Communication is a key element of the therapeutic process: it depends on the symptoms to be adequately explored, on the hypothesis about the cause of the problem to be adjusted to reality, and on the patient to understand what is happening to him and take measures to improve it. , adequate health and prevention.
However, Knowing how to communicate well in therapy is as complex as it is valuable., partly because it is not based on theoretical learning but on “soft skills” and skills put into practice. But even in cases where the professional has serious problems managing communication with patients well, it is still possible to learn and find the right dynamic to “connect” with those seeking medical or psychological help.
Keys to improve the dynamics of communication with the patient in therapy
These strategies and advice are useful in any form of therapeutic intervention, but especially in the case of psychotherapy, where many of the services offered are related to the emission and reception of ideas and the establishment of a climate of confidence in which to speak. honestly about the problem to be solved. In any case, these are general recommendations that must be adapted to each situation and context, because one of the keys to communication is precisely flexibility, as we will see.
1. Specify the confidentiality of the information provided during the sessions
Beyond legal regulations and the provision of written information, it is important eliminate all possible doubts and concerns with which the patient may come to the consultation regarding his privacy. This way, your approach to therapy will be more supportive from the start.
2. Use humor at strategic moments
Humor is a great way to relieve stress it helps to ensure that the patient does not assume that because the subject (health) is serious, the whole conversation should also be very serious. Moreover, it is a sign of humane treatment that makes patients adopt a more active and involved attitude in the conversation, so that they are not limited to answering questions briefly and dare to express their own observations and concerns. .
3. Use non-verbal language to set the tone you want to create
Through non-verbal language, it is possible to help establish the rhythm of the dialogue and create an environment with a certain emotional charge.. This also implies knowing how to analyze the gestures, postures and elements of the patient’s paralanguage, to understand what he feels. In this sense, one of the most used strategies is to slightly imitate the posture and the movements so that it does the same with us and that one of the first forms of connection between the two is created and, little by little , to lead it towards the style of language in the verbal which interests us.
4. Remember that context affects the meaning of words
Some professionals make the mistake of assuming that context only influences emotions, how the therapist and patient feel. For example, the predominant colors on the walls of the office can influence the atmosphere, and in the same way, it is not the same thing to speak in a spacious room with natural light than in another narrow and without windows, in which the voice echoes through the walls.
However, the truth is that the context also influences the cognitive aspect, and more precisely, in the way in which the ideas and expressions of the other are interpreted. The same sentence can be understood as a reason to rejoice or as a mockery depending on when and where it is said. It is essential to keep this in mind, particularly because patients with certain disorders or problems are particularly prone to adopting a very pessimistic outlook when analyzing what they are told.
5. Fluidity must prevail over perfectionism
It is not worth trying to perfect everything by communicating with the patient; Trying to do so will only create stress and nervousness as we internalize by analyzing every word we speak. Fortunately, in the same way that the context modifies the interpretation of what the other is saying, the actions carried out a posteriori will also lead the patient to “rewrite” his interpretation of the facts, so that he apologizes, rectifies or brings clarification. notice that we misunderstood, this will serve to remedy the situation in most cases.
So, always prioritize the goal of resulting in smooth conversations and if you make a mistake, just rectify at that time. After all, even if we do not think about it every day, we are exposed to multiple errors of this kind, to the point that often we do not even recognize them as such and assume that they are part of the nature of the reality. talk time.
6. Use silences in favor of the therapy session
Renouncing free-flowing conversations does not mean avoiding silence at all costs. On the contrary, within the framework of the therapy these should be present, since the information treated is important and at the same time it is possible that many of the problems that arise are personal and require an effort of honesty. In addition, patients quickly learn that in therapy it is normal for silences to be a little longer than in any everyday conversation, and when they feel compelled to respond quickly, they accept it. willingly and stop thinking about it.
In any case, keep in mind that silences are not just the absence of words due to a limitation (e.g. lack of time to know what to say next): they can also be deliberately created as a tool Communication. They serve, among other things, to underline the most important ideas that will be worked on in the session, and also to give a certain rhythm to the sessions at certain times (they can even be integrated into strategies favoring relaxation and openness to communicative exchange).
7. Bad news needs to be communicated clearly from the start
Do not go into too much detail in explaining something anxious which we believe will greatly affect the patient.; This will help you not understand or forget the basics, because if your emotions overwhelm you at a time when you haven’t yet been told what’s important, you may not be able to understand or pay attention to it.
8. Use examples (which may be based on you)
It is very common for the concepts used by psychotherapy professionals to be so complex that the patient does not understand them. This is why examples are valuable: in addition to serving to illustrate what we want to say, they offer a narrative structure of approach, node and result which facilitates its memorization. Plus, if they’re based on you (or a fictionalized version of you), they can help create a therapeutic rapport.
Want to know more about communication therapy?
If you are interested in training in communication skills for therapists, the course “Academic Expert in Patient Communication, Difficult Situations and Emotional Intelligence” offered by European University it’s for you. This online training program is particularly suitable for health professionals such as psychologists, doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists or nurses; It started on April 26, 2022 and lasts 6 months. Includes masterclasses with professionals specialized in the subject, personalized monitoring and evaluation by the teaching team, downloadable and video materials, etc. At the end, students obtain a diploma issued by the European University of Madrid.