How do you build rapport with clients in teletherapy?


    5 Effective Strategies for Building Rapport With Clients in Teletherapy

    To provide effective strategies for building rapport in teletherapy, we asked five licensed mental health professionals for their best tips. From "Using Humor and Personal Observations" to "Applying the 'Zero Technique'", Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists share their insights on fostering meaningful connections with clients in a virtual setting.

    • Use Humor and Personal Observations
    • Start with Mindfulness Exercises
    • Invite and Validate Client Experiences
    • Promote Transparency in Sessions
    • Apply the "Zero Technique"

    Use Humor and Personal Observations

    Here are my top ways to build rapport with online clients:

    1. Laughter! Finding ways to be engaging and humorous helps patients feel at ease and helps them build a connection with their therapist.

    2. Make a connection by taking time to notice things about the person by mentioning interesting things they are wearing, tattoos, or hairstyles. You can also ask about things you might see in the background, like interesting art on the wall!

    I have found that breaking the ice in these ways eases their tension and makes the rest of the session flow better. Enjoy your next session!

    Gary Daily
    Gary DailyLicensed Professional Counselor, Stronger Oregon

    Start with Mindfulness Exercises

    When working online with clients, the process always begins with mindful, deep-breathing or meditation exercises. This acts as a mental buffer at the start of each session, a transition that assists them in stepping fully into the present moment, leaving the noise of their daily life behind. This practice greatly enhances their receptivity and focus, which then paves the way for more profound and insightful discussions.

    Bayu Prihandito
    Bayu PrihanditoCertified Psychology Consultant, Life Coach, Founder, Life Architekture

    Invite and Validate Client Experiences

    One effective way to build rapport with clients in teletherapy is to invite clients to talk about their experiences and offer validation. For example, a client may express their hesitance to join the session online. Inviting clients to talk about their experience and validating it sends out a message that this is a safe space for them and that you care about their experience, free from judgments. It also gives you a chance to address clients' specific concerns so that you can make the teletherapy process smoother for the client. A stronger rapport is built through this process.

    May Han
    May HanLicensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Spark Relational Counseling

    Promote Transparency in Sessions

    One of the most effective ways to build rapport is to be transparent during your sessions. Being transparent may look like summarizing what you heard your client share, coordinating your schedules, or even asking your client if they have questions, concerns, or feedback. Transparency helps create that level of safety for a client, but it can also help us, as clinicians, promote attunement so that we can assist our clients and leave the space open for them to develop comfort, commit, and trust their process. Furthermore, body language is one particular thing I’m most focused on when it comes to transparency, especially when building rapport over telehealth. As a clinician, you need to look away to take notes, or grab water if needed, so naming and explaining your shift of gaze helps explain the loss of eye contact and lets the client know that you’re still present.

    Daniel RomoPsychotherapist, Daniel Romo Psychotherapy

    Apply the "Zero Technique"

    I use David Burns, MD's "Zero Technique," as described in his e-book, Tools, Not Schools, of Therapy. This means that I zero in on what the client is sharing with me without making interpretations or any premature attempts to help. I also verbally track what the client says while highlighting any feeling words that enter the conversation. I find it useful to share my own emotional reactions to what the person is sharing without taking the spotlight off of them. Appropriately placed questions also aid in letting the person I'm speaking with know that I'm listening.

    Zane PierceLicensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Feeling Good Institute