How to build rapport? (in therapy& more)

In this brief blog, we will learn what rapport formation in counselling is. We will then discuss why rapport formation is important, things to keep in mind (for counsellors) to effectively build rapport and ways to effectively build rapport by knowing what to do and what not to do. 

Achieving and maintaining a therapeutic rapport is essential for successful therapy treatment. It’s the relationship between therapist and client which provides a sense of safety and respect so that both can candidly discuss their issues without fear of judgement enabling treatment to be more successful.

How to build rapport?

You can build rapport by doing some of the following things:

  • Maintain a calm demeanor rather than becoming defensive.
  • Inquire about the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Patience is required.
  • Allow the client to appear intelligent and perceptive.
  • Avoid actions that make the other person feel humiliated, such as pointing out weaknesses.
  • Place your ego on the backburner.
  • Demonstrate concern for and awareness of the sentiments of others.
  • Look for ways to put the other person at ease.

What is Rapport?

Rapport is the degree of understanding one has with another person. 

This shared understanding is essential to having a healthy relationship, especially in therapy. Therapists are trained to promote rapport during therapy sessions, setting the tone early on. 

Therapists develop rapport by using collaborative language, using warm gestures, making frequent eye contact, and more. When a therapist is able to establish rapport with the client, the therapy is more effective, allowing the client to discuss issues without feeling embarrassed or judged.

Why is Rapport important?

It’s imperative that therapists establish a sense of comfort for patients during their sessions. They want to ensure the client feels safe enough to express problems openly so they can effectively receive treatment. 

Therapeutic rapport is an essential part of this process, so therapists will take extra care to get to know the client on a personal level in order to understand what’s troubling them and how they can deal with their lives in a better manner. 

  • The therapist acts as a guide in the process. However, both work as a team and can only begin the process successfully when the client- therapist relationship has been sealed. 
  • Therapeutic rapport is established when both patient and therapist are in agreement about why treatment is necessary – for example, dealing with “problem behavior” stemming from psychological wounds or trauma – which enables them to be more empathetic towards one another.
  • A special kind of rapport is essential so that the client has an atmosphere conducive to talking about sensitive and painful issues. The therapist builds this therapeutic rapport by first investing some time and effort into building relationships on a more personal level through small talk and taking interest in who they are as an individual outside of the therapy session. 
  • Creating such an organic rapport with your clients enables them to feel safe enough to open up and share what’s really going on inside of them, which benefits all those involved during this delicate process of working together towards some common goals. 

However, it is possible that not every therapist is going to suit you or fill gaps in the formed rapport. Hence, as a client one can try to build rapports with different therapists and move forward with the rapport that suits you the most. It is a segment of the therapeutic process.

Griffin (2006) mentions certain pointers regarding the importance of rapport building and forming an ongoing therapeutic relationship:

“Counseling is a client-centered process that leads to new behaviors. Building on a foundation of caring, rapport, and comfort, we help clients commit to changing their habits. We keep our clients at the center of this process by listening more than we talk and by encouraging them to learn from their own experiences. Counseling is an opportunity to help clients develop more options—to lead clients to open new doors, throw off chains, and stretch!”

Pre-requisites of therapeutic setting for the therapist

Prior to engaging in the interpersonal communication process, there are basic requirements which should be taken into account which will influence the client’s ability to express him/herself and interact. 

These dimensions refer to the counselling setting and can cause a significant perception towards the counsellor. In other words, it is important that as a counsellor you take the following into consideration:

  • Comfort

A pleasant environment encourages clients to communicate their emotions.

  • Privacy and security 

Providing protection and privacy to the client during a session.

  • Noise control

Noise control is the process of ensuring that noise does not interfere with communication.

  • Stimuli control

an environment with neutral components helps decrease any distractions (light colours and decoration). 

  • Supportive environment.

A supportive setting is one in which the client is free to share at their own speed.

  • Facilities

Amenities, décor and other office facilities are relevant aspects that are observed and should be part of the setting

How to build a rapport ?

Susan Young (2017) describes the following strategies to cast a positive light on people in her book The Art of Connection: 8 Ways to Enrich Rapport & Kinship for Positive Impact:

  • Maintain a calm demeanor rather than becoming defensive.
  • Inquire about the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Patience is required.
  • Allow the client to appear intelligent and perceptive.
  • Avoid actions that make the other person feel humiliated, such as pointing out weaknesses.
  • Place your ego on the backburner.
  • Demonstrate concern for and awareness of the sentiments of others.
  • Look for ways to put the other person at ease.

