10 Best Therapeutic Communication Techniques
Communication is crucial in the healthcare profession. Healthcare workers have to communicate effectively with their patients to get the information they require so that they can give the best possible care.
In this article, you'll learn about the key features of therapeutic communication and techniques to implement it.
You are probably aware of general communication skills required for most jobs. However, therapeutic communication is different. It is most commonly used in the nursing profession, but it also spans other healthcare professions.
It refers to in-person communication that focuses on the physical and mental well-being of a patient. Healthcare professionals use this form of communication to build rapport and trust with their patients while preserving objectivity and staying professional.
In your busy working day, it can be difficult to find the space to spend quality time with patients. However, when you can, it’s a good idea to adopt therapeutic communication with them. This can be extremely beneficial for a range of reasons.
One of the key aims of therapeutic communication is making your patients feel more comfortable during their treatment. It can also result in more thorough assessments of patients, leading to better and more effective care.
Therapeutic communication is more than just relaying a message and asking your patients how they are feeling. It is a much more empathetic form of communication.
It’s essential that you are clear and accurate when communicating with your patients, and you should create an atmosphere of mutual respect. Be aware that some patients may be scared or struggling to understand what is going on.
Therapeutic communication doesn’t have to be verbal; it can be non-verbal too.
Body language can be just as effective as talking to your patient. A simple nod can be the cue your patient needs to open up about something they wouldn’t have otherwise and may lead to the treatment they really need.
Another key feature of therapeutic communication is that it is not simply relaying information to your patients, but it is also reflective and responsive. Make sure you are taking on board how the patient is reacting to what you are saying and respond appropriately.
Let's take a look at the top therapeutic communication techniques you’ll need to know if you want to adopt this technique with your patients:
This is a critical component of any form of effective communication, especially therapeutic communication. Make sure that you are really listening to what the person is saying and taking it all in.
Active listening involves giving both verbal and non-verbal cues to show your patient that you are interested in and listening to what they’re telling you.
This will keep the person comfortable and will encourage them to open up more. Make sure you are not occupied with anything else and can devote your complete attention to the patient.
Open-ended questioning means not asking people 'yes' or 'no' questions, but giving them the chance to open up.
It allows them to choose the flow of communication and decide what they want to discuss. An example of an open-ended question is: "What is on your mind today?"
The last thing you want is to leave someone with the wrong information. While it’s important to allow the other person the opportunity to open up, it’s equally important for you to communicate clearly and accurately so that your patient is fully aware of what is going on.
Especially in the healthcare industry, patients can easily become confused with jargon and may feel uncomfortable asking questions.
Maintaining a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere will create a space where people are more likely to ask questions.
Also, it’s good practice to explicitly ask if there are any questions at the end of a meeting with a patient.
Finally, take note of common questions people ask – this way you can be prepared and come up with simple explanations for complex issues.
When you are talking to your patients, it’s important you take your time, both when listening to them and when you are giving them information. This gives them time to absorb it all and to ask questions.
It’s also important that your patients don’t feel rushed – you are probably extremely busy, but there is no need for your patients to feel this. It will make them feel uncomfortable, and you’ll be able to get more information out of them if they are relaxed.
Don’t get straight down to asking for information. The first thing to check when you meet your patient is whether they are in pain or have any personal care needs to be addressed. This will help your patient to feel comfortable enough to open up to you.
It’s crucial that you acknowledge the feelings and opinions of your patient.
This is not the same as simply agreeing with them. Use verbal and non-verbal cues to communicate to the patient that what they have said has been acknowledged. It will be beneficial to both parties if the patient feels respected.
Also, this isn’t the time to ask too many follow-up questions or correct the patient. Wait until they have stopped speaking before you start talking.
Non-verbal communication can be just as effective as verbal communication. Make sure that you maintain welcoming body language. This can make the difference between a patient opening up to you or closing off.
Don’t try to talk to people when you are busy or occupied with other things; give them your full attention. Don't cross your arms or turn away while they are talking to you.
It’s normal for patients to feel overwhelmed when they’re receiving care, so it’s important that you are reassuring. This can be via a simple nod or saying, "I understand."
Once a patient has finished explaining their concerns, summarize the information back to them. This ensures that there have been no misunderstandings in your conversation.
It can also give your patient a deeper understanding of what is going on with them. Try to paraphrase the information, rather than repeating the exact words back to them. This will show that you were listening and have understood.
There are many benefits to therapeutic communication.
One of the benefits of therapeutic communication is that it creates a safe space for your patient.
This will make it easier for them to open up about anything else they are facing that they may not have otherwise felt comfortable sharing.
In healthcare, there is often a strong emphasis on focusing only on physical well-being.
However, when your patient feels well emotionally, it can improve their mood and recovery. You will also be able to communicate more easily with them.
This form of communication puts patients at ease, so they are more likely to open up to you. You may find out more about their symptoms and be able to treat them more effectively.
A nurse may use therapeutic communication by asking their patient open-ended questions. This will encourage patients to have some control over the flow of the conversation and not feel like they are being interrogated.
The nurse will clearly inform the patient about the next steps of their treatment.
They will finish by asking the patient if they have questions about anything that's been said or about anything else they are experiencing.
Therapeutic communication is often used in the healthcare industry because healthcare workers need to completely understand their patients’ needs.
It is common for people to feel uncomfortable when discussing health-related issues, so clearer communication techniques are necessary.
While therapeutic communication can be useful in other industries, it has the greatest benefits when used with people who may feel uncomfortable talking to someone about their problems.
Education is another example where therapeutic communication is used. It helps to make students feel comfortable and secure, and allows them to talk more openly about their insecurities.
However, there are no real limits to its use, and many industries may benefit from using therapeutic communication techniques.
There can be a lot of challenges to using therapeutic communication.
This can be difficult to avoid when you’re asking your patient questions.
There is a fine balance between being inquisitive to get the most useful information and being interrogative and making your patient feel uncomfortable. This may take practice.
It can be extremely difficult not to say to your patients, "You’re in good hands," or, "Don’t worry, everything will be fine!" but these statements are not therapeutic.
It would be more beneficial to be empathetic with your patients, understand what they’re going through and do what you can to make them more comfortable.
Sometimes patients express doubts or concerns about the care they are receiving, and it’s a natural response to be defensive when someone is questioning your methods or knowledge.
However, it’s important that you listen to your patient’s concerns. They may just need to vent, or there may be an area where you or your team can improve in providing the best possible care.
Therapeutic communication is a very useful technique, especially for healthcare workers communicating with patients.
There are many techniques to learn if you are looking to incorporate this form of communication into your working life.
It is extremely beneficial for nurse-patient relationships, as we have seen, and many believe it is the glue that holds this relationship together and is the foundation on which patient care rests.
Although it may seem trivial – and you may feel your current method works well – therapeutic communication builds an all-important trust, from which both nurses and patients will benefit.