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A pilot study of the experiential enhancement of empathy

15 December 1995


Many researchers have agreed that the clinician's use of empathy is crucial within the therapeutic relationship. Studies have shown that empathy can be enhanced. However, approaches to empathy training have been influenced by whether the researcher considered empathy's behavioral or experiential components. Those who considered empathy's behavioral component focused training on the accurate communication of empathy through exercises designed to increase ability in such skills as verbal responding and use of body language and eye contact. Those who considered empathy's experiential component focused training on the internal and experiential state of the helper. In this approach, personal growth and awareness on the part of the helper is viewed as crucial in the empathic process. A pilot study of the experiential enhancement of empathy was undertaken. The study was designed to assess the benefit of adding experiential empathy training to existing didactic and behavioral empathy training at the School of Professional Psychology. The hypothesis was that participants in the group with the additional experiential empathy training would score higher at post-measurement than those in the standard training group. The study's hypothesis was not supported. Factors such as small sample size and utilization of a new and untested measure were cited as problematic. Suggestions for future research are recommended.


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