Ridge Zeller Therapy’s Sarah Jordan Strong, M.S., CCC-SLP, shares her perspective about the importance of building rapport with her adult patients in this two part blog series. Click here to view Rapport-Building in Adult Speech-Language Therapy, Part 1!
Rapport-Building in Adult Speech-Language Therapy, Part 2
Rapport-building with clients sounds like it should be a piece of cake.
I mean, we’re all pretty nice people and don’t usually go into the helping professions to be a jerk.
While it is true that you can make a lot more money in business or politics, if that’s your personality type, it is extremely rewarding to make a positive change in someone’s life.
To that end, creating a strong therapeutic relationship can take a little more finesse than it might seem. First of all, in a speech therapy rehab setting, the bulk of my caseload consists of stroke patients.
Given the demographics of stroke, most of these folks are thirty to sixty years older than me. This means that we might not have much in the way of shared context and our life experiences may have been very different.
Patients within a decade of my age can be even more difficult. Under normal circumstances, we would probably be talking about jobs, kids, pets, TV or where we went for happy hour last Friday.
The fact that we’re instead trying to work on describing daily activities or figuring out a plan for heating up dinner without burning the house down makes the whole interaction somewhat surreal.
All of these challenges are surmountable, though.
It simply requires opening up and sharing a little of yourself honestly. People can smell falsehood a mile away, and a stroke or brain injury doesn’t usually change this fact.
At the same time, you have to police yourself pretty aggressively. Share too much, and you’re dominating the conversation and moving from a therapeutic relationship to an overly personal one.
You also have to pick and choose your topics. For example, I’m interested in politics, but I steer clear of political issues. There’s too much potential for anger and negativity.
Although it takes work to build a strong, warm relationship with patients, I find it well worth the effort.
When I’m able to successfully walk that line between impersonality and over-sharing, I see improved participation in therapy and increased functional communication skills.
I have also learned a great deal from working closely with and learning about people.
It’s truly a win-win undertaking.