What Methods Are Effective for Building Rapport With Resistant Adolescent Clients?


    What Methods Are Effective for Building Rapport With Resistant Adolescent Clients?

    Engaging with resistant adolescent clients is a nuanced challenge that mental health professionals face. We've gathered insights from LCSWs and clinical psychologists who share their effective methods. From connecting through favorite media to leveling with their experiences, here are the top four strategies they recommend.

    • Connect Through Favorite Media
    • Show Genuine Interest and Humor
    • Offer Them Questions First
    • Level With Their Experiences

    Connect Through Favorite Media

    Adolescents need to feel heard and respected. I usually ask them about their favorite TV show or song, ask them what song would describe their life, or which TV show character they most identify with. Trying to get inside their world and understand what they are feeling helps disarm them and feel like you actually care about their interests, and you can gather a lot of information!

    Nina Batista
    Nina BatistaLCSW, Nina Batista Counseling

    Show Genuine Interest and Humor

    One effective method I've found for building rapport with a resistant adolescent client is to show genuine interest in their life. This involves asking about their hobbies, favorite music, or online activities, and actively listening without judgment. Creating a safe and non-threatening environment where they know their thoughts and feelings are valued is key. Additionally, sharing a bit about yourself or finding common ground can help humanize the interaction. Using humor appropriately with their responses allows them to feel more comfortable. Acknowledging their independence and respecting their need for autonomy can also foster trust. Finally, consistently showing up and being reliable helps demonstrate your commitment to their well-being.

    Tanveer Padder
    Tanveer PadderPsychiatrist, Psychopharmacologist, Addiction Speacalist

    Offer Them Questions First

    Building rapport with resistant adolescent clients is pivotal, especially since many experience trust issues and are hesitant to open up, often viewing the mental health professional as a stranger. To address and approach this, I offer them the opportunity to ask me questions before discussing their own experiences. This approach helps them feel more comfortable and secure, as they get to learn about the person they will be confiding in, thereby strengthening a sense of trust and openness.

    Priya Gupta
    Priya GuptaPsychologist and Mental Health Professional

    Level With Their Experiences

    Despite the bad rap they get, I really enjoy working with teens! When I think of adolescence, I think of G. Stanley Hall's coining of the phrase 'storm and stress' to illustrate the transition from childhood to adulthood. Being a teen is hard! You're still figuring out your burgeoning identity—independent from your parents—while your body morphs almost overnight, and no one fully seems to 'get' it but your peers. To that end, one strategy I've used to build rapport with resistant adolescent clients is leveling with them. For some adolescents, especially those who have not voluntarily opted to enter treatment, I often start by asking, 'Well, if you had your way, what would you rather be doing right now?' This intervention is typically effective for two reasons: 1. It tends to catch them off guard because they often assume therapy means we'll just be focusing on goals and symptom reduction, but, in fact, the best predictor of success in therapy—regardless of modality—is the therapeutic alliance. That is to say, if there is no rapport or trust, even the best therapist will be rendered virtually useless. And 2. It shows that I'm interested in what matters to them, which deepens the rapport and generally paves the way for further dialogue since they've begun by discussing something they like, thus lowering their defenses and making them more engageable.

    Ang Romulus
    Ang RomulusClinical Psychologist, Create Outcomes