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Jan 14, 2014


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.

1.      Mirror

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

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  1. 5 Ray McKinnis 16 Jan
    Thanks Sadaf.
     Your point is crucial. I like to think of this first action with a new client as creating a 'secure base.' A military term indicating that when an army first goes into a foreign land, the first task is to create a space which is safe to relax and be ones self. Only then is it safe to explore the unknown and make changes. That secure base is the relationship between the client and the counselor and that base must feel secure to both the client and the counselor. The techniques you describe are great ways of creating such a space.
  2. 4 Maya Georgieva 17 Jan
    Very true. Some patients/clients are tired of being interrogated about their pathology.  I give them space. I use silence.  I take a step back. I discuss their strengths and interests.

    Great suggestions by the way.
  3. 3 Ahmad 22 Jan
    Hi dear sadaf,
    I am so greatful for your article it was great.I wanna to say my opinion about one part of your article. in one section you have told we should write key words during clients speech. I personaly believe that it is better ask from client "do you permit me to write your speech"?
    I think this way is helpful for client because help to increase rapport as you said.In my view , if we had paranoia client , writing without permission damage rapport.
    all in all, I really engoy your article.
    good job.

  4. 2 Ahmad 25 Jan
    please say your opinion about my comment as soon as possible.

  5. 1 Sadaf Siddiqi 28 Jan

    Thank you for your comments, all.

    Ahmad, I agree with you that counselors should be respectful and obtain permission before taking notes.  I've noticed that this helps increase trust, especially when working with adolescents.



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