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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The differential effects of empathic reflection and empathic reflection plus the gestalt empty-chair dialogue on the issue of unfinished business King, Sharron G.


The purpose of this study was to explore the specific client issue of unfinished business by comparing the differential effectiveness of empathy plus the Gestalt empty-chair technique and empathic reflection. The population consisted of 28 subjects drawn from students enrolled in the first year of a Master's Degree program in Counselling Psychology at a major university. The subjects received two counselling sessions in either the empathy plus Gestalt condition or the Empathic reflection condition. Two relationship instruments, the Empathy Scale of the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory and the Task Dimension of the Working Alliance Inventory, were administered to assess the subject's perception of their therapist's behaviour and to screen for subjects who were not engaged in the process. Two outcome measures, the Target Complaint Measure and the Affective Reactions Questionnaire, were used to assess the amount of resolution subjects felt in their presenting complaint and the amount of change in their feelings toward the significant other. Two session measures, the Session Evaluation Questionnaire and the Target Complaint Discomfort Box Scale, were used to assess the current amount of discomfort regarding the presenting complaint and to evaluate the subject's perception of the sessions. The study showed that empathy plus the Gestalt empty-chair dialogue produced significantly more tolerance in the subjects' feelings toward a significant other person as measured by the Affective Reactions Questionnaire on an issue of unfinished business than those produced by empathic reflection. The results further suggest that a greater improvement in initial target complaint as measured by the Target Complaint Measure was felt for the empathy plus Gestalt condition than for the empathic reflection condition. The review of the literature suggests that the issue of unfinished business is an important one and the tentative results from this study suggest the need for further investigation to determine if the preliminary results are upheld in a clinical setting. The tentative results suggest that the Gestalt empty-chair dialogue in the context of an empathic relationship may make a contribution to the treatment of the issue of unfinished business.

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