Therapeutic Communication: Definition, Goals, Types & Principles

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  • 0:00 Therapeutic Communication
  • 0:56 Types
  • 2:15 Principles & Techniques
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

By learning the techniques of therapeutic communication, a nurse can help a patient feel cared for and understood. Learn how to identify the verbal and non-verbal cues that lead to effective therapeutic communication.

Therapeutic Communication

For people outside of the medical profession, a hospital or doctor's office can be an intimidating place. The job of making a patient feel comforted and cared for often falls on the shoulders of the nurses. To best meet the needs of a patient, nurses must learn the principles of therapeutic communication, which is defined as communication strategies that support a patient's feeling of well-being.

This term is easy to recall if you remember that something that is therapeutic is done to help a person cope with a situation and ultimately feel happier and more relaxed. The goals of therapeutic communication are to help a patient feel cared for and understood and establish a relationship in which the patient feels free to express any concerns. In this lesson, we'll explore the different types and principles of therapeutic communication.


Did you ever play a game of charades? If you did, you know that the object of the game is to convey meaning without using words. Without words, you need to rely on things like facial expressions, body language, and eye contact.

Like a player in a game of charades, a nurse must be aware of his or her own non-verbal, or non-spoken, communication style. For example, if a nurse does not make eye-contact with a patient who is describing a symptom or leans on a desk with her arms crossed, the patient may feel that the nurse is not interested in what they have to say. In contrast, a comforting touch on the arm from a nurse who is leaning toward the patient and making eye-contact may help a patient feel like her concerns are being heard.

A nurse must also be able to pick up on non-verbal cues from the patient. A patient that appears to be tense, will not make eye-contact, or who paces on the floor may have a concern or comment they are afraid to share. Observations of these non-verbal cues can be used to strengthen verbal, or spoken, communication with a patient. With effective verbal communication a patient's thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, and perceptions can be conveyed.

Principles & Techniques

There are different principles and techniques that can be employed to ensure effective therapeutic communication between a nurse and patient.

For example:

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