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What Makes an Effective Mental Health Clinician?

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“Counseling and Psychotherapy are inseparable from the people who provide them.”

-William Miller and Theresa Moyers


In William Miller and Theresa Moyers’s book, Effective Psychotherapists: Clinical Skills that Improve Client Outcomes (2021), they list accurate empathy, acceptance, positive regard, genuineness, focus, and evocations as characteristics found present in counselors and therapists with the best outcomes.

“The mindset of the counselor or therapist who demonstrates positive regard is one of respect and benevolence toward the client, a commitment to their well-being and best interest” (Miller and Moyer 2021, pg. 4).

This mindset shows up in our doctors/nurses with a good bedside manner, SUD or Mental Health Peers who come alongside someone on their recovery journey, and anywhere people help others.

For a moment, consider the people who show you acceptance and empathy and believe in your absolute worth.

  • Do they promote your growth and well-being?

  • Do you respond better to them than others who don’t?

  •  Are you more willing to talk to them?

Carl Rogers, the founder of Humanistic Psychology, described the attitude of an effective therapist as demonstrating warmth, liking, respect, and sympathy.

The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing embraces all of these attitudes through the acronym PACE –  Partnership, Acceptance, Compassion, and Empowerment (PACE).

This evidence-based practice transforms client relationships.  When people believe in us, it leads to personal growth and change.

It is essential to note that while some people are natural-born helpers, anyone can learn these skills and become proficient with deliberate practice.

Embracing these evidenced-based skills changes outcomes for mental health providers and their clients.

When we feel like we make a difference, our job satisfaction improves and we’re more likely to remain with our employers. Studies have shown that job satisfaction is ranked higher in importance than better pay.

Motivational Interviewing changes the narrative from “Let me tell you what you should do” to “How can we partner with you to accomplish your goal?

When we affirm autonomy and believe that people have the answers within themselves, we become part of the discovery process—and we become effective clinicians.

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