The first contact with a patient is crucial in establishing a positive and effective therapeutic relationship. Here are some general guidelines for the initial encounter:
Introduction and Greeting:
Begin with a warm and friendly greeting. Introduce yourself and your role.
KISS mnemonic: knock, introduce yourself, scrub your hands, sit down.
Use the patient’s preferred name and address them respectfully.
Create a welcoming environment to help the patient feel at ease.
Smile, make eye contact, and use open body language to convey friendliness.
Listen attentively to the patient’s concerns and let them express themselves.
Start with open-ended questions and listen to the patient. They will often cover most of the relevant facts. Then transition to focused and close-ended questions to obtain smaller details. Ask the patient about his/her goals of care so that they may be addressed properly.
Avoid interrupting and show empathy through verbal and non-verbal cues.
Briefly explain your role and the purpose of the meeting.
Let the patient know that their well-being and comfort are your priorities.
Assessment of Safety:
Ensure the patient is in a safe and comfortable environment.
Ask about any immediate safety concerns or needs.
Privacy and Confidentiality:
Emphasize the confidentiality of the conversation, within legal and ethical limits.
Ensure the patient is at ease. Close the door to protect patient privacy. Establish rapport with the patient and, if present, family and loved ones. Minimize any environmental distractions.
Explain any circumstances under which confidentiality might be breached.
Explain the Process:
Outline what to expect during the session, including the duration and the general structure.
Address any questions or concerns the patient may have about the process.
Express that you value a collaborative approach to their care, involving them in decision-making.
Assess Current State:
Ask open-ended questions to understand the patient’s current state, emotions, and concerns.
Inquire about any specific symptoms or issues they would like to address.
Discuss the patient’s goals for therapy and what they hope to achieve.
Collaboratively set realistic and achievable short-term and long-term goals.
Be aware of the patient’s cultural background and any specific cultural considerations.
Respect and incorporate cultural preferences into the therapeutic process.
Clearly communicate your expectations for the therapeutic relationship.
Discuss the frequency of sessions, potential duration of therapy, and any relevant policies.
Remember that each patient is unique, and the approach may need to be tailored based on individual needs and circumstances. Building trust and establishing a positive connection during the first contact lays the foundation for a successful therapeutic relationship.
For non-English-speaking patients, a certified translator should be used. Focus your attention on the patient and not on the translator, if this is the case.
Article developed by Dr. Maraska F.