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Empathy is th e ability to enter into and understand the


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? Basic Empathy as a Communication Skill
Empathy is th e ability to ent er into and und erst and the world of an oth er pe rson and to co m m u n ica te thi s understandin g to him o r her. There are three levels of empathy, At its deepest , it is a "way o f bein g" (Rogers. 1975 , 1980), a way o f "being with" others, a way o f a p p recia ting th e nu ances and co m p lexities of th eir world s. Second, it is an extrem ely useful mod e o f professi on al presence, a m od e of professi onal co ntact with clients, Clients are co m p lex , they can be in man y different ways. Mature helpers d evelop a se ns itivity to thi s co m p lexity without lettin g it overwhelm th em . Third, it is a co m m u n ica tio n skill th at ca n be learned and used but th e technol ogy o f co m m u n ica ting empathy will be holl ow unl es s it is an ex p re ssio n o f th e helper's wa y o f bein g. A great deal h as been writt en ab out empath y in th e held o f therapeuti c psych ology and the trainin g o f helpers (fo r instance , Barrett-Lennard. 1981 ; Berger, 1984 ; Clark. 1980 ; Gladstein, 1 98~ ; Glad stein & Feldstein . 198 3 ; Hackn ey, 1978; Rogers, 1975; Scott, 1984), Glad stein (19 83), in a stim u la ting article , review s the literature and suggests a p plica tio ns to th e held of h elpin g ; he find s two kinds o f e m pa th y di scu ssed , Emotiona! empathy is the abilit y to be a ffec ted emoti onall y by anoth er person's stat e . For in stance , 1 become sad . to a greate r or lesser degree . when I becom e aware of the misfortunes and sad ness of o the r s, On th e other hand, role? taking empath? is the ability to understand an other person 's state . co n? diti on . frame of reference, o r point of vie w. But there is ye t a th ird wav of looking at ernpathv: as a commun ication skill, it is th e ability to com? muni cate one's co m m u n ity o f feeling (e motiona l empath y) a nd /o r th e unde rstandin gs th at How from role takin g (rol e-taking e m pa th y), The ongoin g debate about whether and to what d egree empath y is useful in the helpin g process is due. a t leas t in part. to co n fus ing th ose three wavs o f looking at empathy, In this bo ok, role-t akin g empathy is em p hasized as cr itica l to th e helping mod el, though the ability to be affected bv clients' states a nd co n d itio ns is not e xclud ed . Th ere is a kind of natural How in which role-taking empathy becomes e mo tio n a l e m ? path y. A fter revi ewing the lite rature on e m pa thy and his o wn 30 veal's of co u nseling expe r ie nce. Gladstein concludes that rol e-taking empathv is helpful in initiating the h elpin g proces s, esta b lish ing rapport and d e? velop ing closen ess, helpin g clients identify problems, and helping th em explore themselv es a n d their problem situ ati ons. Tyler, Pargament . a nd Gat z (1983 ) summa rize the ce n tra lity of empath y to th e helping process wh en they sa y, "In fact, professionals may be unable to bring their p er? spectives to bear until th e y understand their client s' perspecti ves'
(p. 39 1).

Empathy and Probing

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Basic cmpathv as a co m m u n ica tio n s kill The th ree dim en sions or rommuni cat ion skill s T he technology o f c m pa t hv as a co m m u n ica tio n skill Reason s for d e vel opin g e m p a thy Hint s fo r imp ro vin g th e qualit y o f e m p a thy Co m mo n problem s in co m m u u ic.u in g basic c m pa th v Probes in the se rvice o f help in g Sune rnc ms th at e nco llra ge clients to t a lk and cla rilv problem s Q ue stio ns Ihal h elp clie n ts talk a n d clarify problem sit ua tio ns
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Min im al prompts Ca u tions ill th e use o f probes lmcrpc rsou a! co m m u n ica tio n s kills : A n overa ll ca u tio n

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I'ART TWO BASIC COMMUNICATION SKILLS

