Developing and Maintaining Therapist-Client Relationships

Home Blog Developing and Maintaining Therapist-Client Relationships

Your role in a patient’s life is unique, as you are likely the only person in their life with this role right now. They may have past experiences with their therapists that were positive or negative, which can impact their involvement and response to therapy. The best thing you can do for your client outside of the therapy interventions is to develop and maintain a positive working relationship. Here’s what you need to know to achieve a successful one.

Know the Line

The goal is to provide a positive professional relationship, not a personal one. The duty of care as a provider helps to define this as you limit the scope of the relationship to things that pertain to therapy. The relationship should last the duration of the treatment and only at the treatment location. Realize that you are in a position of power over them and that they are trusting you with their care and their story.

Know Your Patient

It’s important to understand the audience you are speaking to in each interaction. Each gender, age, sex, and culture is going to expect different types of verbal and nonverbal behavior. Additionally, along with these demographics, you should be aware of their emotional state in terms of stress and depression.


When we say listen, we mean active listening. Play an active role in understanding their pain levels and concerns. They may try to discuss items outside of their relation to therapy and you should still try to take the time to listen to their story. This will help them feel valued and increase the trust between both partners. There are many providers who interrupt the client about twenty seconds into the first meeting. Give them room to talk and for you to listen in each interaction.


Be clear in your communication with the patient and sensitive in your response to their concerns. You should make them feel like an equal by gently discussing their concerns, clearly describing the treatment plan as well as making sure to tell them how you believe this treatment will help.

The Research

Essentially what it comes down to is making the client better off than they were before therapy. As healthcare providers, we typically want to see how we can do this best from a research-based perspective. Studies have shown that in order to have success in therapy, building a relationship with the clients is pivotal. It’s humbling to admit that by simply establishing a positive relationship with the client, they will have better adherence to treatment plans, and some have even reported less pain.

We have so much beyond our clinical expertise to offer clients. Become a NARA member to take advantage of our resources for rehabilitation providers.