Empathy and Paraphrasing in the Profession of Psychology

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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 clien... ... middle of paper ... ... J. (2011). I’m listening: Communication for health professionals. Brisbane: Inn Press. Moyers, T.B., & Miller, W.R. (2013). Is low therapist empathy toxic?. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 27(3), 878-884. doi: 10.1037/a0030274 Rhodes, R.H., Hill, C.E., Thompson, B.J., & Elliott, R. (1994). Client retrospective recall of resolved and unresolved misunderstanding events. Journal of Counseling Psychology 41(4), 473-483. doi: 10.1037/0022-0167.41.4.473 Ridgway, I.R., & Sharpley, C.F. (1990). Empathic interactional sequences and counsellor trainee effectiveness. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 3(3), 257-265. doi: 10.1080/09515079008254256 Sharpley, C.F., Fairnie, E., Tabary-Collins, E., Bates, R., & Lee, P. (2000) The use of counsellor verbal response modes and client-perceived rapport. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 13(1), 99-116. doi: 10.1080/09515070050011097
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