The 10 key traits of a highly skilled therapist


I asked on social media for what my colleagues and peers deemed traits of a highly skilled therapist. 

Thanks a lot to all my peers and colleagues who participated. Below is an amended list of suggestions:

Highly skilled therapist bases their clinical reasoning upon the current scientific knowledge of pain and adheres to a comprehensive multifactorial view of pain, and that pain is a unique human experience.

A highly skilled therapist acknowledges that we can’t “fix” or change anything (from the outside) to someone else’s body, but know that we still can help, guide, and direct the patient toward their end goal in key steps and in the safest, most efficient, and effective way.

A highly skilled therapist recognizes that if you work with humans, you are working with psychology (whether you like it or not).

A highly skilled therapist is a master communicator and recognizes that communication is a powerful means to facilitate belief- and behavior change and that listening is therapy in its own right.

A highly skilled therapist does not utilize education and counseling strategies that directly or indirectly increase the perceived threat or fear associated with pain and does not perpetuate myths or base their clinical judgment on unproven or false traditionalist beliefs.

A highly skilled therapist only uses treatments and modalities that are biologically plausibility; this is the bare minimum required. Treatments and modalities used cannot be at odds with current research.

A highly skilled therapist does use process-based reasoning and does not focus on collecting “tools” in use on patients; they recognize that we are entrenched in an interaction with another living and thinking being. We are not “operators” (Jacobs et al. 2011) but an interactor interacting with another self-governing human being.

A highly skilled therapist does not claim to fix spinal subluxation or misalignments, release toxins, fascia or adhesions, correct “bad” posture or muscle imbalances, or to “reactivate” sleeping muscles, or restore the proper flow of qi (life force) using acupuncture, or only use passive modalities.

A highly skilled therapist recognizes that the therapeutic consultation should preserve or increase patient empowerment, agency, and body autonomy, not decrease or destroy it. 

A highly skilled therapist recognizes that all skillful helping begins with a humbling, and the primary aim is to serve. They are very respectful of the massive responsibility it is to be allowed into the patients’ life. 

As professor K.E. Løgstrup has said: “A person never has something to do with another person without holding some of the other person’s life in his hand” (Løgstrup 1956).


Thanks a lot to my colleagues and peers, specifically Michael Møller Nielsen and Bas Asselbergs, for their contributions to the list.



Jacobs DF, Silvernail JL. Therapist as operator or interactor? Moving beyond the technique. J Man Manip Ther. 2011 May;19(2):120-1. 

Løgstrup K E. Den etiske fordring, 1956.