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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Building Rapport: A Way of Looking at Strengthening Relationships

Building rapport is discussed often across applied behavior analysis (ABA) services.

Pairing the Person with Reinforcing Stimuli

Sometimes building rapport may also be referred to as pairing. The idea is that the process of building rapport involves pairing one person with reinforcing stimuli of another person. Therefore, the end goal is that someone becomes reinforcing themselves despite the presence of the specific stimuli that conditioned them to be reinforcing to the other person.

Importance of Rapport in Relationships

Building rapport is important for all types of relationships including between a therapist and a client, between a parent and a child, between friends, between a teacher and student, and many other social dynamics.

Rapport is More than Just an ABA Term

The idea of building rapport is related to the idea of building healthy and strong relationships.

Rapport is also related to the attachment that develops between parent and child.

Benefits of Rapport

Having a good rapport between teacher and student, therapist and client, or even parent and child can lead to the child experiencing more joy in the learning process.

When rapport is strong, the child may even be more willing to follow directions and give more effort into unfamiliar or challenging tasks.

Rapport may even reduce the frequency and/or intensity of maladaptive behaviors.

When someone has good rapport with another person, they are more likely to approach that other person. For instance, a child who has strong rapport with his parent or with his behavior analyst is more likely to willingly approach and engage with the adult.

A Few Tips for Building Rapport

Although there are numerous ways to build rapport, here are a few tips that can help guide you in the process of building rapport.

  • Engage with the child while they are participating in something they like to do. For instance, if the child is playing video games, sit next to them and make narrative comments about the game or if they would like you to, play the game with them.
  • Don’t give instructions or at least keep these to a limited amount. Giving too many instructions while trying to build rapport may not serve your ultimate purpose of strengthening the rapport and of pairing yourself with reinforcement.
  • Building rapport is not a one-time activity. Building rapport is an ongoing process. Although you may spend larger portions of your time trying to build rapport with someone, especially at the beginning of the relationship or before trying to teach them something new, it is important to remember that building rapport should be incorporated into daily interactions.
  • You can use a strong foundation of rapport to then begin teaching new skills and behaviors. After rapport appears to be established to a reasonable degree you can slowly introduce more instructions and learning opportunities

Importance of Building Rapport

Building rapport is an important aspect of applied behavior analysis.

It is also important in a variety of social relationships including in a parent-child relationship and a teacher-student relationship.

Consider the tips above to help you build rapport to strengthen your relationships.

Building Rapport: A Way of Looking at Strengthening Relationships

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at [email protected] You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2019). Building Rapport: A Way of Looking at Strengthening Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from