What is Therapeutic Rapport?

Therapeutic Rapport Helps You Feel Safe and Respected

Man talking with therapist in therapy
Tom M Johnson/Getty Images

Therapeutic rapport is an essential part of a healthy therapist-client relationship.

The goal of developing a good rapport is to improve your chances for a successful outcome, along with developing mutual trust and respect, to foster an environment in which you, the client, feel safe.  

To develop a good rapport, your therapist must, among other things, demonstrate empathy and understanding. Therapeutic rapport is  is a cornerstone of some forms of psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is common in phobia treatment.

Case Conceptualization

In order to develop a therapeutic rapport, you need to feel confident that your therapist is an expert who is developing a treatment plan designed to meet the needs of your specific case.

How will you know if your therapist is taking the time to conceptualize your case? 

  • From your very first session, she should assess the difficulties you currently have. She will help you create a problem list and begin to prioritize that with you. 
  • During the first few sessions, your therapist should outline her treatment plan for you and ask if it's acceptable to you. She should revisit the plan in future sessions and consult with you about necessary modifications. 
  • Your treatment plan should include goals and benchmarks, so it's easier to self-report and assess your own progress

Your therapist should be genuine

Genuineness is one of the ways your therapist can develop a healthy rapport with you.

When she is genuine, it allows you to see her as a human being, not just a mental health professional. If you see her as being genuine, you are more likely to positively receive critical feedback about your progress.

Some of the ways the therapist can demonstrate genuineness is to:

  • provide supportive nonverbal cues, including eye contact and nodding in agreement
  • give feedback in the moment, rather than in a later session
  • encourage you to be active and feel empowered in regards to your treatment plan 

Your therapist should ask you for feedback

Although you are there for your therapist's expert advice, you are also the client. Asking you for feedback is another way your therapist can develop a good rapport with you and indicates she sees you as an active participant in the healing process, so be honest. Asking a client for feedback: 

  • shows your therapist cares about what you think and values your input
  • gives you space to bring up anything that's bothering you about your treatment and individual sessions
  • encourages teamwork between the two of you
  • allows your therapist to repair any damage to your therapeutic relationship, whether it's real or perceived

Therapeutic Rapport with Parents

When your child is in therapy, his therapist should develop a good rapport with the parents or guardian, too.

Anxiety disorders, such as social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia, are highly treatable and the most frequently diagnosed class of mental health issues in children and adolescents.

Phobia is most commonly treated with cognitive behavior therapy techniques, which emphasize the import of the healthy therapeutic relationship for a successful outcome. 


Cully, Jeffrey. A Therapist's Guide to Brief Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (2008)

Seligman, et al. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders in Youth (2011)

Continue Reading