CHAPTER FOUR EMPATHY AND PROBIN G

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Ever)'thil." l a id here about empathy as a communication skill pre? supposes the deeply human issues discussed under the topics of attending and listening. Helper-technicians could deliver the mechanics of basic empath y, but without empath y as a "way of being" would run the risk of being the "hollow men " of T. S. Eliot's poem. Empathy is far more than a communication technique : it is as rich or as po or as its foundations . It demands maturity of the person who uses it in terms of patience or control of im pulsiveness, Gladstein and Feldstein (19 83) talk of "cognitive su spension ," while Berger (1984) talks about the "ability to tolerate a state of pu zzlement ." Effective helpers know th at understandin g a client is a qu alitative rath er than a quantitative experience. If a tten d ing and listening are th e skills that enable helpers to get in
touch with the world of the client , empath y is the skill that enables them
to communicate their understanding of that world to the client. Since it
is a skill, it is som ething that can be learned. However, communicating
understandin g does not necessarily mean putting it into words . Given
enough time. people ca n establish what I ca ll "e m p ath ic relati onships"
with one another in which understanding is communicated in a var iety
of rich and subtle , but nonverbal , ways. A sim ple glan cc across a room
as o ne spouse sees the other trapped in an unwanted co nversatio n can
communicate world s of understandin g . The glan ce sa ys. " I kn ow yo u
feel caught. I know you don't want to hurt the other person's .fcelings.
I ca n feel the stru ggle go in g on inside . I know you'd like me to re scue
you, if I Gill do so tactfull y." People with empathic relationships express
empath y throu gh ac tio ns. An arm around the shoulders of someon e who
has just suffered a defeat ca n convey both support and empathy. I was
in the home of a p o vert y-strick en family when the father came bursting
through the fr ont door sho u tin g "I got the job!" His wife. without s;lving
a word, went to the refrigerator , took out a bottle of beer with a make shift
label read ing "champagne ," and o ffe re d it to her hu sb and . B e~r never
tasted so good .
Empathic participat ion in the world of a nothe r obviouslv admit s of
degrees. .As a helper, yo u mu st be abl e \() enter the world of a client
de eply en ough to understand his or her struggle with problem situations
or sea rch for opportunities at a deep enough level to make \"()UI' partic?
ipati on in p roblem man agement and opportunit y development valid a nd
substantial. If your help is based on a n incorrect or invalid understanding
of the client. vour helping m ay lead him or her astray. If ' o ur under?
standing is valid but superficial, you might miss the ce n tra l issu es of th e
client's life .
Some pe ople do enter ca ringl~' into the world of anoth er and , I!"l' "with"
him or her, but are unable to communicate understandin g . espec ially
through words. Others develop the skill or technology of r.ommuuicaung
empathic understanding but have little to communicate because their


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experiencing of or with the other person is superfi cial. ?. , 's unfortunate , but the direct communication o f empath y in conversation is, in m y ex ? perience, an improbable event. Helpers need both the depth of human contact and understanding and th e ability to communicate it in both verbal a nd nonverbal ways . Th e following dis cussi on of th e microskills needed for the communication of empathy is based on the assumption that the helper enters the world of th e client through attending, ob? serving, listening, a nd "be in g with " at a deep enough level to make a
.~fere n c e .

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The Three Dimensions of Communication Skills in the Helping Process
The communication skills inv olved in responding to and engaging in dialogu e with clients have three components or dimension s: awareness , te chnical ability, and assertiveness. Awareness. Empath y, probin g, and the different forms of challenging all have an a wa re ness dimension . The y are bas ed on yo ur perceptions o f the experiences, feelings, and behaviors of the client and of your 0\\'11 experiences , feelin gs, and behaviors as you interact with the client. B\· attending, o bser vin g , and listening , yo u gather the data yo u need to respond intelligently to clients . If your perceptions a re inaccu ra te , your communicati on skills are flawed at their root. J enn y is counseling Frank in a community mental health ce n te r. Frank is scared ab out what is going to happen to him in the counseling process , but he doe s not talk about it. Jenn y realizes his di scomfon but does not identify it as fear. Sh e fin all y says, "Frank , I'm wond ering what's making you so angry right now. " Since Frank does not feel angry, he says nothing. He's startled by what she sa ys and feels even more insecure. Jenn~' take s his silence as a confirmati on of his "anger." She tries to get him to talk about it.

