your therapists to understand therapy from the client’s perspective, as well as has helped your counselor stay healthy herself.
Deborah K. Gilbert, LPCC-S, MA, PhD Candidate
Debbie is the founder of Family Options - Developmental Planning, LLC. She is passionate about helping individuals become the best version of themselves using a wellness model of treatment that includes body, mind, and soul. Debbie is a wife, a mother, and a grandmother who loves working with families, marriages, and individuals from all cultural backgrounds and life experiences. One of her favorite quotes is from Art Linkletter who said, "Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out."
Ariel Siler, MA, LPCA - currently on leave
Ariel loves counseling and she loves people of all ages, however she is serving Family Options well as she focuses on children and adolescents. She is a very active listener and teens have really connected with her. Ariel is married and she understands the dynamics of healthy relationships. Additionally, Ariel focuses on anxiety, depression, and eating disorders using DBT and mindfulness helping clients to focus on the present struggles at hand.