7–Effective Habits For A Seasoned Psychotherapist

With the growth of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Counselling in the 21st century we have witnessed the growth of the Psychotherapists and Counsellors. Indeed, at the time of writing there are over 500 types of Psychotherapy within the United Kingdom. Therefore, what are the essential Habits that need to be addressed for the effective Psychotherapist in today’s world.

For the purposes of this article I have included 7 effective habits that I think need to be observed in the workings of a professional Psychotherapist, these are as follows:-


In the world of Psychotherapy the effective Psychotherapist needs to have Confidentiality as central to their practice. They need to cultivate and explicitly state the notion of Confidentiality.

Confidentiality needs to be the most important feature of their professional work; indeed clients will not only expect this but will demand Confidentiality. When Confidentiality is broken the client will feel betrayed and unsafe, they will usually leave therapy and may indeed take out a complaint against the Psychotherapist. Therefore it is essential that Confidentiality becomes an effective habit for any successful Psychotherapist.”


Following on from the notion of Confidentiality the Psychotherapist needs to cultivate the habit of always considering The “Psychological” safety and security of their clients.

What do we mean then by the term “Psychological safety”? When I use the term “Psychological safety” I mean how the clients internally protect themselves.

Many of the clients that Therapists work with have not Internalised a “Protective” nurturing internal “Parent”, which is on their side in the terms of safety and security.

These types of clients often may present in a chaotic or neglected manner, in other words they “Psychologically” do not take care of themselves, in either an emotional or practical way.

The Therapist needs to model Psychological protectiveness, this will not only provide a sense of safety and security for the client, it will also, by the mechanism of Osmosis, help with the creating of a protective “Psychic Skin”.

This”Psychic Skin” will create a robust self of sense for the client especially when dealing psychologically with their chaotic self. Indeed, the importance of this cannot be underestimated, and needs to become an effective Habit in the armoury of the professional Psychotherapist.


The next habit that is important in the context of this article,is the “Wisdom” of the Therapist within the therapeutic dialogue.

Wisdom is not only essential, it is also important to note that “Wisdom” of the Therapist is gained through hard earned experience, with many hours of working with clients..

Not only is it important for the client to you as “Sage” or a “Mentor figure” within the therapy, it is also vital for the Therapist to pass down some of their “Wise” words and “Wise” attitudes to the client in the service of emotional health and wellbeing.

Imparting wisdom does not mean a complete “sharing of the self” as this can be often inappropriate and counter to the therapy. In this context, the best combination would be a “Considered Wisdom” with clinical judgement.

Does this mean, that the inexperienced therapist will not be seen as a “Wise” person? No, as often Wisdom is a way of being, and can therefore run through the essence of the therapeutic relationship from beginning to termination.


The robustness of the Therapist is an important habit for the Therapist to cultivate,It is this robustness, or strength of self, that the Therapist portrays that is so important for the client when working through their inner struggles and adversities within the Therapy.

Often on a psychological level the client needs to “feel” and almost “touch” the strength of the Therapist so that they can psychologically “internalise” the Therapists psychological strength in their quest for health.

For the Therapist themselves, it is the “strengthening of their Psychic self” or the development of the robustness of the Therapist self which will be crucial in providing a “psychological container” for the client to express their anxieties, fears and emotional insecurities.

Another dimension when discussing the “Robustness” of the Therapist’s self, is that the robust Therapist will be able to “psychologically protect themselves” more effectively from the possible negative energetic discharge from their clients. If the Therapist can make the development of “Robustness” of the self as an automatic habit, I believe is that their Psychotherapy work will be considerably more effective, in terms of curative health and wellbeing for their clients.


Another positive habit for the therapist to develop which will make their Psychotherapy practice more effective, is the use of “Humour” within the therapy.

For any psychotherapy to be effective in terms of cure and wellbeing, the therapy journey will inevitably pass through areas of lightness and darkness. Indeed, it is often through these dark times that the “real” therapy happens.

Often we can see that through acute discomfort, motivation will occur, and if we can grab hold of this motivation the road to cure will often follow. From this place, we often witness great courage, and inevitably the human spirit will prevail on the road to victory and celebration.

In the transition between the light and darkness it is often necessary to use “Humour” as a light relief otherwise the darkness may become so “overwhelming” that the client may stay with the “psychological safety” of their default “Script” pattern.

Humour can be seen as a “Transaction or set of Transactions” which the Therapist will often use in dialogue with the client. This “Clinical” thinking does not have to take away the authenticity and genuineness of the humorous intent. In fact, the humour will hopefully provide a time of intimacy and therapeutic closeness within the therapy setting.

Humour is natural to the human condition, and can be a useful tool for the Therapist to utilise in the service of therapeutic cure and wellbeing. My invitation in this article is for Psychotherapists and Counsellors to allow themselves to use “Humour” with clinical forethought within the psychotherapy journey.


The courage of the therapist is a vital quality in the armoury of the effective Therapist. It is a wonderful “habit” that the Therapist needs to utilise and cultivate in the therapy. It is to go the “extra mile “with your client, to stand steadfast with them, to be beside them, whilst they take on their internal demons. To support them through their darkness and light, to give them what they might never have had, an ally, a person that they can rely on for inner strength, and nourishment To provide a stable, safe and dependable “Other” that will be there for them in the face of adversity, and cheer them in their victories This is the courage that your client needs from you on the road to internal psychological liberation It’s a courage that we can all call upon from our own spirit and soul, certainly perhaps it is the most effective “habit of all for the professional Psychotherapist.


Finally, the development of an “Internalised Self Supervisor” is a crucial process/habit for the Therapist to create for effective Psychotherapy: The establishment of this process comes from the integration internally, of the Therapists external Supervisor This will be someone he respects, a model for him, a professional Mentor for him, in the Psychotherapy world. This psychological process provides the Therapist with a “safe harbour”, an inner place he can call on for, inner dialogue and debate. It provides a place for the Therapist, a “Third eye “overseeing the therapeutic relationship, a first port of call for clinical reflection and contemplation. It is a place of protection for Therapist and client alike, and allows the Therapist his own individual space, away from the projections, fears and uncertainties of the client personality. This is, indeed a precious place for internal Self-supervision and clinical reflection.

These qualities need to be developed by the professional Therapist into “Habits”, a way of being which is automatic by nature; it becomes the bedrock that the Therapist’s practice is built on. These “Habits” won’t come overnight, and the Therapist needs to cultivate and nurture these qualities so that they grow and flourish as if he was the “Master Gardener” of the Psychotherapy world.

If these qualities become “Habits” I believe Psychotherapists will become much more effective in their professional role.

Bob Cooke

Bob Cooke

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Bob Cooke is Psychotherapist, Trainer, Consultant and Supervisor with an international reputation.  In 1987 he founded the Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy (to the present day), of which he is the director. He is also responsible for the Institute’s training programme and oversees trainees from first year to full clinical membership of the UKCP.

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