Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The present study was designed to investigate the effect the practice component has on learning to communicate empathy. Specifically the aim of this study was to compare three training procedures: practice plus feedback, practice only, and no practice (control) on the dependent variable of rated level of communicating empathy. The participants for this study were 30 graduate students enrolled in two sections of a basic course in facilitative communication. The participants were randomly assigned to the three treatment groups. All participants were pretested using the Carkhuff (1976) Counselor-Counselee Audio Tape Series. They met for a three hour training session once a week for three weeks. During the training all three groups met together for instructions, didactic presentations, and modeling of the skill being taught. Upon completion of the didactic presentation the three groups separated. The practice only group worked in dyads with one student role playing a counselee presenting prepared counselee concerns while the other trainee responded as a counselor within a counseling session. The practice plus feedback group followed the same procedure but received feedback from experienced trainers. The no practice control group did not have an opportunity to practice responsing; instead, they viewed a training film on the evolution of the Human Relations Development Model (Carkhuff, 1979). Each of the practice sessions and film viewings was for 20 minutes. Immediately after the final session all participants were posttested using an alternate form of the pretest. Trained raters determined the level of empathetic communication using the five-point Carkuff Scale (1976). The results of the ratings were analyzed to determine if the practice only group could attain a higher level of communicating accurate empathy than the no practice control group and if the practice plus feedback group could attain a higher level of communicating accurate empathy than the practice only group. The results of this study suggest that the the inclusion of feedback within the practice session may be an effective method for training counselors to communicate empathy. A more general suggestion based on these findings is that it is important to include feedback and practice when learning a more complex skill such as communicating accurate empathy.