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Ellis on the Characteristics of Effective Therapists
Jim Pretzer · 6/8/97 at 1:06 PM ET
Albert Ellis writes, in his book Overcoming Resistance: Rational-Emotive Therapy with Difficult Clients:
With some amount of temerity, however, let me hazard the guess that when the facts have been more diligently researched, we will find that the most effective therapists tend to practice somewhat as follows:
- They are vitally interested in helping their clients and energetically work to fulfill this interest.
- They unconditionally accept their clients as people, while opposing and trying to ameliorate some of their self-defeating ideas, feelings, and behaviors,
- They are confident of their own therapeutic ability and, without being rigid or grandiose, strongly believe that their main techniques will work,
- They have a wide knowledge of therapeutic theories and practices and are flexible, undogmatic, and scientific, and consequently open to the acquiring of new skills and to experimenting with these skills.
- They are effective at communicating and at teaching their clients new ways of thinking, emoting, and behaving.
- They are able to cope with and ameliorate their own disturbances are not inordinately anxious, depressed, hostile, self-downing, self-pitying, or undisciplined.
- They are patient, persistent, and hard-working in their therapeutic endeavors.
- They are ethical and responsible, and use therapy almost entirely for the benefit of the clients and not for personal indulgence.
- They act professionally and appropriately in a therapeutic setting but are still able to maintain some degree of humanness, sponaniety, and personal enjoyment in what they are doing.
- They are encouraging and optimistic and show clients that, whatever difficulties they may experience, they can appreciably change. At times, effective therapists forcefully urge and push clients to change.
- They not only try to help clients feel better and surrender their presenting symptoms, but also try to help them make a profound attitudinal change that will enable them to maintain their improvement, continue to improve, and ward off future disturbances
- They are eager to help virtually all their clients, freely refer to other therapists those they think they cant help or are not interested in helping, and try to be neither uninvolved nor overinvolved with the clients they retain. They sincerely try to overcome their strong biases for or against their clients that may interfere with their therapeutic effectiveness. They monitor their prejudices (countertransferrence feelings) that lead to their strongly favoring or disfavoring some of their clients and, if advisable, refer such clients to other therapists.
- They posess sufficient observational ability, sensitivity to others, good intelligence, and some judgement to discourage their clients from making rash and foolish decisions and from seriously harming themselves.
Assuming that effective therapists tend to behave as just described, which practitioners consistently follow this ideal pathway? Damned few, I would guess! I fully admit that in the 40-plus years I have been practicing psychotherapy, I have by no means fully lived up to this ideal myself. Nor do I think any of the scores of therapists I have supervised has done so. On the other hand, I have met and supervised many who have fallen far below this ideal.
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