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As we have seen , attending and active listening are the bases of the kind of perceptiveness needed in helpin g skills . Helpers who fail to attend and to listen well or who, thou gh they do a tt e n d and listen , fail to un? derstand the client may command the two dimensi ons described below. but bec ause of their lack of perceptiveness their respon ses are impaired . Technical ability. Once yo u are aware of what skill is ca lled for in th e helping process, you need to be able to deliver it. For instance, if you are aware that a client is anxious and confused because this is his first

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CHAPTER FOUR EMPATHY ANI) PROBIN C

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visit to a helper, It d oes little good if your understanding remains lock ed up inside you.

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The Technology of Basic Empathy as a Comrnunicati.,.? Skill
Since empathy is not o n ly a way of being with others, as Rogers n otes , but also a communicati on skill, the "technology" of the skill needs to be understood. Ba sic empath y involves listening carefully to the client a n d then communi cating understanding of what the client is feeling a nd o f the experien ce s and behavi ors underl ying those feelings . This skill is useful in every stage and step of the helping process. It's the helper's way of saying, " I' m with you, I've been listening carefull y to what yo u' ve been sa ying and expressing, and I'm c hec kin g to see if m y understanding is accurate ." Basic empath y is not an attempt to dig down into what the client might be o n ly half-saving or sa ying implicitly. Sin ce that kind o f advanced empath y o fte n has a challenging edge to it , it will be discussed in a later chapter on cha lle ng in g . Here are a few examples o f basi c empathy. A single, middle-aged woman who has been unable to keep a j ob shares her fru strati on with a counselor. I've been to oth er counselo rs and nothing has ever really work ed. I don't even know whv I'm tn'ing again, But things are so bad-I just have to get a job. I guess some thing has to be done, so I'm trying it all ove r aga in. HELPER: You're her e with mixed feelings. You're not sure t hat our sessions will help you gel a j ob and keep it, but you feel you have to t rv sO!llething , CLIENT: Yes, "som ething." but I don't know what th e som eth ing is. \,'hal ca n I get here th at will hel p me get a j ob ? Or keep a job;'
CLIEt\T:

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Frank and Jenny end up a rg u in g about his "anger." Frank finally gets
up and leaves. J enny , o f co u rs e, takes this as a sign that she was right in the fir st pla ce . Frank goes to see his minister. The mini ster sees quite clearl y th at Frank is sca re d and confused. But he in turn d oes not know what to d o with his understanding. He does not ha ve the kn o w-how to translate his perceptions into meaningful interacti ons with Frank . As Frank talk s, his minister nods and sa ys " u h -h u h" quite a bit. He is fullv p resent to Frank and listens intently, but he d oes not know how to re sp ond .

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You need to knou: how to communicate your perceptions to clients so as to facilitate th eir p articipation in the helping process. Accurate p ercep? tions are useless with out the skill of delivering them to the client . Assertiveness. High-level awareness and excellent technical abilitv are meaningless unless they are actually used when called for. Cert ainly. to be assertive in the helping process without awareness and with out know? how is to court di sast er. For instance, jenll\' confronted Frank in a pu? nitive , heav y-h anded \\'a y (la ck of know-how ), challengin g beh av ior that she d id not Iullv understand (la ck of awareness). and , as a res u lt. her int ervention d id more harm than good . On the o the r hand , if you se e that a client needs new perspectives on his or her problem situation. a nd \ 'OU know h ow to present these new perspecti ves in a respo nsible way, ~ 'et yo u fail to d o so. vou are deficient in the third dimension of vo u r co m m u n ica tio n skills, Edn a, a youn g helper in the Student Development Office. is in the middle o f her second session with Aurelio, a graduat e stu d e n t. It soon becomes clear to her that he is making sexual overtures to her . In her trainin g sh e did quite well in challenging her fell ow trainees , The feedback sh e go t from them and the trainer indicated th at sh e chal? lenged others direcilv and cari ngly, But now she feels imm obilized . She d oes not want to hurt Aurelio or embarrass herself. She tries to ignore hi s sed uc tive beh avior, but Aurelio takes silen ce to mean consen t.

