Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Psychology

Major Professor

Charles L. Thompson

Committee Members

William Poppen, Ohmer Milton, Kathleen Davis


The present study was designed to determine the effectiveness of a verbal practice technique for teaching counselor trainees to respond in a consistently empathic manner when confronted with a client's counselor directed negative affect. The verbal practice technique was compared with a modeling/didactic treatment model.

Thirty-two graduate students enrolled in courses of educational psychology at a large southern university were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups. A paper-and-pencil measure of pretreatment empathic responding skills was effected for each subject. One group received the verbal practice treatment in which the model attempted to consistently respond to a client whose negative affect was other-directed. A second group received a similar treatment, with the difference being that the model attempted to consistently respond to counselor-directed negative affect. Subjects in each of these groups were periodically directed to practice responses they would make were they the counselor in these situations. The method allowed for comparison with the model, thus, providing immediate feedback.

A third group received the modeling/didactic treatment which included a brief lecture and a simulated interview in which the model responded to other-directed negative affect. The final group's treatment was similar to that of the third group, but the model responded to counselor-directed negative affect. In these two groups no mention was made of rehearsal. All four treatments were effected via videotape and all subjects received treatment individually.

After treatment, each subject counseled a role-playing client whose negative affect (hostility) was counselor-directed. Consistent empathic responding was measured by means of an "on ratio."

It was hypothesized that both verbal practice treatments would be more effective than either of the modeling/didactic treatments. When group means were adjusted for differences in pretreatment empathic responding skills levels, neither main effect (treatment versus focus of affect) was significant, though the verbal practice treatment groups (in both levels of focus on negative affect) demonstrated higher "on ratios."

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