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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Empathy training for adolescent peer counselling Pachal, Doreen Mae


This study sought to test the feasibility of training sixth-grade girls to assist in the counselling process. In particular, their ability to learn and demonstrate the skill of empathic responding was assessed. The research study involved 24 volunteer girls who were randomly assigned to three groups, those who; (a) received training in paraphrasing and reflection of feeling, (b) received training which included paraphrasing, reflection of feeling and positive self-instruction, and (c) formed a control group. Because of the possibility that empathy may often be inhibited by self-concern, positive self-instruction was included to discover whether reminders to concentrate on another person would reduce anxiety in trainees and facilitate their expressions of empathy. Subjects' skills were assessed by: (a) girls in the same grade at a different school, (b) expert adult judges relying upon audiotapes, and (c) an expert adult judge who also acted as client. Experts used the Carkhuff (1969) Scale of Empathic Understanding in Interpersonal Processes, and the peers used a modified Carkhuff scale constructed for the study. The findings were as follows: (a) significant increases in empathy for the trained groups, when compared to the control group, on the basis of expert ratings, (b) no significant difference in empathy among groups when rated by peers acting as clients, (c) no significant correlation between ratings of peer clients and experts, (d) no significant difference in empathy between the two trained groups. Thus, training produced significant increases in empathy, as measured by experts; however, other findings suggested that sixth-grade girls wanted good advice along with empathy from their peers. Training at this developmental stage should probably include problem-solving skills in addition to empathy.

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