EBP: Building the Therapeutic Relationship

Posted by Evan C. Crist, Psy.D. on 12/10/14 1:15 PM

This is the 2nd of a 12 part series on Evidence Based Principles.  Subscribe to our blog and get the series delivered right to your inbox.  

Principle 1a: Build the Therapeutic Relationship

EBP Therapeutic RelationshipThe change process is a journey. It has its ups and downs and often feels scary and out of control. It is always easier to approach the unknown with a partner, particularly a partner who has been there before. Most offenders have a long history of failure and are well acquainted with betrayal. Their first question is, “Can I trust this person?” Answering this question can, for some, be a time-consuming process. When you have a long history of hurt, it is wise to be hesitant to trust again. 

“Is this person going to listen to me or just tell me what to do?” “Do they really care about me or are they just going through the motions?” “If I decide to take this leap and start this journey with them, will they be a reliable and supportive partner along the way?” While there is likely to be some testing of the relationship and commitment, no real progress starts until these questions have been answered. One of the reasons that Motivational Interviewing (MI) is so popular with this population is that, done well, MI quickly creates an environment and relationship that allows the client to answer these questions quickly and affirmatively. 

Why are Relationships Important in EBP?

This “sub-principle” was added due to our belief in its importance. We assume that the original text did not explicitly address the concept of the therapeutic relationship (aka “working relationship”, “therapeutic alliance”, and others) either because it is difficult to quantify or because it was assumed. Our motivation to add emphasis here was two-fold: 1) A concept so critical must be addressed directly and 2) Given corrections philosophical history, it is not reasonable to assume that providers understand and buy into the idea that any change process begins with relationship(s). 

While the relationship will always be a central focus in the change process, early on, it is the primary focus. If you think about following the client on the journey rather than leading, you will know when the client feels comfortable and ready to begin the uphill climb together. When trust, respect, and collaboration exist, Principle 2, Enhance Intrinsic Motivation, becomes much easier. 

  • Listening: When you are talking, you are not listening. Ask smart questions and listen. 
  • Empathy: Behavioral change is hard. Show that you understand that. Be patient. 
  • Support: Change is not an event. It is a process. A great deal of support is required to maintain motivation.
In our next blog in this series, we will  we will address Principle 1B, Assessment.
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Evidence Based Principles: Simplified White PaperThis a 12 part series. Here are all 12 blogs in the series:

  1. An Introduction to Evidence Based Principles (EBP)
  2. EBP: Building the Therapeutic Relationship
  3. Community Corrections Interventions Must Begin with Assessment
  4. To Be or Not to Be: Framing Offender Motivation
  5. EBP: How Good is Your Aim?
  6. Discovering Values in Collaboration
  7. Practice Makes...Habit
  8. Structure & Accountability Still Matter!
  9. Catch Them Being Good!
  10. It Takes a Community to Transition an Offender
  11. What Works Anyway? Prove it!
  12. Feedback Please!
To request more information or schedule an online demonstration of our Community Corrections Software, click here. We offer integrated software and support services for Probation/Parole, Residential and Reentry programs. Our Program Foundation Platform and twelve robust modules were designed by community corrections professionals to guide organizations toward a powerful EBP implementation, relieve them of strenuous paperwork and manual processes, and enable them to focus on what matters - people!

Topics: Community Corrections, Evidence Based Practices, Practices

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