5 Tips for a Good Patient/Sociologist Relationship

As a sociologist, a good patient relationship is vital to a positive outcome. Your ability to help a client hinges on building rapport. Once you earn a patient’s trust and confidence, you can engage them in making changes. How do you promote this professional bond? Here are five tips to help you achieve this goal.

1. Create a safe emotional environment.

The design of your office space should promote comfort and ease. Encourage calmness with selective use of colors, plants, images, and materials. Lighting should be soft versus glaring. Furniture should be inviting.

To guide your choice of decor, view your office from a patient’s perspective. Observe the wall color, artwork, furniture arrangement, and upholstery. Then ask yourself:

  • What’s the first object that captures my attention?
  • What mood does my office evoke?
  • Is the room organized or chaotic?
  • Is the environment tranquil or distracting?
  • If my office had a voice, what would it say?

Both you and your office space should wear a welcoming smile. A pleasant atmosphere sets the stage for a good patient relationship.

2. Maintain unconditional positive regard.

Psychologist Carl Rogers taught “unconditional positive regard,” abbreviated “UPR.” For your client to be able to confide in you, they need unwavering support. Your patient won’t openly communicate if they fear criticism. If you’re too impersonal, your client will lack the motivation to connect with you.

UPR doesn’t imply you condone immorality. You don’t necessarily like your client or their actions. However, as a fellow human being, you respect them. You realize that regardless of their problems, they’re playing the best hand life has dealt them.

A capacity to deeply empathize will help you acquire UPR. A 2012 article by Psychology Today elaborates on developing this attitude. You can read this insightful explanation here.

3. Hone reflective listening skills.

This practice is at the heart of client-centered therapy. The term “mirroring” depicts this communication technique. Reflective listening is re-framing your patient’s statement, infusing your response with empathy. It incorporates the following actions:

  • Paraphrasing – In your own words, repeat what a client has said.
  • Echoing Emotion – Focus on the feelings behind words by asking yourself “What would my emotional reaction be if I had this experience?”
  • Summarizing – Consolidate the main ideas expressed, conveying your understanding of the situation.

During reflective listening, your client hears their thoughts and feelings out loud. They receive your encouragement. Here’s an example:

Client – “My mom is like a dictator. She’s always telling me what to do and won’t let me make independent decisions.”

You – “I understand your frustration. You feel your mother limits your ability to make mature choices.”

For the most productive outcome, keep your responses simple and short. Avoid injecting your ideas into the conversation. Also, while listening, observe your client’s accompanying non-verbal messages.

When you listen reflectively, you restate a client’s content, feeling, and meaning. In return, your client gains an integrated, clarified picture of what they’ve expressed. Validating your patient’s experiences builds the trust required for a good patient relationship.

4. Be professional.

Exemplify high standards of conduct. Weave a thread of excellence into your words and actions.

  • Responsibilities – Promptly return phone calls, begin sessions on time, and have paperwork organized in advance.
  • Appearance – Look the part of a professional by dressing smartly. Patients seem to be most comfortable with a conservative style. White lab coats can be alienating, and low-cut women’s clothing isn’t appropriate.
  • Conversation – Though clients may use profane or off-color words, they’ll sound vulgar coming from you. Also, avoid making slurs, insults, and prejudicial statements. To better connect, you may be tempted to share aspects of your private life. However, your patients will benefit more from your clinical expertise than personal experience.
  • Behavior – Avoid hugging, touching, or taking your client’s hand. Although these actions are earnest displays of compassion, your patient may misinterpret them. They may prompt a sexual response or unease. Exceptions to personal gestures are working with children and the elderly.
  • Relationship – Avoid “dual” associations, secondary relationships outside the office. If you’re a sociologist in a small community, you may meet your client locally, such as in a store or gym. If this occurs, be polite but don’t linger to chat. Similarly, don’t grant personal favors, such as offering rides. Social liaisons erode a good patient relationship.

5. Demonstrate rapport-building behavior.

Posture – Use body language to help your client feel relaxed. When seated, lean forward, facing your patient. Keep your arms and legs uncrossed and hands open. Avoid fidgeting, as this conveys impatience.

Eye Contact – Look directly at your client through most of the session. Save note-taking for after they leave.

Gestures – Sprinkle your sessions with affirming smiles. Nod to show agreement.

Words – Clothe your speech in kindness. When you address a client by their name, it shows you’re fully present. Building on a patient’s ideas engages them in the therapeutic process. Congratulate a client who makes progress and achieves desired goals. During every session, offer a compliment.

Your Leading Role

Roughly 40 percent of patient progress is due to the quality of the counseling relationship. To maximize the benefits of therapy:

1. Create a safe emotional environment.
2. Maintain unconditional positive regard.
3. Hone reflective listening skills.
4. Be professional.
5. Demonstrate rapport-building behavior.

You’re driven by a desire to relieve emotional pain. You want to help people express their highest potential. As a sociologist, you’re in an ideal position to improve quality of life for your clients. A good patient relationship is your springboard to success!

Related Resource: Best Top 10 Online Sociology Degree Programs