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Written by Caregiving Team Member Alicia Cassels, MA

“If the soldiers do not trust you, they are not going to open up to you.”

-Belinda Jones, Helping Professional
Soldier Family Assistance Center


When fortunate enough to have great teachers and mentors, the most important initial lessons we learn as new helping professionals are centered around how we work with clients and students. This is especially important when we think about the foundational aspects of establishing rapport and trust.

Over the past several years the OneOp Caregiving team has visited a number of U.S. Military installations, conducting and recording scores of interviews with experienced helping professionals who have shared their thoughts about the importance of trust.

As we progress in our careers as helping professionals, regardless of our level of technical expertise, periodically revisiting how we engage with our students and clients can help ensure that we are serving effectively, establishing rapport and building the trust that is critically important in the work that we do.

Building trust is important for our families.  If they do not have trust they will not come back even if we try to follow up.  So, in the first meeting it is important to let them know that we are not going to judge them in anything they are doing.  We are here to assist them, and that is why we are here.”


-Lorraine Rodriguez, EFMP Helping Professional


The seven attributes that I discovered in a DoD EFMP family support reference guide several years ago can serve as an effective framework for helping us explore the ways that we engage with our clients and students. We might consider how displaying one attribute or another can impact our ability to establish trust. We might also think about how failing to display one or more of these attributes may impede our ability to facilitate learning and provide effective programs.


To explore how the attributes impact your delivery of programs or educational services, try the activities below.


1. We are all clients

Whether we receive medical care from a physician or dentist, have students in the K-12 education system or attend medical appointments with a loved one, we are all clients served by professionals over the course of our lives. Thinking about the attributes from our own personal experience as clients can be helpful in increasing our understanding of the importance that these attributes play in our work. Take a minute to consider the questions below:

  • How might your level of trust be impacted by a physician who consistently fails to display emotional maturity when providing medical care?
  • How might your level of trust be impacted by a teacher who consistently fails to demonstrate fairness when interacting with your elementary school aged child?


 2. Attributes at work

Take a minute to think about your work as a provider. Rank the seven attributes based on the strength with which you display each one in your work with clients and students. Assign number one to the attribute that you display most consistently and seven to the attribute that you display least consistently, or not at all with the other attributes ranked accordingly. Thinking about this carefully may take a few minutes. When you have finished sorting, answer the questions below.


  • Were you surprised by the attributes that appeared at the top or bottom of your list?
  • How does displaying or failing to display one or more attributes impact your effectiveness in building trust with clients and students?
  • Would your clients and students agree?
  • Are there any areas in which you can grow?
  • If you consistently display the attributes in your work, are there opportunities for you to provide mentoring in this area to less experienced colleagues?

3. Expanding the list

  • Which attributes would you add to the list? How would you rank the new items in terms of importance?
  • Ask your students and clients which attributes they find most important in establishing trust.



Reference:  EFMP Family Support Reference Guide Figure 3.1


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on May 18, 2018.