By Monica Morela, behavioral aide with Connecting Dots

Lynne-McHale and Deatrick (2000) describe trust as being, “the cornerstone of helping relationships” (p. 211). This statement is also corroborated in Reeder and Morris’s (2018) qualitative study regarding the importance of trust in therapeutic relationships. They found that in some cases a positive therapeutic relationship was more strongly correlated with positive treatment outcomes than the choice of what treatments to use (Reeder & Morris, 2018). Reeder and Morris (2018) also found that although professionals are aware of the importance of trusting relationships, they were not always clear on how to achieve a positive trusting relationship with families. So how do we as practitioners and behavioural aides authentically gain the trust of the families we work with? The answer might be more attainable than we think! Francis et al. (2016) examined parent perceptions of best practices for building trust in professional relationships. They found that one of the most important skills for building trusting family-professional partnerships was communication (Francis et al., 2016). More specifically, engaging frequently with clients in casual and positive conversations has been described by parents as one of the best ways to build trust (Francis et al., 2016). This means that our beginning of session chats about the weather and our weekends might be more important than we think! Edwards et al. (2018) provide more detail regarding key communication skills that can help us as service providers build positive working relationships. Taking the time to listen, using proper eye contact, remaining attentive, and being clear are all communication skills that can aid us in building a positive therapeutic relationship.

I think that we can treat building rapport and trust as a skill. Taking an intentional, conscious, and conscientious approach to providing care will be beneficial for us as practitioners but also for the families we work with. The next time you are working with your clients maybe take some time before the session to chat with parents about their day. Taking this time to build a positive relationship might go farther than you think!



Edwards, M., Parmenter, T., O’Brien, P., & Brown, R. (2018). FAMILY QUALITY OF LIFE AND THE BUILDING OF SOCIAL CONNECTIONS: PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS FOR PRACTICE AND POLICY. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies9(4), 88–106.

Francis, G. L., Blue-Banning, M., Haines, S. J., Turnbull, A. P., & Gross, J. M. (2016). Building “Our School”: Parental Perspectives for Building Trusting Family–Professional Partnerships. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth60(4), 329–336.

Lynn-McHale, D. J., & Deatrick, J. A. (2000). Trust Between Family and Health Care Provider. Journal of Family Nursing6(3), 210–230.

Reeder, J., & Morris, J. (2018). The importance of the therapeutic relationship when providing information to parents of children with long-term disabilities: The views and experiences of UK paediatric therapists. Journal of Child Health Care22(3), 371–381.