Getting a client to open up in therapy starts with the foundation of trust that is built between them and yourself. As a therapist, you are responsible for creating a safe environment that the client feels comfortable in, leading to deeper conversations and the revelation of important details. So what should you do if you are having a hard time getting a client to open up in therapy?
There are a hundred reasons why a trust-filled client relationship is so important in therapy. What it boils down to is that a client needs to feel as though they can trust you if they are going to open up about important details regarding their life. The reasons why a client is not opening could be just as vast. They may have had someone betray their trust in the past, they may not have had anyone they felt they could trust up to this point, or maybe they do not know what a trust-filled relationship looks like. Regardless, before getting a client to open up in therapy, you need to build rapport.
There are several ways to build trust between you and your client, but the effectiveness of those methods might differ depending on who your client is and what their needs are. By no means does this list include every trust-building option you might explore, but it is a great place to start. It is important to note that getting a client to open up in therapy is not always a simple process, and can take time and patience.
Create a Safe and Comfortable Space
The physical environment that you practice in can have a great impact on a client’s comfort level. Therapists should do their best to create a safe and comfortable atmosphere for their clients. Getting a client to open up in therapy starts with their first impression. The atmosphere your space represents plays a huge role in that. To create a safe and comfortable environment, consider cool colors, nothing intense or distracting on the walls, and comfortable places for them to sit. A safe emotional environment can be achieved through a calm talking voice, a slower speaking pattern, and thoughtful language.
Let them Set the Pace
Every therapist should be attentive to the fact that each client moves at their own pace. For some, this might be fast and for others, it might take time. When building trust, it is important to let the client set the pace. This might be difficult, especially if a client has a limited number of visits under their insurance, but never rush them.
Remember You Have no Agenda
While certain goals might stand out to you as relevant or pressing, the client’s goals and pace are not up to you. You are there to guide them in self-discovery and progress, but not lead it.
Ask Questions in Different Ways
If you notice that certain phrasing of questions is making a client retract or shut down, you might try asking questions in different ways to see if they are more open to it. Ultimately, getting a client to open up in therapy means recognizing when certain questions are not helpful.
Never Make Them Feel Rejected
Rejection is a sure way to built distrust in a relationship. If a client feels rejected or judged by their therapist, they will never feel comfortable opening up to them. Getting a client to open up in therapy means helping them know that you are always on their side, encouraging their progress, and sharing in their ups and downs.
If you have made a concentrated effort to built trust with your client, yet you are failing to make progress with getting a client to open up in therapy, it may be time to build a new plan. The goal of any client relationship is the success of the client. If they are not going to find that success with you, then you need to refer them out to a different provider that might be better suited for their needs.
Trust is the foundation of any client relationship. Getting a client to open up in therapy might take a long time, but will ultimately lead to a more fruitful and beneficial experience for the individual.