5 Key Skills of Counseling Psychologists

Successful Counseling Psychologists Have These Five Skills

  • Patience
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal Relationships
  • Integrity
  • Observations

Anyone who is considering becoming a psychologist who provides counseling should consider the five key skills of counseling psychologists. While most of these skills will come naturally to a person drawn to this area of expertise, it is possible to hone these skills in order to do well as a clinical practitioner. People who are able to maintain high levels of these skills should find plenty of personal and professional success as a counseling psychologist.

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Counseling psychologists may work with people who are reticent to share their issues. Their patients may be uncooperative during treatment sessions. Even when patients are cooperative and forthcoming about their problems, a counseling psychologist will need to be patient as the treatment progresses. Counseling can take a while in order for measurable results to be achieved. Treating difficult patients or patients who have a complex set of psychological problems could take years, and patience is an essential skill in these situations.


Counseling psychologists must be adept at oral and written communication. During a counseling session, they need to talk through a client’s problem and help them identify ways of solving it. They need to keep good notes and records of each treatment session. Psychologists who offer direct patient counseling must also excel at listening. Being able to listen well ensures that the psychologist can create a customized treatment plan for each client’s problems.

Interpersonal Relationships

Counseling psychologists need to build a sense of trust with their patients. They also need to excel at working with other professionals. There may be times when a counseling psychologist must work as a team with social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and other healthcare and social services professionals in order to fully assist their clients in solving problems. Interpersonal relationship skills are also necessary for communicating with a client’s family members, especially if the client is a child or a person who is under guardianship.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, integrity is another essential trait of a counseling psychologist. These professionals must be able to maintain the confidentiality of their clients. They should also practice within the ethics of the profession. Counseling psychologists should be aware of how to treat sensitive problems. When discussing cases with their colleagues, psychologists should know how to avoid divulging personally identifiable information to anyone who does not need it. They should also know how to report ethics violations to the appropriate authorities.


Observations are another important skill for counseling psychologists. These professionals need to understand the body language of their patients. They should also be aware of what a person’s facial expressions mean. A counseling psychologist will need to interpret minute and short-lived facial expressions such as muscle twitches or glances in a certain direction in order to determine if a patient is hiding something or telling the truth. The psychologist should also be skilled at detecting whether or not behaviors, answers or attitudes are genuine.

These are just five of the skills that are essential to the career of a counseling psychologist. Anyone who wants to earn a doctorate in psychology and work as a clinical practitioner should also have a willingness to continue learning, an ability to solve problems and enjoyment of continuing education so that they can provide the best possible care to their patients. Each of these five key skills of counseling psychologists is essential to providing quality patient care.