Homework: Creating a Safe Haven With Rapport

Rapport is a friendly, harmonious relationship; especially : a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapport

Jul 18, 2021 7:08PM

My Post

The importance of establishing Therapeutic Rapport and the creation of a “safe haven” in the pastoral counseling office.

God created individuals to be in a relationship with him and other people. Love God, love people (New International Version, 2011, Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:28-34). Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world where suffering and wounds create brokenness within relationships. However, we have the ability to heal within relationships, too, such as the practice of coming alongside a person. Thomas and Sosin (2011) refer to therapeutic relationships with counselees as the concept of coming alongside them. It is the idea that healing can occur within a “safe haven,” which is a place and/or person that generates feelings of trust and security for counselees to heal. Bock et al. (2018) explain that insecurity is removed or reduced when there is a secure bond, thus allowing trust and love to build. Counselors can create trusting bonds by building rapport with clients.

There are many ways to build rapport within counseling relationships. Some quick ways are remembering names, places, facts, interests, etc., then feeding the details back in the counseling session (Terrell, 2021). For example, if the counselee is having marital struggles and likes basketball, the counselor may refer to marriage as playing basketball. Each player has a role to play, but it is a team sport with each player supporting the other player’s moves along the court to play a winning game.

Another way to build rapport is by creating an atmosphere where there is privacy, no distractions, appropriate amenities, etc. (Thomas & Sosin, 2011). How a counselor dresses and speaks are also ways to build rapport. For example, wearing a suit and tie in a rural community may not be appropriate and create a barrier for openness. Also, the counselor’s language should reflect the counselee’s level of understanding. My minister once used a biblical term I did not understand, and I did not ask him what it meant because our relationship was new.

The acronym SOLER can use to build rapport. It is S – sitting squarely with the counselee, O – open posture, L – leaning toward the counselee, E – eye contact, R – relaxed or natural in one’s behavior. However, the essential thing for counselors to remember is that by building rapport in therapeutic relationships, the counselee can feel safe sharing and facing their struggles, thereby generating healing and positive growth in relationships (Thomas & Sosin, 2011).

July 20,2012

My reply to a classmates post

Hello I,

I love how your post refers to establishing a safe haven as the skin-to-skin time between newborns and parents. It brings thoughts of the intimate time I spent learning about God six years ago. I was 45 years old and got saved. I was not raised in a church environment and did not know much about God besides children’s stories. I was given a key to the church. I found myself spending time in there praying, studying, pouring out my heart to God, and just getting to know God. The room I studied in became my safe place, and God became my safe person. It was “skin-to-skin” time I needed with God. Just as Thomas and Sosin (2011) mention creating an atmosphere of comfort for the counselee, I took liberties and altered the room to suit my comfort level. I put my favorite Scriptures on the wall, Joshua 1:9 (New International Version, 2011) “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).

Additionally, I asked the “why questions” and got answers. My barriers started coming down. It was a sacred time for me where a rapport was created between God and me. A foundation of trust was built that I still carry with me. This is the same rapport I want to create in pastoral counseling. In a sense, I was given a key to The Church figuratively and literally. Similarly, when pastoral counselors create a safe haven by building rapport and trust, it gives them permission to speak into someone’s life and offer keys (i.e., helping skills) to heal, learn, and grow.

Yes, I was a newborn, and God became my Father. Thank you for your post, and God bless.

My reply to a classmate’s post

Jul 22, 2021 12:16PM

Hello T,

I agree with your statement; a counselee has no reason to listen to a counselor if trust is not established. There is a quote, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Thus, rapport is the starting point for showing counselors care by building trust so treatment can take place. Tahan & Sminkey’s (2012) article agrees that developing trusting relationships and cultivating a rapport with clients can encourage them to move toward successful and desirable transformation. Their research was based on case managers’ use of motivational interviewing techniques and principles to develop individualized relationships with clients. It allowed a more holistic approach to care with rapport being developed first.

Jesus also demonstrates examples we should follow when we counsel. He established caring and loving attitudes and actions toward people first before speaking into their lives (i.e., the adulterous woman in John 8:6-8, healing the ten Lepers in Luke 17:11-19, etc.). Then Jesus gave his disciples a new way to look at the second greatest commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” (New International Version, 2011, Mark 12:31). He told them to love one another as he (Jesus) had loved them, that is how everyone will know we are his disciples” (John 13:34-35).

Thank you for your post, and God bless.


Bock, N. A., Hall, M. E. L., Wang, D. C., & Hall, T. W. (2018). The role of attachment to God and spiritual self-awareness in predicting evangelical Christians’ appraisals of suffering. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 21(4), 353-369. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2018.1494706 (Links to an external site.)

New International Version. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com 

PACO617: Theories and Techniques in Pastoral Counseling. Week three, lecture one: 3 Quick rapport building techniques. Liberty University. https://libertyuniversity.instructure.com

Tahan, H. A., & Sminkey, P. V. (2012). Motivational interviewing: Building rapport with clients to encourage desirable behavioral and lifestyle changes. Professional Case Management, 17(4), 164-172. https://doi.org/10.1097/NCM.0b013e318253f029 (Links to an external site.)Terrell, M. (2021).

Thomas, J. C., & Sosin, L. (2011). Therapeutic expedition: Equipping the Christian counselor for the journey. B&H Academic.

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