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The art of developing therapeutic relationships

Austin Tooze at BIS Services looks at the vital role of building rapport with a client in neuro-rehab

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Austin Tooze, rehabilitation assistant at BIS Services, discusses the importance of building rapport with a client – both individually and collectively as a multi-disciplinary team

As a rehabilitation assistant (RA) with the BIS Services, one of the main aspects of your role is to assist clients with neuro-rehab as part of an MDT. RA and client must have a good working relationship and have a good understanding of each other. This helps the RA get the best out of the client and allows the client to get the most effective and influential RA they can get. This is primarily due to the rapport that the client and the RA develop over time.

Rapport can be defined as ‘the ability to connect with others that creates a climate of trust and understanding’. This is so important in brain injury due to it being a long-term process. Clients must feel that they are in a ‘climate’ where they can share their feelings and concerns to get the most from the MDT. 

From my experience as an RA while building rapport with a client, it is important to go through a streamlined process in getting the know the client and letting them open to you in their own time. However, there are things that can help facilitate this quicker; this process can consist of hosting meet and greets where clients can get to know you and get a feel for who you are. These would normally last 30 minutes to an hour, where the RA and the client can have a wide variety of conversations about various topics. These meet and greets can often be enjoyed while having a good cup of tea or coffee!

To further facilitate building rapport, RA profiles can also be provided stating our interests and hobbies etc. This is a great tool for clients as it can give them some autonomy over who they choose as their rehab team and can give a sense of empowerment for them. Once this all occurs, and a client likes a particular RA, clients would then normally get used to their rehab style and will begin to trust the RA more and more.

One of the biggest factors that contributes to building a strong therapeutic relationship is constantly showing up to sessions despite adversity. From my experience when I turned up to sessions even though clients did not want the sessions or were upset at an RA (which does happen) they will appreciate it more that you had shown up, clearly displaying that you are there for them and this could be beneficial for your therapeutic relationship in the future.

Although developing a strong therapeutic relationship with a client is paramount to their neuro-rehab, building rapport and a strong therapeutic relationship with their family is just as important. Although the family may not know the best way for rehab from a neuro-rehab point of view, at the end of the day they will know the client better than the MDT, therefore are an integral part of their rehabilitation. As an RA, I have learnt a lot from a client’s family in the way I approach certain ways in building rapport.

Having good rapport with the client’s MDT is also very important. The MDT is the primary way where the client can progress with their neuro-rehab. Therefore, it is important that the client can trust the MDT and get the best out of them. From my experience, there have been some instances where clients have lost rapport with a member of the MDT and the client had become quite distressed, and had become quite disengaged in sessions as a result. 

Like I have touched upon in previous blogs, the things that I learn as an RA can often be applied to everyday life. Building rapport with different people from different backgrounds can be very beneficial in everyday life in my opinion. The fact that you can come across as trustworthy tells a tale of what type of character someone is, which can also reflect in your work.

Whether people work in health and social care or not, I believe that building rapport and creating relationships is imperative in all aspects of life and all industries. Working in brain injury is just one of those industries, but where it can be particularly meaningful and impactful in people’s lives.

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