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The Measurement of Empathy and Its Efficacy in Psychotherapy (EMPATHY)

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
University of Illinois at Chicago Identifier:
First received: February 11, 2008
Last updated: NA
Last verified: February 2008
History: No changes posted
The purpose of the research is to: 1) to test whether psychotherapy including immediate feedback of empathy data is more efficacious than therapy without such an exchange of data, 2) to measure the degree of accuracy of therapist's empathy and its relationship to the patient's estimate of the therapist's empathy.

Condition Intervention
Psychotherapeutic Processes
Transference (Psychology)
Behavioral: Empathy Feedback

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single Blind (Participant)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: The Measurement of Empathy and Its Efficacy in Psychotherapy

Further study details as provided by University of Illinois at Chicago:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Patient Global Assessment of Functioning [ Time Frame: 20 psychotherapy sessions ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Barrett-Lenard Relationship Inventory [ Time Frame: Every 5th session, 20 sessions of psychotherapy ]

Enrollment: 16
Study Start Date: June 2002
Study Completion Date: June 2007
Primary Completion Date: June 2007 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
No Intervention: Control
Therapists and patients record their estimates of the patient's Global Assessment of Functioning, but do not discuss these estimates in therapy sessions.
Experimental: Empathy Feedback
Therapists and patients record their ratings of the patient's Global Assessment of Functioning and discuss these ratings.
Behavioral: Empathy Feedback
Discussion of empathy ratings between patients and therapists during psychotherapy sessions.

Detailed Description:
Objective: To develop and evaluate a feedback method for measuring and increasing therapists' empathic accuracy and reducing empathic errors in psychotherapy. Method: Sixteen (16) patient-therapist pairs were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups. All patients rated their own functioning using the GAF (Global Assessment of Functioning) and predicted the accuracy with which their therapists would estimate their ratings. Therapists rated the patient's GAF, predicted the patients' ratings of their own GAFs, and rated their confidence in their own predictions. In the intervention condition, therapist and patients discussed the previous session's ratings for a few minutes of the therapy session. Results: Intervention therapists showed greater empathic accuracy relative to controls on our empathy measure (t(14) = 2.69, p < .01) and increased empathy over time on the Barrett-Lenard Empathy subscale (t(32) = 3.21, p < .01). We also found significant effects on errors related to perceived accuracy of therapist empathy. Patients in the control group were found to perceive their therapists to be either more or less accurate than was actually the case (over/under-idealization), but such biases were not as strong in the intervention group. Similarly, therapists in the control group were likely to over-estimate their own accuracy (over-confidence) to a greater extent than intervention therapists. Affective responses to the instrument were positive overall and did not differ by condition. Conclusion: Empathy feedback and feedback concerning degrees of patient idealization and therapist confidence may be effective in improving functioning as well as in increasing empathic accuracy in psychotherapy.

Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 65 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Outpatient psychotherapy at University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Age 18-65

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Psychosis
  • Suicidality
  • Organic Brain Disorder
  Contacts and Locations
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00620009

United States, Illinois
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, Illinois, United States, 60608
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Illinois at Chicago
Principal Investigator: Bhaskar N. Sripada, M.D. University of Illinois at Chicago
  More Information

Responsible Party: Bhaskar N. Sripada, MD / Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago Identifier: NCT00620009     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 2002-0381
Study First Received: February 11, 2008
Last Updated: February 11, 2008

Keywords provided by University of Illinois at Chicago:
Psychotherapy processed this record on April 28, 2017