Learning Guide

How to build rapport

Last Updated: 22 August 2023

Rapport building: How to Guide 

Having rapport, connection and trust with not only your client, but the family and any other professional involved is the key to a positive outcome in therapy. When we first meet with children for the initial session one of our top priorities is to build rapport. If clients see us as their “big friends,” coming to visit and play with them, we can more easily motivate them. If parents/caregivers see us as professionals, they more likely trust our training and experience to coach, model and work with the whole family to help the child improve communication skills. 

Why is rapport important: 

  • It will build their trust and respect
  • It will make them feel comfortable
  • They will be motivated to work
  • It helps them understand you are there for them and that you care about them
  • It helps them realize that learning can be fun

How to build rapport with children:

  • Tap into their interests: Utlise the meet and greet with the client’s family to explore the child’s interests and gain an insight into what games, toys and activities they like and dislike. 
  • Follow the child’s lead: Spend the first few sessions following the child’s lead. Read their mood and comfort level and allow them to get comfortable with you and the process.
  • Be patient and flexible: Show them that you can wait for them to respond to get things right. 
  • Encouragement: Set the child up for success and offer plenty of positive reinforcement. 

Examples of rapport building activities: 

You don’t need resources to building rapport with your clients, some examples of people/routine based activities that you can complete are:

  • Hide and seek or hiding one of their toys in a hide and seek style game
  • Taking photos of the child can be really motivating, or videoing them using a new skill and watching it back together.
  • Have them collect and bring you their favourite things.
  • Things that involve motion can be really motivating, lifting a blanket up and down, jumping, and you can utilise any outdoor play equipment a child has at home.
  • Singing their favourite songs or nursery rhymes

Adult clients: 

Sometimes building rapport with adult clients can be different to building rapport with children. Below are some ways to build rapport with older clients: 

  • Learn their interests: You can use this later on when planning fun and motivating sessions for them. When they share their interests with you, show them that you want to learn about it. Research their favorite athlete. Show that you listened and care.
  • Goal setting: Show them their goals and explain why they are coming to speech and how this will help them in their daily life and routine. Let them truly understand and show them how they can prove to you that they no longer need it. Let them make goals for themselves and show them how you will help them. 
  • Tell them about you: Don’t be afraid to share about yourself too (if you are comfortable doing so). I tell them my favorite foods and movies etc.
  • Be relatable: Ask them about their weekends and tell them about yours! Don’t be in such a rush to get to the session. Feel free to make small talk.  Be the person they feel comfortable with telling about bad days or the not so good things. 


Why is building rapport with parents important?

  • Stronger relationships between therapists and parents increase the likelihood of positive intervention outcomes for young children (Ebert, 2018; Dobranksky & Frymier, 2004). The parent/caregiver is the one that spends the most time with the child, the better the relationship is, the more likely they are to trust your judgement, listen to your strategies and ideas and be open and honest with you regarding their home practice. 

How to build rapport with parents: 

  • Communication is key: Make sure you have discussions with parents about what your therapy sessions look like and the parents/caregivers are clear on their role, and your role. I also make a point of verbally saying: “I may be the expert/professional on child development but you are the expert on your child and together we will make a great team”.
  • Open and Honest communication: Comment on things their child does well. People often compare their child’s speech and language skills to others at the same age. Complimenting your client’s skills, even outside of their speech-language goals, can help parents notice their child’s strengths. For example, their child might show great fine motor skills, or might be great at puzzles.
  • Attitude: Maintain a consistently positive and supportive attitude, but give honest feedback about progress.
  • Strategies: Phrase suggestions for activities as if the parents already work on their child’s speech or language skills, because many of them do. For example, say, “When you read to your child…” or “continue working on…” 
  • Respect: Respect parents’ opinions, time and culture. 

Final comments:

It is important to remember that rapport building can take time. Rapport building is something that you do in every session to maintain the relationship with the client.  It’s dynamic and ongoing and the child’s interests may change over time. It’s important to continue to check in with these and adjust as necessary. 

Fora's Speech Pathology team


Fora's Speech Pathology team

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