Engagement and Relationship Building
First, a quick note about Practice Models:
Although our Practice Model article series explores the four Practice Model components separately, keep in mind that these components work best as a synergistic constellation of moving parts. The components are intended to interlock and create an overall effect that is greater than the sum of its ingredients.
What, exactly, do we mean by engagement and relationship building?
We talk about engagement and relationship building as joining up with the client and creating an environment that supports practitioner and client to be mutually interested in listening and talking to one another. This is different from traditional supervision where the practitioner has been trained to be detached and antiseptic, with an attitude of keeping the client “at arm’s length.” Instead, a practitioner in an engaged setting helps establish trust and rapport by sending the message, “I’m here, I don’t have an ulterior motive, and I’m committed to your best interests—you can count on it,” in such a way that the client can readily pick up on it.
Skills to help with engagement and relationship building
In a meeting where engagement is high, there is the sense that practitioner and client are committed and present in the moment with one another and discovering meaning together. There is not only mutual listening, but each person balances the listening with what she or he has to say, and each person is invested in the process.
Interactive skills that communicate accurate empathy, such as Motivational Interviewing, are key to the process of engagement and relationship building.
In addition, role clarification helps to facilitate an engaged relationship so that inaccurate assumptions do not deter the relationship building process. In the role clarification process, the practitioner explains the overall purpose of meetings, then talks about both practitioner and client roles, then explores with the client how he/she would like to participate. From this foundation of role clarity, the two can figure out how to mutually join up and make the relationship work.
Why are engagement and relationship building important?
When you employ skills that foster engagement, clients feel safe to say more. When this happens, it becomes easier to engage the solutions that are necessary and that support the client. Engagement is tremendously important to get the client-practitioner relationship off to a good start so that the other pieces of the practice model can come into play for a productive ongoing relationship. In addition, there is something near magical about engagement—when it’s really working, office visits can take on a whole other level of interest, focus and productivity.
Click Practice-Model to read more about engagement, relationship building, and the other Practice Model elements in our full academic “Practice Model” paper.
Plus, look for “On-going Assessment” (Part III of our Practice Model series) next.