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  • Fe Robinson

Rapport is the foundation of all effective therapy

I had the pleasure of teaching an NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Introduction to a small group of local Counselling Degree students recently, as part of their exploration of different therapeutic approaches. It was great to explore one of my favourite subjects and to learn from their experiences and perspectives.


As part of the workshop, I did a demonstration of how Clean Language questions can facilitate an explorer (or client) in discovering so much more about what is happening for them, and to change their experience as a result.


As the dialogue unfolded, it became clear to me that Clean Language was not actually the main thing that was being demonstrated. Clean Language, like all therapeutic approaches, only works when it is used in a situation where there is deep rapport. In my demonstration I got lucky, I was able to establish that rapport quickly, and some surprisingly deep work therefore followed in a short exercise.


So what is rapport? Contrary to popular belief, it is not liking someone. In NLP we define rapport as ‘minimising difference.’ It’s important to know that this does not mean agreeing. It means minimising the difference in the way that you communicate, so that the other person feels seen, heard and attuned to. To maximise rapport we can match or move towards sameness in many ways. It may be through body language, or breathing rate, or through pace, pitch and timbre of speech. It may be by matching some of their language, for example using visually based words if this is the way they speak and so process information. The point is, we can enter a deep rapport with people in a structural way, and that enhances communication for whatever content we want to explore together.

Creating and maintaining rapport is a skill, it can be learned and practised. It does call for an ability to notice, and a flexibility in your own behaviour to be able to pace someone else’s ways of being. It also calls for an integrity to do this for mutual benefit, being clear what the shared outcome is.


Deep rapport is a magical, intimate experience. I was privileged to be able to experience that in an academic setting, and to be reminded of my ability to work in that way that I use on a daily basis with clients.


If you have relationships you are finding challenging, considering rapport and how to enhance it may be beneficial, after all, “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it…”

To talk about relational challenges and to grow your own flexibility through psychotherapy, get in touch.





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