Top 5 Tips to Build Rapport Quickly | Social Work & Mental Health

Building rapport is one of the core tenants of social work & mental health practice! Being able to form a strong therapeutic relationship and alliance is the #1 factor in achieving treatment goals and outcomes. Today we’re going to review 5 of the MOST effective ways to build rapport quickly!

  1. Give your client time! This may seem counterintuitive given the point of this list is to build rapport fast, but a a strong relationship will be better built to last when it grows organically and not forced. Meet clients where they’re at, and discuss what they’re comfortable with. Jumping right into difficult topics is just that, difficult. Use the empathy that social workers are known for, and remind yourself to trust the process.
  2. Be genuine. The people we work with and support are not dumb. They can read our body language and what we say, just as much as we do to them. Having genuine care and concerns for the clients we support is ESSENTIAL. This is especially true if you’re working in trauma or with individuals with paranoia, as they often question the sincerity of others. Many people in treatment have also had poor experiences in prior services, so it’s important we set the tone for this new chapter.
  3. Openly ask for feedback. We want clients to feel comfortable discussing the uncomfortable. It can be hard for many people to initiate a conversation about what they want or don’t want in therapy. Start the intake session by discussing treatment expectations and goals, and be intentional with checking in with your client to determine if they like or would like to change an aspect of therapy. This creates a learning environment for both of you, and encourages the client to express their feelings, expectations, and boundaries more freely. This also shows our clients that therapists are humans too, but we can always grow from our experiences or mistakes.
  4. Get to know your client & be interested in who they are. By showing compassion & understanding for the person your client is. Explore their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests. This can create a good understanding of the person as a whole, and show your client that you’re interested in their complexities, strengths, and positive qualities, not just the painful or difficult parts.
  5. Have fun! Therapy can be daunting, so show your clients that it can be fun. Whether it’s using play therapy, games, or humor, therapy and the skills we learn can be fun, and shows clients the importance and positive impact of caring for one’s mental health.

Rapport is the single most important aspect of successful therapy, so nailing down how to build relationships with clients is essential for being an amazing social worker! Please share your experience and tips in the comments, so we can continue building a strong & skilled community of social workers!

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