5 Strategies for Therapists to Build Trust with Clients

5 Strategies For Therapists To Build Trust With Clients
5 Strategies for Therapists to Build Trust with Clients

There’s one thing common between a therapist and a friend. This commonality is trust, and that is what transforms a therapist’s theoretical knowledge into successful practice. Trust is what makes sure that a therapist’s clients consider them as their confidante rather than someone who is just paid to listen and ask a couple of questions.

However, just like building trust in relationships takes time, trust-building between a therapist and a client is also a gradual process. But, since therapists only get a few hours with the client per week, the trust-building process is much more complicated. If the client doesn’t feel at ease with their therapist over a few therapy sessions, they could switch therapists too. For the therapist, this means a lost client and a lost opportunity to help someone.

Lucky for therapists, there are some strategies they can use to build a strong bond of trust with their clients. We have gathered a list of 5 strategies that can help therapists to quickly establish trust with their clients. So, let’s take a look.

1. Transparency and Honesty

Transparency is the basis of any relationship, even the therapeutic relationship you’re building with the client. Therapy is not just about listening to the client but letting them know what the therapy process entails so they can trust the therapist for having the knowledge and skills to help them.

Therapists should be able to showcase that they have the knowledge to help someone, and this knowledge only comes from developing a strong educational background. In this digital world, aspiring therapists have the option to pursue an online psychology bachelors degree to build upon these skills.

However, many therapists, even with the right knowledge base, are unable to build rapport. Here are some things to communicate to the client in the first few sessions to build trust:

  • How long the therapy sessions will last?
  • What are the challenges of therapy?
  • What can therapy do and cannot do?

It is important to convey all this information in the first few sessions after assessing the client’s situation so the client knows that they are talking to a professional whom they can trust.

2. Active Listening

There’s a stark difference between just listening and active listening. Imagine a friend listening to you rant about your colleague while looking bored, scrolling their phone, or glancing at other things. While they appear to be listening, their body language indicates that they are not involved in the conversation.

Being involved in the conversation doesn’t mean a two-way exchange. It also refers to one person talking and the other one actively listening. The body language and posture of the person listening contribute a great deal to the conversation.

For therapists, active listening shows empathy, which makes the client feel at ease. Because the therapist is not a friend, it is more important for them to showcase body language and use phrases that show that they’re actively listening. Here are some body gestures and short phrases that can help:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Occasional nodding
  • Verbal affirmations such as “I understand” or “Tell me more.”

Many therapists, especially those who have little practice, try jotting everything down on a notepad. While they might think that it shows their diligence, it only negates the body language you’re using to show that you’re actively listening.

3. Empathy and Validation

While active listening showcases empathy, validation is also an important factor to consider. Many times, clients are full of emotions. They seek therapy because they want someone who can understand all the emotions they are experiencing.

Many therapists think that it is okay to invalidate the surge of emotions they are feeling over small inconveniences. Many others might unintentionally invalidate the client’s emotions. Even small, harmless phrases like ‘that’s not a big deal’ can invalidate what they are feeling.

Remember, clients need mental healing. Because they aren’t able to process what is happening to them, their reactions to situations might seem over the edge. As a therapist, validation to affirm their feelings and thoughts can make them feel that they are being heard and understood.

4. Creating a Non-judgmental Space

Just like validation is important, creating a non-judgmental space is also key to building trust with the client. Clients need to know that even if they are feeling something that doesn’t agree to societal norms, in therapy, they can vent out everything.

But, creating a non-judgmental space for therapy clients can be hard work. It doesn’t only mean learning a few inclusive phrases. For the therapist, it requires unlearning and relearning a lot of things, like avoiding assumptions about the client’s experiences, not showing even the littlest of negative reactions, and making the client feel safe so they can address and communicate their deepest concerns openly.

5. Respecting Boundaries

The last thing on our list is respecting the client’s boundaries. Respecting boundaries is an umbrella term that ranges from anywhere between maintaining confidentiality to respecting physical and emotional limits.

While confidentiality is a given, the hard part about boundaries is setting emotional limits. Therapists only get a few hours with the client each week. In between therapy sessions, the client has to process a lot of the emotions themselves. So, therapists must recognize when to step back and allow clients the space to process their feelings independently.

This respect for personal space doesn’t mean that the client is left without help. In fact, this autonomy is what reinforces trust because your clients can eventually become independent in processing their feelings.


Trust is an essential element in a therapist and client’s relationship. But, building this trust takes time and careful use of therapeutic strategies. Initially, the therapist must build trust with the client by showcasing their knowledge. However, as time passes, the way the therapist deals with the client’s emotional outbursts and how they maintain emotional limits is a key to fostering trust. When the client is able to process their emotions independently, their trust in the therapist doubles.