The Development of Empathy in Students on a Short, Skills Based Counselling Course: A Pilot Study

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This paper reports on a pilot study to measure the development of empathy in students on a short skills-based counselling course. Thirty-eight students from a total population of 56 produced mean empathy scores prior to and following the counselling training. The results indicate that changes in levels of student empathy occurred in all but one of the students with a wide variation in the degree of change. Whilst the results obtained in this study in no way allow any firm conclusions to be drawn, they do provide tentative evidence that student empathy levels can increase as a consequence of undertaking a short skills-based counselling course and, further more, comprehensive research in this area is indicated. This apparent increase in students' empathy appears to be a positive development, yet it could also create difficulties for the nurse due to the possibility of increased emotional demands created by this empathy. Despite the arguments for attempting to develop empathy in students being robust, there may be some individuals who would argue that short skills-based counselling training does not enable empathic development in the students. Whilst the authors argue that there is a need to demystify counselling training, they in no way suggest that there is no need for lengthy, more intensive counselling training. There appears to be a case for having both forms of counselling training.


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