Effectiveness of empathic response training on master's level counseling students



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Texas Tech University


Because mental health professionals are faced with increasing demands for therapeutic accountability from managed care companies to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness in client care, counselor educators are becoming increasingly concerned about discerning the effectiveness of the supervision methods with which they are training their students (Brew & Altekruse, 2006; Brown, Dries, & Nace, 1999; Duncan, Miller, & Sparks, 2004; Sexton, Whiston, Bleuer, & Walz, 1997).

Counselor educators are responsible for providing students with the necessary academic knowledge and clinical training experiences that will provide them with the greatest opportunity to develop into effective counselors (Calhoun, 1999). Determining the effectiveness of counselor training methods is therefore an emerging theme within the counselor supervision literature.

This experimental research study was designed to investigate the comparative effectiveness of two adjunct supervision methods (innovative versus traditional) on participants’ empathic response skills. To fulfill the objectives of the study, 26 master’s level counseling students were randomly assigned to one of two adjunct, 6-week supervision methods. Results were obtained through a statistical analysis of within-subject differences between pre- and posttest measures of counseling transcript responses, using the Counselor Interaction Analysis (CIA), developed by Altekruse (1967), scored by three trained co-raters who were prevented from knowing the group identity of the participants. Posttest scores on the CIA were also correlated with scores derived from an instructor-rated, counselor competence measure, the Interview Record Form (IRF), developed by Bradley (2007). Thus, these two instruments seemed to be tapping into a similar counseling competence construct.

Results of the 2 X 2 mixed design of ANOVA, with posttest CIA scores as the dependent variable, and time and method as two levels of the independent variable, indicated that all 26 participants increased their use of relationship-facilitative counseling response skills to a significant degree over the time period of the study. Notably, participants assigned to the innovative supervision method, which emphasized the recognition and reduction of relationship-disruptive counseling errors, increased their use of empathic response skills to a greater extent than those participants assigned to the more traditional method of training. However, statistically significant behavioral differences between the two groups could not be ascertained, perhaps due to the limited sample size and the brevity of the study.

Additional participant comments indicated appreciation for new learning attributed to the innovative method and for learning attributed to the transcription of taped counseling interviews. Implications of the results for future supervision research concluded the final chapter.