What Is Therapeutic Communication?

From the day we are born, communication is an inherent part of our being. Communication tools used every day in life include verbal transference, such as that from a mother to a child using supportive and loving words, or nonverbal communication, like a pat on the back. Therapeutic communication focuses on advancing your physical and emotional well-being.


Therapeutic communication is a form of psychotherapy that uses verbal and nonverbal techniques. Through face-to-face communication, you are the primary focus of this type of therapy. A clinician will use verbal and nonverbal techniques to assist you with finding the root cause of a problem in a nonjudgmental way, while showing empathy and concern.


The goal of therapeutic communication is to increase self-worth or decrease psychological distress by collecting information to determine the illness, assessing and modifying the behavior, and providing health education. The therapist will work on building a therapeutic relationship with you and reassure that this type of therapy is client-centered.


Therapeutic communication is widely used in the health care field, especially in mental health. A counselor will use this type of psychotherapy during the initial consultation to see what your personality is like, find out what is bothering you and to open the lines of communication.

In addition, nurses, medical assistants, certified nursing assistants and other personnel in close contact with patients undergo training in this type of communication when dealing with different personalities. These techniques help the patient and health-care professional develop rapport and trust with one another during a medical office visit, or when the patient is admitted in the hospital.


Various techniques are used during therapeutic communication. General leads, broad statements, making observations and silence are common examples of therapeutic techniques. (Reference 1) General leads are neutral expressions used to entice the client to continue talking. For instance, the phrase “tell me about it” is a general lead expression used between client and clinician.

Silence is a beneficial technique for all parties involved in therapeutic communication. These quiet times allow the patient to gather thoughts and give time to reflect on the matter at hand. Silence also allows the therapist to observe the patient for any nonverbal cues.

In addition, another method used for therapeutic communication includes expressing thoughts and feelings by sharing observations. A therapist will share observations of a patient’s behavior to show a portrayal and feeling of concern. This method allows the patient to correct the observation made or to elaborate further about the feelings or thoughts shared.


In order for the therapeutic communication process to be successful, a mutual understanding between both parties must take place. The importance of a therapist's role in asking for further clarification when needed helps prevent a misunderstanding between the therapist and patient. This open communication promotes a genuine and continual concern for what the patient is expressing. Finding a clinician with the ability to develop therapeutic communication skills by verbal and nonverbal cues relies on a constant growth in observational skills and continual understanding of human behaviors.