Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Dr. Edward Trembley
Dr. Robert Wait
Dr. Beverly Belson
The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between the gender of aspiring therapists and empathy as well as the relationship between training and empathy. Four bodies of literature were reviewed: (1) feminine psychological development with a particular focus on how it differs from masculine development, (2) the relationship between empathy and gender, (3) the role of empathy in psychotherapy, and (4) the relationship between training and empathy.
An empirical study was conducted to test the proposed hypotheses that (a) there is a relationship between a student's gender and his or her self-report of empathy on cognitive and affective dimensions, and (b) there is a relationship between a student's level of training and his or her self-report of empathy on cognitive and affective dimensions. The subjects were master's level students without specific therapy training and students completing their master's level training in the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology Department of Western Michigan University. The subjects completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Inventory (Davis, 1980), a questionnaire made up of four subscales measuring four different aspects of empathy.
A two-way analysis of variance was used to test the hypotheses. The hypothesis that there is a relationship between a student's gender and his or her self-report of empathy was supported with respect to the Empathic Concern and Personal Distress subscales. The hypothesis that there is a relationship between a student's level of training and his or her self-report of empathy was also supported with respect to the Fantasy and Personal Distress subscales. The results indicated that men and women do have a different set of relational sensitivities and capacities with women reporting higher levels of empathy on affective dimensions than men. The results also demonstrated that students before training reported more feelings of fear and apprehension when witnessing another's negative experience than those students after training. In addition the students before training endorsed more items reflecting an ability to imaginatively transpose themselves into fictional situations than students after training. There were no significant differences on measures of the cognitive dimension of empathy.
Jones, Carol S., "Gender Differences and Training Effects on Empathy" (1989). Dissertations. 2110.