Therapeutic and Non Therapeutic Communication

Communication involves at least two people. The speaker codes a message into words and nonverbal actions, then passes it to the receiver. The receiver then decodes and acts on the message. Skilled health professionals, and others working with clients, use therapeutic communication techniques to improve care for their patients. You can hinder care if you rely on nontherapeutic communication.


Therapeutic communication is designed to help your client reach a better understanding of her condition and treatment, encouraging her to express her feelings and discuss her ideas, while showing respect and an acceptance of her point of view. Nontherapeutic communication interferes with your relationship with her by putting barriers in the way of open, trusting and respectful dialogue.


According to Children’s, therapeutic communication initially builds a relationship with your patient. You can then open a discussion with him about health issues and collect appropriate information. Find out how life appears to him and offer the information he needs before you finish the conversation.

Therapeutic Language

Use active listening to ask questions and reflect back what you heard, to check that you understand what your patient tells you. Ask open-ended questions, such as, “Tell me about your difficulties,” to encourage her to take the lead in the discussion, and prompt her by suggesting she tell you more. Pass on everything she needs to know, taking plenty of time and encouraging her to ask questions. Focus on important matters, stating them clearly, and summarize the main points of your discussion at the end, to check that you are both in agreement.

Nontherapeutic Language

Stay away from nontherapeutic habits such as asking irrelevant personal questions, stating personal opinions or showing disapproval. Nontherapeutic communication, by giving a false reassurance or sympathy or asking “why” questions, can make your patient defensive. If you try to make assumptions about his feelings, you might jump to the wrong conclusion, points out Nursing Avoid making comments that show your feelings because these are irrelevant to him and can spoil the rapport you have built up.

Nonverbal Communication

Remember to use therapeutic nonverbal communication because your patient will read the clues you give with your facial expression, body language and tone of voice. More than 80 percent of communication messages are nonverbal, according to Albert Mehrabian's book “Silent Messages.” Use encouraging nods so she continues to speak openly, and avoid raising your eyebrows or smiling inappropriately because you might look disbelieving. Use open body language and don't cross your arms because that puts a physical barrier between the two of you. Sit or stand at her level to escape any appearance of “talking down” to her.