Developing effective helping relationships in health education practice

Health Educ Behav. 1997 Dec;24(6):683-702. doi: 10.1177/109019819702400603.


Health educators who interact directly with the people they serve must be able to establish effective relationships. Helping relationships are effective if they facilitate clients' progress toward health-promoting goals. Health educators are usually well versed in learning activities and spend a significant proportion of their time interacting with clients. However, many health educators have never received explicit training in how to establish effective formal helping relationships. Research on social influence processes has provided a set of empirical findings that suggest interpersonal behaviors that are likely to maximize the effectiveness of formal helping relationships. This literature indicates that formal helping relationships characterized by interpersonal behaviors that enhance client self-esteem and feelings of control are most effective in helping clients achieve specific goals. Interestingly, enhancement of self-esteem and feelings of control are consistent with many definitions of personal empowerment. Since the social influence and empowerment literatures come from very different intellectual roots and have different approaches to power and influence, their convergence is especially notable. These literatures combine to establish the bases for proposing two essential components of effective helping relationships: (1) providing unconditional acceptance and positive regard for clients, and (2) sharing power and control through participatory processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Patient Participation
  • Power, Psychological
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Self Concept