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These Attributes May Drive Your Successful Practice

February 11, 2020

Do you even know what your clients want from you as a helper?

I was providing a workshop in San Diego (February 2020) with Woody Mosten and Ron Ousky. The topic of the workshop was Building a Successful Collaborative Practice. There were Collaborative lawyers, divorce financial professionals and mediators in attendance. I was the sole mental health professional.

I have some 14,000 followers on my professional Facebook page. I surveyed the group during the workshop by asking the following: “What attributes are important in your service provider?”

It just may be that if you pay attention to their answers, you will find some attributes to include in your practice that could support success.

Here are their replies unfiltered:

  1. A listening ear…to hear…to understand…to provide an outlet for others to express and actively LISTEN!!!
    Sometimes saying things out LOUD to someone who can HEAR you helps.
  2. Really listening, not just hearing, but with compassion and heart. Patience and asking for confirmation that the client understands or may need questions repeated in a different way. Not assuming they know what’s going on. Nonjudgement. Respect.
  3. An immediate connection and comfort level.
    A comfortable room/office.
    Not rushed
  4. HONESTY, COMPASSION, NON-JUDGMENTAL, LISTENING, no RUSHING through the appointment, access to contact after appointment via e-mail or text….
  5. Knowing they are actually listening, not just going thru the motions.
  6. Trust, Empathy, Listening, Feedback, follow-up and if possible next steps for me to work on until our next meeting would all be very helpful.
  7. I like when the counselor can say they would like to consult with another who may have had this experience if necessary or to refer to another counselor. — to never fake understanding.
  8. Punctuality, clear feedback, creative ideas, the ability to find solutions for problems and calm under pressure.
  9. Patient, understanding, acknowledge the feelings of the client, honest, able to have a difficult conversation, empathy, engaging, compassionate, able to appreciate a variety of points of view, gentle when asking challenging and provoking questions, non-judgmental
  10. Clear, timely communication.
    Patient with clients.
  11. Feedback, and homework. I like to know what I have to do to practice new understandings.
  12. Knowing when comfort is helpful. Knowing when discomfort is essential. The person doing the work does the healing.
  13. Follow up (if possible).
  14. Non-judgmental, willing to get specific explaining things. Knowledge of services in the area for clients in need.
  15. Empathy.
    A high degree of current knowledge on the subjects being dealt with.
  16. Open, calm, genuine, honest, and personable.
    Essentially like a real person and not a robot.
  17. Practical steps to take to resolve the issue. Help to develop solutions and understanding of behaviors with the appropriate tools to manage issues.
  18. Something no one else has covered yet: Intelligence/insight. If I have been struggling with an issue to the extent that I feel I need outside help, then I have already analyzed it to death. I need someone who can see the situation with new eyes, connect the dots and give me an “aha” moment that I couldn’t find on my own.
  19. I think also common examples of situations people can relate to and an opportunity to discuss it. Certainty being on the same level with understanding is important. An audience wants to know the speaker “gets it.”
  20. Real life analogies with real timelines. You always seem to chart a course for success!
  21. The best nonverbal communication ever.
  22. I like to feel heard but also like when someone sees through my BS and calls me on it. Someone warm but direct!
  23. Telling me exactly what I need to hear, when I’m lost and cannot figure a way to deal with a situation.
  24. Empathy and clear strategies, calm and non-judgmental.
  25. First, competence with my issues. Second, verbal ability to guide participants toward needed insights into the problems. Third, creative handling of my barriers to help (pride, stubbornness, need to be “right”).
  26. Authentic, calm, accepting and confident
  27. The ability to work with other departments, or services. A one stop shop if you would. Where people can get solutions to their concerns and not fall into the bureaucracy and get lost.
  28. The ability to do all of the above but also being able to see thru the bs.
  29. Competence! They do harm, even if they are compassionate and good listeners, if they give wrong technical advice.
  30. Kindness, integrity and honesty.
  31. Empathy
  32. Being present. No distracted service providers are providing quality service. Being consistent and keeping the personal stories to a minimum.
  33. Authenticity
  34. Compassionate
  35. Listening, asking questions, going deep to get inside the strong walls of suspicion, distrust, shame, avoidance. Providing a safe place to unravel and the assurance that I am okay as long as I am moving forward. Knowledge of childhood trauma, sex abuse and PTSD.
  36. Emotional intelligence
  37. Authenticity
  38. Understanding, gentleness, I feel heard and understood.


I must say, the practitioners in attendance at our workshop highly valued those attributes too.

What will you do.


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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice

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