Successful mental health professionals must be good listeners, competent professionals, ethical practitioners, self-aware individuals, flexible team members, confident colleagues, good communicators, problem solvers, trustworthy, client-centered, analytic, and possess emotional intelligence.
1. A Good Listener. The mental health professional must pay attention to emotional issues within the team and between the clients and ask open-ended questions to uncover hidden meanings. Effective mental health professionals let their clients and colleagues know they are listening by making eye contact, nodding, and repeating significant statements to signal they understand.
2. Professionally Competent. Mental health professionals must master the psychological and interpersonal skills needed to deliver exceptional service to their clients. Successful mental health professionals are confident, communicate this confidence to their clients, and develop rapport as a result.
3. Ethical. Successful mental health professionals must appear neutral at all times, be clear in their communications, and honestly communicate with the team and clients. Trustworthiness is the hallmark of an effective mental health professional.
4. Self-Aware. Everyone has personal issues and biases acquired while growing up. Before anyone can be an effective mental health professional, he/she must deal with these personal issues before advising clients. Otherwise, they can’t be certain they are giving their clients effective professional advice rather than acting on their own biases and personal issues.
5. Flexible. Mental health professionals must be flexible, take risks, and encourage team members and clients to try new things. By creating an atmosphere of trust and safety where it’s OK to take risks, the mental health professional can encourage the clients to try new things and learn better communication skills and interaction patterns.
6. Confident. During a collaborative divorce, the clients are in a highly vulnerable state and they need to trust the information they receive from the collaborative team, especially the mental health professional who will be dealing with their personal feelings. If the mental health professional appears unsure of his/her own abilities, the client won’t trust them during this difficult time.
7. Communication Skills. Neutral mental health professionals must formulate and deliver effective advice to client about how to communicate. In addition, the mental health professional must be able to communicate with other team members in a language that’s clear and easily understood. And, they need to know when to listen and when to intervene.
8. Problem Solver. A couple getting a divorce are often unable to solve their own interpersonal issues. A major job of the mental health professional is to suggest effective solutions to conflicts that recur during the collaborative process. The solution may be as simple as suggesting each client use “I” rather than “you” statements when making comments, or as complex as working off-line with a client to understand their hidden motives and defenses.
9. Trustworthy. All collaborative professionals must be trustworthy, but this trait is especially important in the mental health professional. They are mainly responsible for establishing and maintaining rapport during the collaborative divorce. By showing clients they can rely on them, the mental health professional helps develop the rapport needed to settle disputes.
10. Client-Centered. Collaborative divorce is a service industry and it’s essential for the successful mental health professional to put clients first. This means understanding their goals, interests, and motives and helping them develop effective communication and interpersonal skills.
11. Analytic. A mental health professional must listen to clients, gather information about motives, biases, and defenses, draw inferences about what’s driving their conflicts, analyze the information, and recommend behavioral changes that will smooth interpersonal relationships and communications.
12. Emotional Intelligence. Effective mental health professionals are able to function with different professions and various clients. They value the contributions of the entire collaborative team.
A mental health professional must understand emotional issues and pose appropriate questions to uncover hidden feelings. They must be competent and feel confident. Successful mental health professionals model honest communication and deal with their own personal issues before giving advice to clients. They must be flexible, possess good communication skills, be effective problem solvers, and focus on the clients. The mental health professional analyzes information and recommends behavioral changes to fix interpersonal relationships. Finally, they need to be comfortable dealing with different clients and professionals.