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The Rapport: 5 keys to create an environment of trust

The Rapport: 5 keys to create an environment of trust

April 26, 2024

When we talk about psychological therapies, we often tend to think about the techniques that are implemented, the instruments for assessing attitudes and capacities or the approach used in that particular consultation.

Of course, these are very important factors in defining the type of therapy that is being attended and what are the objectives of going to them, but to fully grasp the essence of modern psychotherapy sessions we also need to have Consider another key issue. It is about the quality of the therapeutic alliance established between the patient and the professional .

This is a concept that can also be known as rapport , and that is used in areas such as Clinical Psychology, NLP and even the treatment of patients dispensed by the nursing staff.


Understanding the meaning of the word "rapport"

The therapeutic rapport is the shared and empathetic understanding of the different perspectives from which oneself and the other person approach a problem that must be solved by both . It is a framework of relationships in which a mutual understanding is established between several agents in order to address a problem in a collaborative manner.

In short, therapeutic rapport is the psychological attunement between the therapist and patient that allows the necessary collaboration between both . Its two main pillars are mutual trust and fluid communication (which is not symmetrical, since the ideal is for the patient to express himself much more than the therapist).


Communicating ... beyond the query

Originally, the word rapport referred to the dynamics of relationships that should govern the interaction between a health worker or therapist and their patients. In this way, there are training programs for mental health professionals and doctors that focus on the teaching of techniques to generate rapport, since it is understood that it is a fundamental aspect of the effectiveness of the intervention on patients. But nevertheless, today this word can also be applied to practically any context in which there is a task that can be carried out by two people who need to reach a good degree of rapport to get it.

In addition, rapport can be understood as much as a relationship dynamics (that is, something located in a specific time and space) or as a technique applied by a therapist (that is, an instrument that is part of the professional's repertoire of skills). However, these nuances do not vary the nature of what a good rapport should be.


Components of rapport

Wherever there is a good rapport there are also the three pillars on which it sits: coordination (or mirroring), reciprocity and the search for common places.

1. Coordination

The coordination or mirroring consists in adapt to the rhythm of the other person both gesturally (capturing the general whole of his non-verbal language and replicating it in a similar way), orally (adapt the tone of voice and the rhythm of speech to that of the other person) and, above all, emotionally (reflecting oneself the emotional state of the other person to empathize and at the same time make manifest that empathy).

2. Reciprocity

To show reciprocity consists in find ways to match the other person's contributions, be they actions or prayers . Classically, in the psychological consultation reciprocity is reflected through active listening, in which the psychologist, despite remaining more silent than the patient, constantly gives signals to listen to the other person and react to what he says.

This component of rapport varies according to the nature of the collaborative work that people must accomplish.

3. Common places

This factor refers to the need to focus the focus of messages and actions on issues that are of interest to all the people involved . This is something that many times we do without realizing it, by testing the tastes and likings of a person that we just met and end up talking about something about what is easy for us to dialogue.

This is also done in therapy, although, of course, always with the aim of the sessions in mind and without deviating too much from certain guidelines and topics to be addressed.

The result of these three factors is the establishment of empathy, trust and clear communication .

Guidelines for creating rapport

Some of l the keys by which psychologists and therapists are guided to establish a good therapeutic rapport are:

1. Be aware of the importance of the first impression

Most professionals whose performance depends in large part on their ability to generate good rapport they put special zeal at the time of presenting the patient in the right way . In this way, from the beginning a relationship framework is created based more on trust than on the lack thereof and, on the other hand, the fact that the therapist presents himself adequately can make the patient see that he himself has a leading role that was not expected.

A simple handshake, for example, is enough to make patients significantly more receptive to the attentions of the psychologist and the health personnel in general.

2. Make nonverbal and verbal language marry each other

Generating rapport is largely minimizing possible distortions in the interpretation of the other's expressions. Because, it is important to express oneself in a clean way, without contradictions between what is said and what is done . For example, inviting a patient to explain their problem and at the same time keeping their arms crossed is something that damages the quality of the therapeutic relationship, since an inconsistent message is emitted.

To delve into this important aspect, you can take a look at this article:

"The 5 keys to master non-verbal language"

3. Formulate unambiguously enuciados

This is one of the guidelines to follow that require a good preparation of verbal expression. Consists in use an accessible and clear language, without spaces that may lead to double meanings or unfinished phrases . In this way the other person will not have to make an effort to unravel the meaning of what is said, something that in itself could generate rejection.

4. Test the rapport quality

Although it is not noticed, therapists release small "probe balloons" to the patient to test the strength of the therapeutic relationship . For example, they can break the mirroring by taking a very different stance from the other person or by modifying the rhythm of the speech to see if this initiative is imitated. If the patient adapts to these changes, it is that the rapport is being established successfully.

5. Do self-criticism frequently

The psychologists they spend a lot of time self-assessing to discover what dynamics work and what do not when establishing a therapeutic relationship with the patient . Therefore, the quality of rapport is improving as the imperfections of this alliance between psychologist and patient are polished, something that happens thanks to the study of oneself.

To sum up

In the consultation, rapport is the therapeutic relationship that moves in the balance between the difference of patient - professional roles and the common goal of collaborating to solve a problem . Therefore, rapport is not exactly a capacity of the therapist or a tool that is implemented unilaterally, but something that is generated in the dynamics of interactions with the patient.

It is something that must be fed by both parties, but for which the psychologist is specially prepared. Thanks to a mixture of empathy and coherence in what is expressed, a therapist can arrange a relationship framework in which rapport arises practically spontaneously.

Depending on the roles that people have to adopt and the goals to achieve, the good harmony between the agents can give rise to several types of rapport that adapt to each situation. n, although its fundamentals are always the same.

Bibliographic references:

  • Casella, S. M. (2015). Therapeutic rapport: the forgotten intervention.Journal of emergency nursing, 41 (3), pp. 252 - 154
  • Dolcos, S., Sung, K., Argo, J. J., Flor-Henry, S., Dolcos, F. (2012). The power of a handshake: neural correlates of evaluative judgments in observed social interactions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24 (12), pp. 2292 - 2305
  • Norfolk T., Birdi K., Patterson F. (2009). Developing therapeutic rapport: a training validation study. Quality in Primary Care, 17, pp. 99-106.

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