Empathy training: a comparison of two methods
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AbstractThe present study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of two methods of empathy training. The first method followed a more didactic approach with emphasis upon cognitive prestructuring, psychological insight, and discrimination training. The model assumes that it is specificity of focus which is the potent variable in the teaching of empathy. The second method was based upon the assumption that practice in addition to specific cognitive focus would be necessary for successful training. The following four measures were administered to a sample of ninety first-year students at Mount Royal College in Calgary and Red Deer College in Red Deer: the two parallel forms of the Empathy Subscale of the Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory (OE--Objective Empathy, SE--Subjective Empathy), the Communications Knowledge Test (CKT), the Interpersonal Relationship Rating Scale (IRRS), and a Satisfaction Questionnaire. The sample was divided into four groups, each of which was subjected to an experimental treatment as follows: 1. Treatment Group (E₁) consisting of eight males and ten females received four 2-hour session of didactic training. 2. Treatment Group (E₂) consisting of eight males and sixteen females received four 2-hour sessions of didactic training and three additional 2-hour sessions of experiential training adapted from methods developed by Carkhuff and Kagan. 3. Control Group (C₁) consisting of one male and thirty-two females received no training but was tested at the same time as E₁. 4. Control Group (C₂) consisting of one male and thirty-two females received no training but was tested at the same time as E₂. The statistical procedure used to test for significant differences between the experimental groups and the control groups was an analysis of covariance. In addition, two correlational analyses were performed to assess the degree of relationship between the measures used. Little evidence was found to support the notion that a significant relationship exists between the individual measures. However, the combined pretest effects were significantly related to a global index of interpersonal attitudes and behaviors as measured by the IRRS, to a cognitive understanding of basic communicational concepts as measured by the CKT, and perhaps to self ratings of empathic ability as measured by the SE. These measures in turn appear to have little utility in predicting objectively rated empathy as measured by the OE. It was concluded that this study failed to confirm the effectiveness of either a purely didactic or a combined didactic and experiential approach to the training of empathy.
Bibliography: p. 67-73.