Developing Effective Helping Relationships in Health Education Practice

Michelle Van Ryn, Catherine A. Heaney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-702
Number of pages20
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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