A woman o n publ ic assistan ce se eking a divorce a n d needing legal as? sistance has b een told that co u ns e lin g is a prerequisite fo r re ce iving assistan ce. I need aI awver . You're not a lawver. Everybodv gives I'OU I he run? ar ound. I know what I want . Do these people think I'm crazy to wa rn a di vorce ? I'd be crazy not to want a divorce: HELPER : Since you know vou want a divorce. a I,m'yer would see m 10 make mu ch more sen se than a cou nselor. CLIEt\T: It's cer tainly stu pid to me, Mavbe YOU know sOlll elhing i hat I don 't. If you do , you 'd bett er tell me now.
CLIE:\ T:

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A young woman visits the student services center at her college . And so her e I am, tl"O months pregnant. I don't want to be pr egnant. I'm not marri ed . a nd I do nt even love the Iat hc r. T o tell th e truth. I don 't even think I like him, Oh Lord , this is sO!llcthing that happen s to other peopl e-n ot me! I wake lip thinking this whole Ihin g is un real. HELPER : You 'r e still so amaze d t hat it's a lmos: im possible 10 acce pt that its tru e. CLlE t\T : Amazed ? I'm stupelu-d : And ye t I have no on e to blam e but myself. Mavbe that 's it. I feel so alone ill ,II I of this.
CLlEt\T:

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In this case awareness and technical abilit y are both wasted due to a lack of asserti veness , In rn v experience, this lack of asse rt ive ness is a critical issue for m an y people while training to be helpers.

In these in te rcha nges th e helper sa ys what could ha ve bee n sa id b y th e client. Ea ch resp o n se sta ys with in the immediate fr ame o f re fe re nc e of

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PART TWO BASIC COMMUNICATION SKILLS

the 'clie n t. The client's response to the helper's empathy is given to un? derscore the fact that there is no such thing as an empathic response that is good in itself. The purpose of empathy is both to help the client feel understood and to help the client move on. The technology of basic empathy involves translating your under? standing of the client's experiences, behaviors, and feelings into a re? sponse that shares that understanding with the client. For instance, if a student comes to you, sits down, looks at the floor, hunches over, and haltingly tells you that he has just failed a test, that his girlfriend has told him she doesn't want to see him anymore, and that he might lose his part-time job be cause he has been "goofing off," you might respond to him by saying something like this:
You feel preuy miserable right now because you've been deserted and because you've done yo u rself in on your job. CLIENT : I keep kicking m yself be cause I've been so blind and stupid. Damn!
/-IELPER :

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CHAPTER FOUR EMPATHY Al'\D PROBING

