Empathy And Paraphrasing In The Profession Of Psychology

1735 words - 7 pages

Interpersonal communication skills are an important asset in most professions, but are considered to be especially vital in the profession of psychology. Anderson, Ogles, Patterson, Lambert, & Vermeersch (2009) report that the quality of a therapist’s interpersonal skills is an important factor to be considered when predicting the outcome of psychotherapy. Empathic communication can have a significant effect on building rapport, and on the overall client-therapist relationship. Paraphrasing can be used to facilitate deeper understanding, and can also have an impact on the outcome of therapy. This essay will discuss some of the literature assessing the importance of these two skills, and will include a reflection on the way they are used in the attached video.
Communication of empathy is widely considered to play an important role in developing and maintaining a successful therapeutic relationship between psychologist and client. The term empathy refers to the ability to understand another person’s thoughts and feelings, and to see a situation from that person’s point of view, without judgement (Hazelwood & Shakespeare-Finch, 2011). A therapist’s empathy can be communicated to a client through a variety of different verbal and nonverbal responses. For example, Dowell and Berman (2013) found evidence that high levels of eye contact combined with a forward leaning posture made a significant contribution to clients’ perception of their therapists’ feelings of empathy towards them. An example of the use of eye contact to show empathy can be seen throughout the included video. Moyers and Miller (2013) considered reflecting meaning (also referred to as paraphrasing) to be another method of conveying empathy and understanding to a client. The use of this verbal method can be seen at several points in the video, first at 2 minutes 13 seconds, when the therapist reflects the client’s feelings about the way he was treated by his employer. Elliott, Bohart, Watson, & Greenberg (2011) indicate in their report that a client’s perception of their therapist’s empathy can be predictive of the outcome of psychotherapy, in terms of client satisfaction with the process as well as overall improvement. This could be due to factors such as the clients’ feelings of being understood and accepted providing a feeling of safety and encouraging them to express themselves openly, and to be an active participant in the therapeutic process. The research of Ridgway and Sharpley (1990) provides evidence that empathic responses can also increase the success and effectiveness of therapy, by helping to build rapport. Moyers and Miller (2013) suggest that a lack of empathy in therapist-client interactions may in fact reduce the likelihood of success in the treatment of addictions. The authors consider the skill of empathy to be so important in this field, that they also recommend that health professionals who are entering the field of drug and alcohol counselling be tested on their...

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