Published on December 8, 2023

5 Characteristics You Need to be a Psychologist

Pursuing a career as a psychologist can be incredibly rewarding. As a psychologist, you have the ability to help people better understand their emotions, behaviors, and relationships. However, it does require certain natural abilities and developed skill sets. If you’re considering a career in psychology, aim to cultivate these five key characteristics:

1. Empathy

Having a strong sense of empathy is critical as a psychologist. You must be able to connect with, understand, and feel compassion for those you are attempting to help. Seeing things clearly from your client’s perspective creates an environment where they feel heard, understood, and able to build trust. Actively listening, avoiding judgment, and expressing genuine compassion are all integral. Make sure not to confuse empathy with over-identifying with a client though, as you must keep healthy boundaries.

2. Emotional Stability

While helping clients deal with heavy emotions, you also need to be able to manage your own reactions. Being emotionally stable means you can be fully present with a client as they work through difficult feelings without becoming personally distressed. As challenges arise for clients, a psychologist with healthy regulation of their own emotions can provide steady guidance. Build resilience through self-care strategies.

3. Analytical Skills

Alongside empathetic listening skills, strong analytical abilities are hugely beneficial for aspiring psychologists. You must be able to observe human behavior and emotional patterns, gather information, and then analyze it to provide insights. Seeing both the nuances of an individual client and the potential broader connections is key. Ask probing questions and take time reflecting.  

4. Interpersonal Communication

Having clear and articulate interpersonal communication capacities is also vital. You’ll need to build rapport, ask thoughtful questions, reflect client statements, reframe perspectives, and explain concepts or insights. The ability to connect through verbal as well as non-verbal communication contributes to constructive client relationships. Adjust your style as needed.

5. Ethical Integrity

Finally, maintaining exceptionally strong ethical integrity and practices is paramount as a psychologist. You are privy to sensitive client information and have influence in people’s lives. Upholding ethical codes of conduct around confidentiality, professionalism, legal obligations, and competence is non-negotiable. Acting with integrity builds credibility. Keep current with regulations.

On top of these five essential characteristics, things like leadership, inclusivity, creativity and cultural awareness also contribute to success in psychology careers. Identify both your natural tendencies and skills requiring development. Seeking your own mentors can help strengthen abilities as well. With persistent growth across these human-centered traits and talents, you’ll be well equipped for making a profound impact through psychology. 

Consider volunteering or job shadowing first to get more exposure to the field while determining if it is the right path for you. And if you find it is, look at pursuing a college degree. 

Pursuing a career as a psychologist typically requires earning a doctoral degree, such as an online psychology degree, either a PhD or PsyD. Graduate school admission requires first obtaining a bachelor’s degree which includes some foundational psychology courses. Licensure is also mandatory for private practice. Individual states have specific licensing requirements.

Psychology is a rewarding career if you have the right qualities. Why not give it a go? 

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