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On<:(: You feci \ 'OLI have identified the core messages , you check out your u')(ierstanding with the client. The formula, "You feel , . . because .. ." (USed in the first of the two examples above) gets at the heart of the technology in the communication of basic empathy. Feelings. "You feel .. . " is to be followed by the correct family o f emo? tions and the correct intensity For instance, the statements "You feel hurt," and "You feel relieved, " and "You feel great " specify different families of emotion, while the statements " Yo u feel annoyed," "You feel angry," and "You feel furious" specify different degrees of iniensiu within the same family. The emotions a client expresses in the interview mayor may not be the ones associated with the problem situations. For instance, in the interview a client rna~' express anger over the fact that he gives in to fear when talking with his father. If your empathic response picks up the fear but not the anger, the client may feel misunderstood. " Yo u feel angry becanse vou let fear get the best of you in your interactions with vour father" is the correct response. There is a difference between clients ' talking a/}(IIII feelings and emotions t hat took place in the past and their /'xjJressilig feelings and emotions in the interview, Experiences and behaviors. The "because . . , " is 10 be I'ollo\\'ed by an indication of the experiences and/or beha viors that u nderJie the clienr, feelings . "You feel angn' because he stole your course nOles and vou lei him get 'I\\"ay with it" specifics both the experience and the behavior (ill this case , a Ltilure to act) that give rise to the feeling , " Yo u feci sad be cause moving means leaving all your friends."
"You feci anxious because the results of the biopsy aren 't in yet. "
" Yo u feel frustrated because the social scrvices center keeps making
you do things vou don 't want to do ." " Yo u feel annOl'ed with yourself because you didn 't even reach the simple goals vou set for voursell. " " Yo u feel hopelcss because even your best efforts don't seem to help }'OU lose '"eight." "You feel relieved because sticking to the regime of diet and exercise means that you probably won 't need the operation," "You feel angn' with me because J keep pushing all the responsibilin onto you." Of course, the exact words of the formula are not important: the~' merei, provide a framework for communicating understanding to the client. Tiiough many people in training use the formula to help themselves communicate understanding of core messages , experienced helpers tend to avoid formulas and use whatever wording best conH'ltll1icates their

You see that he is both agitated and depressed (affect) and you under? stand in an initial fashion what has happened to him (experiences) and what he has done (behaviors) to contribute to the problem situation, and then you communicate to him your understanding of his world. This is basic ernpathv. If your perceptions are correct, it can be called accurate empathy. In this example the client's story contains all three elements: experience, behavior, and feeling. Or let us say that a client. after a few sessions with vou spread out over six months, says something like this :
(talking in an animated way): I really think thinf;s co u ld n 't be better. I'm doing very well at III I" new job and my husband is not .iIISt putting up with it-he thinks it's great! /-I c and I are gelling alon g better than ever, even sexually, and I never expected that. We're both working at our marriage, I guess I'm just wairing fo r the bubble to burst. /-IELPER: Things are going so 1\'e11. especially with vourjob and in your marriage , that it seem s almost too good to be true . CLIENT : I can make it be true. I ca n sec now that it's not just ,1 question of luck , I used to think that most of life was a question of luck ,
Cl.IE'\T

This client, too, talks about experiences and behaviors and express(" feelings, the flavor of whi ch the helper captures in her empathic IT , sponse. The response se ems to be a useful one, because the client move? on .
THE CORE MESSAGE

In order to respond cmpaihically, you can ask yourself as you listen til the client: What is the curl' message or messages being expressed in terms 01 feelings and the experiences and behaviors that underlie these feeling~ "

CHAPT?R FOUR EMPATHY AND PROBING
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PART TWO BASIC COMMU NICATIO N SKILLS

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understandi"(J ' As Berger (1984) notes, empathy is contextual and in? tegrating. Any given empathic response is not based solely on the client's words and nonverbal behavior. It takes into account everything that has happened in the helping relationship up to this point; everything that "su rro u n d s" a client's statement.

