The WHO of Islamic Counselling

Over the past decade, a series of research studies has examined the characteristics of senior and 'master therapists' - practitioners nominated by their peers as the 'best of the best' - the therapists that they would recommend a family member to consult. The value of these studies lies in their capacity to use the broader perspective available to highly successful practitioners, who have survived the hazards of practice and thrived, as a means of highlighting the attitudes and strategies that are associated with excellence in the field of counselling and psychotherapy.

Several research studies have reported wide differences in levels of effectiveness across individual therapists. A study by Okiishi et al. (2003) is an example of this kind of research - in their sample, the clients of the least successful counsellors tended to get worse, on average, whereas more than 80 per cent of the clients of the most effective therapists were completely recovered by the end of therapy. Similar findings have been reported by Kraus et al. (2011).

This kind of evidence has led many people to wonder about the characteristics of those practitioners who are maximally effective. There has always been a lot of attention given to analysing the work of Carl Rogers, as an exemplar of an effective therapist (see Farber et al. 1996). The work of Len Jennings, Thomas Skovholt and Helge Ronnestad has sought to take this topic further by using interviews with master therapists and experienced practitioners to find out just what makes a good therapist. Jennings and Skovholt (1999) inter-viewed ten master therapists (seven women and three men), aged between 50 to 72 years, representing a wide range of theoretical orientations. All of these therapists worked full time in private practice. The conclusions that emerged from this study were that master therapists are:

• voracious learners;

• sensitive to, and value cognitive complexity and the ambiguity of the human condition;

• emotionally receptive, self-aware, reflective, non-defensive, and open to feedback;

• mentally healthy and mature individuals who attend to their own emotional well-being;

• aware of how their emotional health affects the quality of their work;

• in possession of strong relationship skills;

• convinced that the foundation for therapeutic change is a strong working alliance;

• experts at using their exceptional relationship skills in therapy.

• able to use their accumulated life and professional experiences as a major resource in their work.

In a further study, Ronnestad and Skovholt (2001) interviewed 12 experience senior therapists with an average age of 74 years, and 38 years of post-qualification experience. Four major themes emerged from the data:

• the impact of early life experience;

• the cumulative influence of professional experience;

• the influence of professional elders;

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