6 Traits That Will Help You Thrive as a Counselor

  • 2023-09-29

Counselors serve as guiding lights, aiding individuals through various dilemmas. Their role involves actively listening to people's issues, offering counsel and backing, and sometimes presenting practical resolutions to their critical problems. They are a crucial presence in numerous settings - from schools and colleges to hospitals and drug rehab centers, essentially any place where there's a requirement for empathetic listening or advice. 

Their work mode can vary; sometimes they engage with clients on a one-on-one basis, while at other times, they preside over group sessions. Irrespective of their daily counseling methods, what constitutes a competent counselor?


An effective counselor possesses the ability to adapt their worldview and has a profound comprehension of multicultural issues within therapeutic settings. Each client brings their unique background, experiences, and level of involvement in the therapeutic relationship, thus the capability to switch perspectives based on each client is a crucial skill that needs to be honed early.

Yet, an additional important aspect of flexibility is recognizing when a counselor and their client may not be compatible. The ability to express when things are off track, and then propose to refer the client to another professional who might be more equipped to assist them is a distinguishing characteristic of an excellent counselor. A competent counselor understands that they cannot—and should not—be everything to every client.


It's crucial to uphold a high degree of professionalism in all your interactions and activities. This includes the manner in which you communicate with clients, the tone you adopt while discussing your work or addressing their issues, and ensuring absolute confidentiality at all times, without any exceptions.

Respecting the privacy of the information that clients share with you is non-negotiable, irrespective of who requests it or the kind of pressure they apply. Encountering clients who may be rude, difficult, or impatient for quick results can be challenging initially. However, it's vital to consistently display professionalism throughout the entire process, reinforcing the fact that counseling is not a job for the unskilled.

Be Trustworthy

Engaging in therapy necessitates divulging some of your most profound emotions and challenges to another individual, so have confidence in your therapist. Generally, individuals are adept at discerning if someone is reliable.

If your instincts affirm that your therapist is trustworthy, they're likely accurate, indicating that you've located a competent counselor who possesses commendable counseling attributes. Remember, therapists are legally obligated to maintain confidentiality regarding the information from your sessions under most situations. A therapist who can uphold this mandate demonstrates their trust.

Understand the Crucial Role of Communication

Each client is unique. Some need a longer time to feel comfortable, while others readily share their life experiences right at the outset. A proficient counselor must recognize the need to tailor communication to each client. 

Interpersonal skills are not just confined to the therapy session but transcend it. It is important to factor in variances in ethnicity, culture, and background, and remain cognizant of any personal biases that could obstruct or create hurdles within the therapeutic relationship. 

In cases of cultural disparity, this feature can be coupled with self-education, seeking required clinical supervision or pursuing educational training to acquire the needed knowledge to effectively converse with clients who may hold differing beliefs or cultural experiences. 

If the communication barrier persists despite seeking supervision and further training, a competent counselor should contemplate how to get therapy referrals to a more suitable practitioner outside of their private practice. 

Respect the Boundaries

For ethical therapy provision, establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries with clients is a necessity for counselors and therapists. Safeguarding the welfare of those you assist in therapy involves refraining from dual relationships, especially ones of romantic or sexual nature. Engaging in amorous relationships with your therapy clients is unethical.

It's essential to clearly articulate to clients the therapeutic relationship's parameters and restrictions. This typically begins at your first meeting when they complete your disclosure forms. Setting healthy boundaries isn't innate; it's a learned skill throughout one's life. As a therapist, you must be mindful of the boundaries you establish, even if you've struggled with boundary setting or exhibited codependent behavior.

Have a Sense of Humor

Therapists frequently find themselves dealing with challenging, uncomfortable, and at times, traumatic narratives. However, it's fine for therapists and their patients to experience laughter during their journey.

Timing is essential in such situations, but the capability to establish a relational bond with someone that allows the development of a common sense of humor is a skill that must not be neglected.


A therapist with the capability to create a comforting environment in their office is often more successful in assisting individuals in addressing personal problems. This is because such an environment encourages the person to be more open and share their issues with the therapist. Possessing robust interpersonal skills is not merely about being polite to clients; it could significantly contribute to your success as a therapist.