Emotional intelligence (EQ) is an important quality for clinical therapists. Besides helping you understand and communicate with clients, it is also a leadership skill that can improve your relationships with partners and staff.
What is emotional intelligence?
Generally, EQ means being able to understand and manage your own emotions, and to read and respond to those of others in an appropriate, constructive way. In a 2021 article in Physical Therapy, a team of experts from Italy explained how EQ is really made up of several important elements, which include:
- Self-awareness, or knowing your own strengths, weaknesses, wants, needs, and tendencies
- Controlling your own emotions and responses to them
- Empathy, or understanding others’ emotions and perspectives
- Relationship management, which uses effective communication, healthy boundaries, and conflict resolution
These elements are valuable to therapists who must understand their clients’ emotions and respond appropriately. Without EQ, therapists have a harder time communicating effectively, helping clients navigate difficult feelings, or managing their own emotional responses to clients’ needs.
Clinicians can apply emotional intelligence to leadership.
Much of our modern understanding of EQ comes from psychologist Daniel Goleman, whose book, Emotional Intelligence, became a New York Times bestseller. According to Goleman, EQ is a more important factor in workplace success than IQ.
If you share a practice with other therapists, or you manage any employees, it can be helpful to build your EQ as a leadership skill. This can help you stay calm and flexible during times of change or business difficulty, communicate better with staff, and resolve workplace conflict.
How do therapists improve their EQ?
At the Cape Cod Symposium on Addictive Disorders in September 2022, Dr. Romas Buivydas, CEO of AdCare Hospital in Massachusetts, discussed the effect that emotions have on caregivers. He noted that negative emotions could interfere with a clinician’s empathetic communication and even the ability to provide the right treatment.
Dr. Buivydas recommended several strategies for building EQ as a therapist:
- Practice hypothetical client interactions ahead of time, imagining probable reactions and how you can respond appropriately.
- Consider what may interfere with your empathy, or what might trigger particular emotions, and how you tend to respond.
- Set specific goals for your client interactions. For example, rather than trying to help clients avoid negative emotions, make it your goal simply to listen to and validate clients’ emotions.
- Learn to recognize when your own emotions are affecting you, and how to better manage them to keep them from influencing your judgment.
- Understand the importance of nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions and posture. Learn to recognize your own nonverbal habits that may be counter-productive, and make an effort to change them.
You could also increase your EQ with leadership development and training courses. It may help to request feedback on your communication style from coworkers, to learn how it may affect others. In addition, you can observe others’ nonverbal communication and practice listening without judgment.
Communication is crucial for behavioral health providers, whether that includes clients and families, team members, or third-party business partners. Your software tools should help, not hinder, that communication.
BestNotes EHR software was designed specifically for behavioral health practices, allowing you to improve your communication to save time and money. Whether it’s automated documentation, staying in touch with leads and referral sources, or HIPAA-compliant employee messaging, we have tools to keep your information efficient and secure. Contact us for more info!