Friday, December 16, 2011

Using a cup of tea in interviews!

The technique of participating and sharing of a cup of tea not only can be used to assist the therapist in building rapport with a client but can also be used by occupational therapists to reduce anxiety of clients during interviews. A cup of tea can give the time to feel more comfortable with the interviewer which allows the client to feel more comfortable in sharing information to the therapist. As stated by Prior & Duncan (2009) participating in such as an activity as sharing a cup of tea can make sharing information for some clients much easier. Often a practitioner is able to elicit more information from a client whilst participating in such an activity as a cup of tea than they would ever manage to gain if they had formally sat in a room together with the specific aim of talking.

For my first field work placement I was in a paediatric setting. One day I observed my therapist interview a client within the client’s home. When we first entered the mother appeared very nervous, she welcomed us in and offered us a cup of tea. My supervisor declined the offer very politely and carried on with explaining her role. During the whole interview the mother appeared nervous and worried.
In comparison during my community mental health placement I observed my supervisor interviewing a client in the occupational therapy setting. Again the client appeared very nervous and her voice was very soft and quiet. This time my therapist offered the client a cup of tea. The client accepted the offer of the cup of tea, and within the conversation of how she liked her cup of tea; the client appeared to become less anxious. During the interview I also observed that this client did not drink her cup of tea but instead used it as something to focus her gaze on and fiddle with when talking when sharing personal experiences.
During the first example I remember feeling sorry for them as they were so worried that their child was experiencing a delay in their development; and even with the rapport building skills of my therapist I felt that the client remained nervous throughout the interview. I wondered how she must have felt following the interview, and wondered if she was anxious about her next appointment. I do not know why my supervisor declined the offer of a cup of tea with this client. This supervisor was pregnant at the time I was with her so this may have been a possible reason for not accepting the offer of a cup of tea. In comparison with the second experience when the client appeared just as nervous as the first, the offering of tea was performed and accepted. I remember feeling amazed at the initial effects in decreasing the anxiety of this client with the simple offer of a cup of tea. During the interview I remember thinking that it must have been so hard to tell people the experiences that she shared with us. When I observed her fiddling and looking at her cup of tea while she was talking I remember wondering why she was not drinking it but instead appeared to be playing with it. On reflection of this question I remember trying to put myself in her shoes telling people in an interview personal experiences; I felt that I would have done the same and felt the cup of tea would have been more of a comfort than a drink. I feel that if I was her looking at the cup of tea would’ve made me feel more comfortable to tell them. I wonder if this client felt this way and felt more at ease to explain her experiences with the comfort of a cup of tea.
From these experiences I have learnt that the cup of tea can be used as a means to reduce anxiety within clients therefore making the client feeling more comfortable to share information to the therapist. In my future practice I will try and be aware of how my client is feeling before and interview and if they are if it is an appropriate time to offer or accept a cup of tea. I believe that the offering of a cup of tea can be used by the client as a comfort and a support, even if it is not drunk.


Martin (2007) researched cultural competence in occupational therapy from the client’s point of view. She stated how participants of her study reflected on their anxiety being reduced by the welcoming they had received (including a cup of tea) and the relationship and trust that they built with their therapist. A simple cup of tea can assist the therapist to achieve both a welcoming to the service and also to start the process of building rapport. The use of a cup of tea to decrease stress and anxiety during an interview can increase the success of obtaining required information from the client. I believe that if my first supervisor had used the technique of sharing a cup of tea she would of assisted her client in decreasing her anxiety and may have experienced her client elicit more information. This simple task of offering a cup of tea could also lay down the path for the client to feel less anxious about future occupational therapy sessions.

Martin, P. M. (2007). Cultural competence in occupational therapy: The client experience (Doctoral dissertation, ProQuest Information and Learning Company). Retrieved December 16, 2011.

Prior, S., & Duncan, E. A. S. (2009). Assessment skills for practice. In E. A. S. Duncan (Ed.), Skills for Practice in Occupational Therapy (p. 84). N.p.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

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