Additional ways that help physicians create rapport, in addition to Young’s (2017) suggestions, include:

  • Use nonverbal clues to communicate warmth and comprehension.
  • Small chat is a good way to break the ice.
  • As needed, inject some levity into the dialogue.
  • Demonstrate understanding and sympathy, especially if the customer is upset.
  • Don’t pass judgement on others.
  • In the treatment process, treat the client as a partner/collaborator.
  • Encourage the client’s self-efficacy.
  • Pay attention to the nonverbal indications given by the client.
  • Use paraphrase and reflective listening.
  • Actively listen to the client to ensure that he or she feels heard.
  • During sessions, there should be no interruptions or diversions.
  • Maintain a pleasant, upbeat, and encouraging attitude.
  • Use affirmations that are positive.
  • Clarify the confidentiality and privacy rights of your clients.
  • Ascertain that the clinical setting is tranquil, private, and welcoming.
  • Technical jargon should be avoided.
  • Be adaptable and willing to try new things.
  • To elicit more information, use open-ended inquiries.
  • Use a calming voice tone.
  • Never move too quickly, begin with ice breaking, and proceed at the client’s pace.

In their book “Nonverbal Communication in Psychotherapy, Psychiatry (Edgemont)” (2010), the writers Foley and Gentile present three nonverbal behaviour characteristics that influence rapport. Psychiatry is mentioned in this journal article, however the same ideas can be applied to any style of counselling:

  • Attentiveness 

With nonverbal gestures like making eye contact and nodding, the psychiatrist can demonstrate interest in the patient by paying undivided attention to the conversation at hand and encouraging additional dialogue.

  • Positivity vs. negative

Do they seem to enjoy each other’s company, as evidenced by nonverbal behaviours like smiling, laughing, leaning forward in their chairs, and adopting open postures? Or are they uncomfortable with one another, expressing indifference or antagonism and establishing physical distance or barriers?

  • Coordination

Think about how one individual mirrors the actions of another. Making eye contact at the same time, returning a smile, or adopting and changing positions with the patient are examples.

Hindrance in communication process from the client’s end

Most possible concerns of the first couple of meetings are covered by the normal communication pitfalls present in any relationship. They refer to a variety of conscious and subconscious thought processes that might lead to communication breakdowns between the client and the counsellor.

These patterns are influenced by a variety of elements such as an individual’s education, relationships, attitudes, motivational goals, self-confidence, and so on. Because the early phases of a counselling relationship are often open and unpredictable, a useful technique for moving forward is to focus on prevention: reducing the likelihood of communication snafus.

Counselors must be aware of the following common communication errors, or negative patterns, in order to avoid this:

  • Judging: Evaluatively criticising, shaming, diagnosing, and praising
  • Sending Answers: Threatening, moralising, and counselling are all words that come to mind when someone is ordering, threatening, moralising, or advising.
  • Avoiding the Concerns of Others: Logiciously reasoning, diverting, and reassuring
  • Avoiding such errors is likely to result in laying the foundations for a fruitful connection through good rapport and the development of a certain level of trust and openness.

Red flags in a therapist

When a counsellor reveals his or her personal experience with a client, this is known as self-disclosure. This is a methodical procedure that prioritises the client’s well-being. When it serves the client rather than the counsellor, self-disclosure is beneficial.

Some clients believe that a counselor’s self-disclosure demonstrates sincerity and concern for the client. Sharing a personal narrative, along with the lessons learnt, can help clients feel less ashamed of their situation and normalise it. 

Clients realise that the counsellor has been through a similar issue and has come out on the other side.

Excessive self-disclosure might weaken trust. It’s critical to keep your responses succinct and focused on the topic at hand when clients ask personal questions. 

Some clients may demonstrate an unwillingness to sit with their own thoughts and feelings by asking the counsellor too many personal inquiries. It’s natural for customers to be curious, and you can attest to this.

Furthermore, a kind but firm reminder returns the focus to the customer. “Let me get back to you,” you can say, or “What were you thinking or feeling before you asked me ab