How to Build Trust With Your Client

An upset young woman, sharing her problems with a counselor

Some clients are willing to be open in the first session, while others take a while to come out of their shells. Since addiction and mental health can impact a person’s ability to trust and be vulnerable, there are steps that professionals need to take to get a client to feel safe and comfortable. Building trust with your client isn’t just getting to know them but building a solid foundation and creating a space that feels safe and supportive. Here’s where to start.

Building Rapport

The process of getting a client to trust you starts with building a relationship with your client through earning their trust. A client might be afraid of becoming vulnerable in your sessions right away because, at first, they view you as a stranger. Over time, you’ll build that trust by creating a safe space for them while also showing that you can be counted on as a part of their support system. This trust won’t happen overnight, and it might be harder to get some clients to trust you than others. Many of those who seek therapy might fear vulnerability because of trauma they’ve experienced or how they were raised. Once you build rapport, your client will soon open up.

Create an Emotionally Safe Environment

Many are afraid to open up at first because they are afraid of being judged for their feelings or past actions. Those in mental healthcare should create a space where a client can feel emotionally safe. It should be a place without hurtful comments, blame, or anger towards the client. Hope and self-esteem should be encouraged. A client should receive feedback that allows them to grow and information that feels like it’s informative rather than critical.

Get To Know Your Client

Starting with the basics will help your client to open up. When you first start your sessions, you’re both strangers. Ask your client about their family, friends, pets, and hobbies. This will help you as well. Getting to know your client will help you understand them as a person. This will make it easier to help them solve any problems they might have. Getting to know your client could also give you insight into any disorders or trauma history they might have. Getting to know your client might take baby steps, but start with the smaller questions first and wait to ask the difficult questions.

Let Your Client Get To Know You

Forming a relationship is a two-way street. While most sessions should be focused on the client, telling them an appropriate amount about yourself can make the conversations more comfortable and natural. People don’t normally only talk all about themselves in conversations, so it might feel strange to a client to be the only one talking. If you’re comfortable, tell your client a little about yourself too. Eventually, your client will feel a little bit more comfortable when they don’t feel like they’re talking to a stranger.

Be Helpful

A counselor or therapist works as a resource for the client. Many seek therapy to discuss problems. They might be searching for advice, perspective, opinions, and answers to questions that might be bothering them. If you have a resource for your client that could be useful between sessions, then provide them with it. Make sure you assess the needs of your client. Make sure their questions are answered, and if you aren’t able to guide them towards an immediate solution, take the time to discuss it.

Allow Space For Silence

If your client is very afraid of opening up, there might be silence in session when they might not feel comfortable speaking, need to process, or think something through. There is also a chance someone might have resistance to opening up. They might choose to be silent. The important thing to do when this happens is to become comfortable with the silence. Some clients might also spend time filling up silence because they feel too uncomfortable with silence. In your sessions, keep them focused, but allow room for your client to be silent if that’s what they need.

Forming Connections Take Time

A client most likely won’t open up in the very first week. It might take several weeks of talking before your client has a major breakthrough. This is why it’s important for a therapist or a counselor to have patience. If you’re frustrated that your client isn’t opening up like other clients, it isn’t your fault. There are many reasons why a person might be slow to open up from fear of vulnerability to social conditioning.

Building a relationship with your client takes time. Trust does not come easily. Those with addiction might find it hard to trust others because of their experiences. Furthermore, if a client isn’t familiar with therapy, they might feel uncomfortable about opening up to a complete stranger. Even if a person’s therapist is qualified to help their client, there still might be some resistance. Over time through creating an emotionally safe place and proving that you are here to help, they will begin to trust you and start opening up. Jaywalker Lodge values both our clients and healthcare workers. We are proud of our amazing team who works hard to not only earn the trust of our clients but help them feel a part of a community. If you are a mental healthcare professional and your client needs treatment for alcohol or substance use disorder, call us today at (866) 529-9255 to learn more.

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