This module aligns with key elements of APNA’s “Communication Theory and Interpersonal Skills” (American Psychiatric Nurses Association Education Council, Undergraduate Branch, 2022).

Module Outline

  • Therapeutic Communication
  • Non-Therapeutic Communication

Module Learning Outcomes

  • Summarize therapeutic communication techniques
  • Summarize non-therapeutic communication techniques


  • Therapeutic Communication
  • Empathy
  • Rapport


This module will review therapeutic communication techniques for non-therapeutic communication techniques. Nurses use therapeutic communication and empathy to cultivate rapport and a therapeutic relationship with patients. Below is an overview of therapeutic versus non-therapeutic communication strategies.

See Sharma and Gupta (2022) for further reading.

Therapeutic Communication Strategies

Sharma and Gupta (2022) summarize therapeutic communication strategies. These include:

  • Open-ended questions-ask open ended questions to learn more about the patient and enable a free-flow of information exchange; closed-ended questions can be used to focus on specific information
  • Active listening-active listening involves behaviors such as making eye-contact and nodding
  • Non-verbal indicators-be mindful of non-verbal indicators such as looking frequently at the clock/watch, toe-tapping, having an open body stance
  • Silence-sitting with a patient during a difficult time and listening without interruption can be therapeutic
  • Reflecting-the nurse repeats the patient’s communication back to them; encourages the patient to reflect on their feelings

Non-Therapeutic Communication Strategies

Summarization of Sharma and Gupta’s (2022) non-therapeutic communication include:

  • Value judgements/Approval/Disapproval-avoid interjecting one’s biases and judgements, providing approval or disapproval of the patient’s thoughts or actions
  • Negative body language-avoid crossing arms, appearing distracting, and standing over the patient during engagement/conversation
  • Advice-avoid providing a patient advice on recommended action(s)
  • False reassurance-avoid false reassurance; can lead to mistrust, especially in the case that an expected outcome is not realized

Level Up RN. (2022). Nurse/client relationship, therapeutic communication-psychiatric mental health nursing [Video]. YouTube.

Key Takeaways

You should have learned the following in this section:

  • Use of therapeutic communication techniques and empathy helps the nurse build rapport and a therapeutic relationship with the patient
  • Non-therapeutic communication actions can erode a therapeutic relationship


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MENTAL HEALTH IS A VERB Copyright © 2023 by Jake Bush and Jill Van Der Like is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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