Establishing Therapeutic Rapport: A Guide for Therapists

Therapeutic rapport is an integral part of establishing a healthy therapist-client relationship. It allows the client to feel safe and respected, increasing the success of a therapy session. But how exactly can establish a strong one? This article discusses therapeutic rapport, its value, and how to build it with your clients.

Author Generic Image By Grow Therapy
Therapist sits behind man on couch.

Updated on May 21, 2024

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Diving into a serious conversation with your client without creating a solid relationship can derail the therapeutic process. It can also make your client end therapy before achieving optimal results.

However, establishing a mutually respectful and trusting relationship can help calm your patients, increasing the treatment’s effectiveness. But how exactly can you do it? This article discusses therapeutic rapport, its value, and how to build it with your clients.

What Is Rapport in a Therapeutic Relationship?

Therapeutic rapport is an integral part of establishing a healthy therapist-client relationship. It allows the client to feel safe and respected, increasing the success of a therapy session.

Rapport is a harmonious alliance involving therapist and patient collaboration in therapeutic treatment. It improves patient compliance with treatment, satisfaction, and treatment outcomes.

According to Grow Therapy provider Tahara DeBarrows, LMFT, “More than half of the outcomes of therapy is associated with the quality of alliance between therapists and their clients. Therapists and patients often agree on the quality of their alliance, but the patient’s perception of the relationship is the biggest determinant of treatment success. Patients are more likely to end the treatment if therapists don’t create a favorable environment and relationship.”

A good rapport with your clients means:

With good rapport, the client feels supported, enabling them to confront difficult-to-face situations. In addition, a clinician who has established a good alliance with clients feels respected, making it easy to communicate freely and clearly.

Therapeutic Rapport Examples

The following therapeutic rapport examples demonstrate challenging therapy situations and the importance of rapport. They also describe a counselor’s ability to address the patient’s concerns and boost their therapeutic relationship.

Example 1

John is battling relationship issues with his wife. He decides to attend therapy for the first time but is anxious about it. He also thinks his problem will cause his deepest regrets and fears, making him nervous.

John has always believed that seeking professional help makes someone weak, and he is worried his friends may find out what he shares with the therapist. Speaking in a soothing voice, the therapist welcomes John and offers him something to drink. While maintaining eye contact, she initiates small talk about the sunny, calm weather outside.

These talks help to humanize the therapist while giving John time to calm down. She reads the privacy and confidentiality rights, explains the common anxiety experienced by people new to therapy, and assures John there’s no shame in seeking support. John feels relaxed, trusting, and ready to open up to the therapist about his concerns.

Example 2

Abby has been experiencing mood disorders and can’t get along with her friends and colleagues. She blames others for her eccentricities and becomes defensive if the issues are discussed. Further, Abby hesitates to seek support as previous therapies have not helped. Additionally, she doesn’t trust psychotherapists.

But, Abby fears losing her job and decides to seek help from a professional counselor. While smiling kindly, Abby’s therapist greets and directs her to his office. He offers her a drink and asks if she had a pleasant night. The therapist, carefully speaking in an understanding and nonjudgmental way, notes Abby’s irritable response.

As Abby expresses her concerns, the counselor uses reflective listening, paraphrasing, and open-ended questions to get information. Additionally, he displays competence and a supportive, engaging approach that boosts Abby’s confidence and trust.

Also, the therapist doesn’t use jargon, preventing Abby’s feelings of defensiveness in therapy. Abby eventually feels her concerns have been fully addressed with time and patience.

Importance of Building Rapport with Clients

Rapport is necessary for building trust and respect and helping clients feel comfortable and safe. It allows clients to:

In addition, creating a strong therapeutic rapport with clients is essential because:

1. Trust Builds Relationships That Foster Progress

Patients’ confidence in their mental health providers allows them to receive treatment. Trust is essential for adherence despite the severity of a client’s situation. Clients who don’t trust their therapist are less likely to commit to a therapy session fully.

2. It Creates a Sense of Belonging and Connectivity

Patients experiencing challenging situations feel misunderstood and lonely, which may lead to isolation. However, a therapeutic rapport provides an opportunity for therapists to establish a healthy connection with patients in a nonjudgmental way. As a result, clients are more willing to allow the therapist in, fostering a sense of community and authentic alliance.

3. It Positively Impacts Counseling Outcomes

Building trust with clients helps uncover feelings and symptoms that may hinder a client’s optimal life. When there’s a trusting rapport, clients can better reduce the crisis and feel encouraged to be actively involved in the counseling session and treatment plan.

