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Publication Date


Document Type



School for Social Work


Empathy, Psychotherapists-Psychology, Mental representation, Psychotherapy, Psychotherapy-Study and teaching (Graduate), Mechanisms of change, Experimental process research, Psychotherapy education


Building on prior findings of correlation between complexity of therapist mental representation and empathy, this experimental study investigated enhancing empathy by intentionally priming to formulate a complex "patient" representation. Seventy therapists reviewed a transcript, then completing mental representation and empathic accuracy measures. Condition 1 sub-group was first primed for complex representation; Condition 2 for a single focus and Condition 3 received no priming. Main findings were that mental representation can be enhanced [F = 5.532 (2, 67), p. = .006]. Condition 2 scored significantly higher than Condition 3. Main findings for empathic accuracy were negative; mean scores for all conditions reflected enhancement but did not differ significantly, suggesting confounding effects of multiple moderators. Mixed findings highlight the differences and similarities of these core clinical processes, contributing to theory and with useful implications for research, clinical practice and professional education.




vi, 148 p. Dissertation (Ph.D.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 94-99)