Learning to Portray Empathy
A project, completed in 2010, to produce a web-accessible training resource for motivational interviewing (MI) and brief intervention (BI) counselling skills designed to highlight the nature of the interpersonal interactions and in particular the portrayal of empathy. A project undertaken by University of Otago with input from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
The main aims of the project were to:
- meet a gap for accessible New Zealand-oriented training resources
- produce a web-accessible training resource for motivational interviewing (MI) and brief intervention (BI) counselling skills
- develop a resource consisting of digital video footage, conversation analysis highlighting the nature of the interactions, portrayal of empathy, and discussion on role play in learning.
The project methodology involved:
- producing a resource using simulated consultations selected from videos donated by senior medical students
- providing a detailed explanation of the interactions in the accompanying video clips
- conversation analysis highlighting key features including portrayal of empathy
- discussing the benefits and practicalities of role play in learning counselling skills.
Project LeaderUniversity of Otago
Mark HuthwaiteUniversity of Otago
Peter GallagherUniversity of Otago
Barry JacksonBloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
The key findings from the project included:
- The video clips shown in this resource portray health professional students who are learning the skills of Motivational Interviewing and Brief Intervention. The video clips selected for this resource demonstrate good-practice examples of counselling techniques that can help to portray empathy within the interaction. They can be downloaded and used as a teaching resource. These clips are used with the full consent of the students. One student gave permission only for anonymous use and accordingly both voice pitch alteration and face pixilation have been used to protect the identity of that student.
- Motivational Interviewing and Brief Intervention are very condensed counselling skills. These skills are therefore useful in many settings to quickly assess a client’s interest in making changes and his/her level of motivation to do so and also to give him/her some tools to start to make changes. Motivational Interviewing and Brief Intervention should take less than 5 minutes. Therefore, rapport must be established quickly if these interactions are to be successful, and the development of empathy can be observed as part of that developing rapport.
- The video clips show examples of the key areas of the counselling interaction where portraying empathy is especially important: Non-verbal Communication, Open Questions, Clarification Probing, Assessment, Coping Strategy, Reflection, Reinforcement, Re-statement, Next Appointment and Specific Advice (in this case Drinking Guidelines)
- The video clips are accompanied by a transcript of the verbal interaction and a brief explanation. These demonstrate that empathy is established not just by facial expression and body language but also by what is said and how it is said, and by the delivery within the interaction of all of these aspects. The transcripts show what is said and how (with pauses, repetition, hesitancy etc). In these transcripts the trainee health professional is identified as TI and the client as PT.
The key recommendations from the project included:
Potential applications for many helping professions | The initial idea for this resource arose from community pharmacists who had identified the need for a training tool in skills of brief intervention and motivational interviewing. The idea subsequently attracted support from other health professionals who recognised the training gap and could see the potential of a web-accessible resource. Although this concept was developed in the health professional setting it will have potential applications for many helping professions that work for behaviour change through direct interpersonal contact, including teachers, social workers, and police.