Ways to Build Rapport With Clients

Rapport building is a vital element of a quality and successful therapeutic alliance. It begins during the initial counseling session, where therapists seek to understand their client and their problems and develop a treatment plan.

As therapy continues, healthcare providers should utilize techniques that enhance and support an effective rapport. Here are strategies that can help you develop a strong rapport with your clients:

Active Listening

Active listening allows you to listen to your clients closely and ask questions to understand the depth of their emotions. Use reassuring comments, gestures, body language, paraphrasing, and remember what patients say to show them you’re listening. In addition, ask clients for clarifications on details they give so they can feel you are concerned about whatever they say.

Communication Skills

Employ the basic tenets of effective communication:


Consider language that expresses familiarity and the universality of struggles versus “I understand” to ensure the client knows you are acknowledging what they’re saying without trying to claim that you relate.


While it’s OK not to share your private information, don’t lie to your clients. Distrust can destroy a therapeutic alliance and make your clients withdraw. For instance, don’t promise to do something you know you won’t, or tell them you have experienced a situation when you haven’t. Be genuine with your feelings, thoughts, and reactions to create trustworthiness.


Showing your clients that you understand their emotions makes them feel cared for and heard, fostering a robust foundation for rapport. Therefore, it’s OK to feel anger when they do or cry when they cry. This can help gain insight into your client’s feelings, allowing them to understand and process their emotions.


Treating your clients with respect helps to form a trusting mood. So, don’t be judgmental about what they say and accept them regardless of who they are or what they share.


Therapist self-disclosure involves sharing your feelings, thoughts, and personal information with your patients. Self-disclosure shows your clients you are real and can relate to their experiences. However, ensure a balance when sharing personal experiences with them to maintain boundaries and prevent mixed emotions.

Finding Common Ground

Identifying a common ground can help you build rapport with your clients. So, initiate small talk to find something that you both share. The more interested you seem, the more clients feel comfortable and relaxed. Open-ended questions can help discover shared information and draw you closer to the patient.

Showing Competence

One of the reasons clients may not trust you is incompetency. So, before accepting a client, ensure you can handle their situation and have the required counseling skills. Also, if you hit an impasse during the therapeutic process, do everything possible to prove competency. If not, be honest with your clients and refer them to your colleagues.

Meeting at Their Level

Don’t force your clients to start at a level they are uncomfortable with. Instead, create rapport by meeting them where they want to be. If they haven’t addressed what is required, meet them a few steps before and focus on strengthening the relationship.

Providing Feedback

Providing client feedback is another significant way to boost the therapeutic rapport. It allows clients to feel recognized as active participants in the treatment process. In addition, asking your clients for feedback can foster the following:

What works for one client may not work for another. So, provide feedback to your clients if a particular treatment plan doesn’t seem to work for them.

Boosting Rapport: Questions to Ask a Patient

Asking appropriate questions is essential for calming your client while obtaining critical information for therapy. The following are examples of rapport-boosting questions to ask your clients:

  1. How are you today? This question helps to start the client-therapist interaction. Further, it can help reveal the patient’s mood and show your interest in the client.
  2. Do you live in this neighborhood? At times, clients may be anxious about therapy. So, use small talk to break the ice and show them you are relatable and friendly.
  3. Why are you here? This allows the clients to think about their concerns and reveal essential information for their treatment.
  4. Have you been to therapy before, and how did you feel about it? This question is essential for establishing your client’s therapy history and understanding the best approach to use.
  5. What didn’t you like about the previous therapy? Understanding treatment barriers will help you act in a way that enhances retention. For instance, if the client didn’t like their former therapist’s treatment approach, you’ll opt for a more comfortable style.
  6. How do you hope to see yourself at the end of therapy? In addition to providing essential details for their treatment goal, this question allows the client to visualize themselves positively, enhancing their motivation.


Establishing a rapport with clients in a therapeutic relationship is vital to every therapy’s success. Through active listening, validation, genuineness, and self-disclosure, you can establish a safe environment for your clients to engage in the therapeutic process fully.

If you’re ready to build therapeutic rapport with clients through your own private practice, Grow Therapy can help. We provide all the admin tools you need, including insurance credentialing, so you can spend time doing what you’re best at. Learn mojre about starting a private practice with the support of Grow Therapy.


  • A therapeutic relationship differs from the relationships we form with our friends. The purpose, bonds, and interactions developed during therapy are essential in a client's treatment progress and healing.

  • A good therapeutic rapport should include shared decision-making, mutual engagement in treatment, and freedom to discuss even both positive and negative emotional responses.

  • If a client is silent, they could be contemplating something. The best thing is to slow down the therapy's pace so that it can fit your client's needs.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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