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Personality traits of great counselors

10.22.2015 | By:
mft personality traits

Great firefighters are bold. Great teachers are inspiring. Great chefs are inventive. For every career, there is a set of personality traits that most successful professionals possess. People with these kinds of personalities are typically drawn to that type of work, and their natural traits make their day-to-day work easier.

Counselors with their Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy are no different. While each counselor is unique, many possess the same basic personality traits that it takes to succeed in therapy.

Great counselors are:


As a counselor, you will listen to painful confessions and personal details from your clients. You are not there to judge them or to tell them whether or not they have made the right decisions in their life. Counselors who are accepting of what is shared with them are more easily liked and trusted by clients, many of whom may already be feeling self-conscious about seeking out a counselor.


First impressions matter. If you aren’t warm and open with clients from the beginning, you may not get the opportunity for a second. Great counselors are welcoming to new clients from the first day.


Empathy is one of the most important traits a counselor can have. The ability to put themselves in their clients shoes is what separates good counselors from great counselors.


Therapy sessions can feel a lot like confessions. If a client isn’t comfortable with their therapist, they may not give all of the details needed to fully understand their situation. Therapy is only effective if a client truly feels comfortable.


Great counselors are aware of their boundaries and make sure that they stay within them. They are also aware of how their client is responding to them and whether or not they have a good client-therapist relationship. Not every client is the right fit.


When it comes to communicating, that is. Just as clients have expectations of you to keep their information private and use every resource you have in order to help them, you should also have expectations of them. They have their own work to do outside of the session, and it is up to you to make it clear to them how they can actively participate in their therapy.


You can’t expect your patients to feel better overnight. It may take months or years before you see a change in them. It’s important to be patient with them and let them work through their issues at their own pace.


Counseling is not a profession you can “just try out.” It takes years of schooling and years of hands-on experience to even call yourself a counselor. And once you have the official title, your commitment shouldn’t stop. You should be committed to helping each of your patients work through their problems and improve their quality of life.


This one may be a little bit less obvious than the others, but creativity is a vital trait for counselors. While you may encounter some clients whose issues are easy to fix, many of your cases will not be textbook. Some of your patients will have sought out help before and decided that the process was unhelpful. With these situations, it’s important to get creative to find new or alternative methods to help clients.


While you need to be able to detach yourself from your clients’ situation, you need to be sensitive to their feelings. Clients don’t want to feel like they are meeting with a robot each week, and want to work with someone personable who they know has thoughts and feelings as well.

Do you have these traits? Reach out to one of our admissions counselors to discuss our Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy program.