Qualities of a Good Therapist

As the world of psychotherapy becomes more and more regulated, the emphasis moves towards qualifications and academic credentials. In all of this, the question of what makes a good therapist seems to be getting lost. Veeresh is the founder and president of the OSHO Humaniversity. This private institute in Holland has been training therapists for over twenty-five years. In this interview Chandrika, executive director of the institute, asks Veeresh about the qualities that really count. Veeresh began his own training in Phoenix House, New York and has been inspired by the wisdom of Osho, from whom he received direct guidance, for over thirty years.

Veeresh asked Osho what qualities are important in a therapist. In a letter dated 30 January 1979 he received this answer: deep contact with Osho, crystallized presence, authenticity, willingness to risk, composure, humility, awake, awareness, loving, seeing clearly, positive, not getting caught in client's projections, not needing to do anything, goal-less, acceptance of the present, lack of dogma, flexibility, genuine confidence, more questions than answers, lack of fear, non-manipulation for own needs, maturity, lots of life experience, suffered, sense of humor, lightness, non-serious, playful, perspective, comfortable with structure and non-structure, individual, unique, not hiding behind the role of a therapist.

Osho asked you to train the best therapists. What do you think are the qualities of a good therapist?

0709_02Veeresh: That's easy. All I have to do is to describe myself. Anybody who has ever worked with me knows that I care about and love myself and I want to project that onto everyone I work with. I don't care because I have to, it's because I want to. It makes me feel good when I feel I reached somebody. These are the basics you need to be a good therapist. You're running our therapist program. Besides loving yourself and caring, what do you think is important?

Chandrika: I think you need to have patience with people so that you can make steps towards them and take their hand and guide them. And also you need to have passion. Then you can inspire them to find their own direction.

In your experience what supports healing?

Veeresh: That someone is there for you and that he cares - that itself is healing. Of all the therapists that I've worked with, the ones that turn me on the most are the therapists whose heart I can feel; they care about what they are doing. I have been with therapists who have been using me as a statistic on a chart on a board; I didn't feel cared for or loved at all. I felt like I was just another case load.
0709_01Whatever problem there is, everyone is a healer inside also. When you look inside you can see that you have the power to heal. I call it the love force, or soul force; there are many labels to explain it. When you care, when you love, and you give that to the other then there is transformation. You open yourself to another person and you pour all your love and if the other person can receive it, healing happens. Receiving is also part of healing.
For example I remember as a kid when I hurt myself, like banging my finger, I would run to my mother crying. She would kiss my finger and say: "Now it's okay."
These are the basics: saying I am lovable, being able to give and receive love.

Osho speaks about the therapist as a friend. Classical therapy sees friendship as a malpractice. Is it important to keep a professional distance towards the client?

Veeresh: I remember at the age of 14, I was in a hospital and it was my birthday. I wanted my therapist to say Happy Birthday to me. I was very much in love with her. And she didn't mention my birthday and I did not say anything. I was so disappointed.
Throughout the entire time, I never felt the therapists as friends or looking at me as a human being. They were always looking at me as a problem.
Yes, there has to be professional ethics. But if the goal is that you finish therapy and the relationship with the patient is over, it is sad. For me friendship is the goal. We make that clear with all our therapists that the patients are not just a case, but you are inviting them to a friendship. What do you think?

Chandrika: In therapy you are teaching people to overcome their isolation and to relate in a nourishing way. When that happens, you can relate as friends in a healthy mature way.

Veeresh: Humaniversity therapists have the most friends in the world.

In the seventies in progressive therapeutic circles therapist and client often got involved sexually. Today such relationships are considered abusive. What do you say about it?

Veeresh: I was one of those therapists practicing in the 70's. I got enthusiastic about surrogate sex therapy and I tried to be a therapist and be sexually involved with the patient. In the beginning it felt great, but at the end it was a complete catastrophe. The result was that patients wanted to have a relationship with me and I was trying to finish the therapy. It was not working at all.
I saw that either you are a therapist or you are going to end up playing prostitute and that is not what I wanted; it just did not feel right to me. So, I agree there needs to be professional ethics and they have to be clear.

Chandrika: It is important that the client has all the space to work through his or her issues. If you start to get sexually involved, you become part of the problem rather than the solution.

The therapist is there to help the client find himself. How can a therapist avoid the trap of thinking that he already knows what is good for the client?

Veeresh: I think it's a good thing to tell the client what you think is good for him and say that this is your trip. Then the person has a frame of reference. The therapist wants him to change, to improve his relationship with his parents, talk to his boss, whatever.
As well as being objective, the therapists' projections, their positions, their thinking, where they're at, what they feel - that's all valid. Then the client knows that this is what the therapists thinks and feels. When the therapist only asks: "Why? Tell me more. Can you explain that?" he becomes a cold clinical instrument.
People need contact and they need your objectivity as well as your subjectivity. They need your feelings and your irrational thoughts. You can say: "This is my position. What's your position?" That's a beautiful way to learn, showing people that you are human too and that you're not better, or less than they are.

What part does meditation play in your work as a therapist?

Veeresh: Meditation is where we are all heading at the Humaniversity. We're a meditation school and we use any means to get people to look at themselves. That's really fun.
First they heal their wounds and work on their problems, and then they start to look at themselves. It goes hand in hand with therapy to help people say, "Hey, who are you now at this moment? Accept that, it's another part of you, another mirror." I call that Social meditation.
I would not like the Humaniversity to become a normal center where there is no excitement, no controversy, no fear about coming here because you are going to change. I want all the people who dare to walk in through the door, to become enlightened and fall in love with themselves and each other.
I meet people who tell me that they wanted to come to my place for 20 years. Twenty years - what a miss! Fear is great; it's exciting. It means that things are not boring or predictable.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Veeresh: I like to tell my therapists that their job is to be themselves, to expose who they are, to show that besides being great therapists they are also human beings. A therapist has a responsibility - if he is talking the talk he has to walk the walk. If he is asking other people to look at themselves, he has to look inside himself to set an example. Then people can trust you, and a lot of healing happens when you trust the therapist.
I like Osho saying that therapy is a function of love. Once we teach everybody how to love each other then we'll be out of work. That's our goal - to teach everybody to love each other.