For Therapists
September 10, 2020

Pranav Harish

How to Build Trust with a Client in Therapy

Every therapist would agree that forming a bond with a client is imperative. Building a rapport and trust with a client should be your first goal when starting a therapy session.

A strong therapeutic relationship between you and your client will lead to progress in the therapy sessions. Otherwise, clients are less likely to talk about the challenges they face. They wouldn't trust you and refrain from participating freely in the way you would expect them to.

But, building trust with clients won't happen overnight. It takes time, work, proper planning, and commitment.

Here are some tips on how to develop trust with clients in therapy.

Show a desire to understand

You build trust by connecting with your clients and actively listening to their concerns and challenges. It not only allows you to gather the information that is helpful for therapy, but shows that you genuinely desire to understand your client's views with empathy.

Naturally, when a client feels heard and understood, trust begins to develop.

Speed of rapport

Building rapport with clients in therapy to discuss their private and sensitive concerns depends on their background and personality. Keep an eye on the speed at which your relationship with the client is moving. Some clients will take time to open up as they reveal only superficial details at first.

How much does my client trust me? You could evaluate this by noticing what they talk about, how much they reveal, their body language, all of which indicate how much the client is willing to share.

These signals show whether they feel comfortable sharing intimate details with you or not. You can then proceed to make them feel relaxed, confident, and build trust.

Give them space

Believe it or not, it is a good idea to give your clients some room to dictate the pace of the session and to take it to where they want it to go.

For this, you have to make changes in your approach to therapy, since therapists tend to steer the session as they see fit. Tackle topics only when the client welcomes it.

It requires you to be creative and have the patience to give them space while trying to initiate communication for a healthy relationship. Once the client feels comfortable with you, they will be more present in the therapy. They would make more eye contact, feel relaxed, and less reluctant.

Once you approach a problem from the client's perspective, you get a clear understanding of where they come from. You could achieve this only by giving them their space to settle down and show that you are willing to meet them halfway.

Respect the client

Just like any other relationship, respect plays a crucial role in building trust between therapist and client. From the very first contact, treat your clients with respect. Make them feel important.

Imagine yourself to be a client and how you would prefer your therapist to treat you. Respect and value your client's time as much as you do yours. You could do your part by starting the sessions on time, return their calls, and keep their paperwork ready.

Be helpful

A step by step approach is crucial. Avoid exploring major challenges first. Start by addressing small concerns. Give positive and informative feedback, be helpful, and encourage your clients to open up.

You could offer them a different way to approach their situation, views, and challenges, but in a non-critical manner. In the early stages of therapy, you could work on only those issues that you feel confident in addressing successfully. It is a great way to gain your client's trust and build confidence.

Match each other's rhythm

Pay attention to the way your client communicates. Sync and match your communication style with theirs. The client will then be in tune and mirror your way of communicating, stay calm, and progress towards wellness.


Revealing personal information will help you build trust with your clients. But knowing when and how much to disclose is crucial. Disclosing personal information in the initial stages of the therapy session and for the wrong reasons will do no good. It might impede the treatment.

It is imperative to understand if the personal information you choose to disclose will help the therapy session at that moment.

Self-disclosure involves clinical intent. You do not have to build a friendship with your clients. Refrain from discussing irrelevant topics that are not a part of the client's concern.

Therapeutic relationships are meant only for the wellbeing of the client. You, as a therapist, must be aware of your emotions. Keep in mind to avoid countertransference.

Online presence

Before your clients came to you for therapy, they would've looked you up on the internet. They probably checked our website, blogs, and social media profile as well.

They would've read your blogs, came across an interview of yours, or found you through google search. Your online presence can have a significant impact on your client. It is a great option to make your clients feel comfortable.

Your website acts as a welcome sign. Your clients will get to know you and understand your work through your website. Your website and social media profile could display your professional commendations but also portray you as a genuine person.

Related: How Therapists Can Use Social Media for Their Private Practice

You should maintain confidentiality, be competent and a professional more than anything else. By earning the client's trust, empathic and caring therapists promote a healthy therapeutic relationship. More than any intervention, this relationship based on trust translates to a positive outcome in therapy.

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