Rapport /raˈpôr,rə-/ (noun): A close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well. Synonyms: affinity, close relationship, mutual understanding, bond, and empathy (Oxford Pocket Dictionary).
Anyone in the mental health field can tell you that rapport is the foundation of a strong working relationship between a counselor and client. It can be considered the crucial first step in seeing client progress and should be built with care. As I sit down to reflect on my own experiences with building rapport, I realize there are some common practices that tend to make the process smoother.
I’ve learned that it’s beneficial to pay close attention to clients’ communication style and then find a balance between that and yours. For instance, when I’m in session with a hyperactive child, I find it helpful to start off energetic then slowly calm down. I’ve noticed that this leads the client to also match my style by the end.
2. Make eye contact
As a new counselor, I feel compelled to take notes during sessions. It’s something I’ve become less dependent on overtime, but I know even a few instances of it can break eye contact. Learning to take concise sessions notes that include keywords (instead of detailed phrases) has helped me maintain eye contact longer, which shows clients that they have my full attention.
3. Ask questions, but not just for information
Do it because you’re genuinely interested – or at least make it appear that way. This seems like it should be a given, but it’s not always the case. Even in my practice, I’ve caught myself asking questions on automatic with new clients. I’ve learned that it’s not necessary to obtain all the basic information right away – sometimes it’s more helpful to get a conversation going, even if it’s not directly related to the treatment.
What factors help you build trust with a new individual in your life? Please share below!
Sadaf Siddiqi is a certified counselor with an interest in mental health research and its application to children and families. Please share your thoughts with her at firstname.lastname@example.org