haviors underlying the feelings. While this might ordin. ) be the best kind of response, helpers may want to emphasize feelings or experiences or behaviors, C onsider the following example . CLlEI'\T: This week I tried 10 get my wife to see the doctor, but she refused, even though she fainted a couple of times, The kids were out of school, so the)' were underfoot almost constantly, 1 haven't been able to finish a repon my boss expects from me next Monday. COl.!~S?1.0R: It's been a lousv week , CLI?~T: When things are lousy at home and at work, th ere's no other place for me to relax , I'm beginning to see why some men have mistresses, It's not just the sex : it's a haven, Here the counselor chooses to emphasize the feelings of the client be? cause she believes that what is uppermost in his consciousness right now are his feelings of frustration and irritation, The emphasis with another client might be quite different: CLI?NT: 111)' dad vcllccl at me all the time last year about how 1 dress , But just last week 1 heard him telling som eone hOI,' nice I looked . He veils at 1Il1 sister about t hc same things he ignores when m)' vounger brother does them , Some? times he's real" nice with m)' mother and other times he's just awlul-c-de? manding, grouchy, sarcastic. COUNSEI.OR: It's his inconsistency that bothers you , C:1.I?I'\T: Right. it's hard lor all of us to know where I\'C stand , I hale cOllling horne whe n I'm nOI sure which "clad" will be there , III this response the counselor emphasizes the client's experien ce of his Lither, for she feels that this is the core of the client's message, The point is that effective helpers use a variety of empathi c responses to help clients explore themselves more thoroughly . The principal question to address is always what the client's core message is, If the client is easilv threatened by a discussion of his or her feelings, Hackney and Cormier (I ~179) suggest that . in responding . the helper start by emphasizing experiences and behaviors and proceed only grad? ually to a discussion of feelings, Furth ermore. the authors suggest that one potential wa v of' getting at such a clicnts feelings is to have the helper say what he or she might feel in similar circumstances, C1.IFST: My mother is alwavs trving to make a liule kid out of me, And I'm in my mid-thirties! Last week , in front of a group of my friends, she brought out my rubber boots and an umbrella and gave me a liule talk Oil how to dress for bad weather, (:(ll':"SELOR: If she had t rcat ed me that wa)'. 1 think 1 probably would've been pretty angry , LI,IE:"T: It's hard for me 10 get angry with her, . , or, at least it's hard to talk about gelling angry \\'ith her,

Reasons for Becoming Good at Empathy
I n interpersonal communication, empathy is a tool of civility . Making an
effort to enter the frame of reference of another transmits a message of
respect. Em pathy is also an u nobt rusive tool for helping clients to explore
themselves and their problem situations . The understood client is influ?
enced to move on, to explore more widely or more deeply. Empathv can
play an important part in establishing rapport with clients, and since it
is a way of staying in touch with clients and their experiences, behal'iors ,
and feelings, it can provide support throughout the helping process. It
is never wrong to make sure that you are in touch with the frame of
reference of the client. Finally, empathy acts as a kind of a communi?
cations lubricant; it encourages and facilitates dialogue .
There are certain criteria for judging the quality of empathic re ?
sponses . First , they are effective if they help develop and maintain a
good working relationship with th e client. Second, thev are effective ii
they help the client explore the problem situation in terms of relevan t
experiences. behaviors, and feelings more Iul!v. Consider the fol1oll'in~
int erchange between a trainee and her trainer.

TR.-\I~Er:

1 dont think I'm going 10 make a good rounscior. The other people
in the progral11 seem bright er th an I am, Others seem to be picking up tlll"
knack 01 empathy faster than 1 am , 1'111 still afraid of responding dire cilv '"
others, even wuh empath\ , 1 have to rcevaluatv 1111' pani cipatipn in t lu
program,

TR.-\I~ER: You're feeling prellI' inadequate and it's gelling YOU down . perhap ' TRAI~r:E: And vet 1 kno\\' that gil'ing up is pan
1"111

even enough to think of quilling,

ofi hc problem, pan of 1111' sivl .: not the brightest. but )'111 certainly not dumb either. The \\'ay I comp.u mvseli to others is not very useful. 1 know thai I've been picking up sunK" , the skills; 1 do auend and listen wel l. I'm perceptive. c\'en though .u iin ?: have a hard tim e sharing my perceptions with others ,

When the trainer "hits the mark, " the trainee moves fOl"l\ard and explOIt " her problem a bit more fully, Empathy as a wav or "being with " (l\ lIl 'l ' 1 is a human value and needs no justification, but empathy as a COllIIII1 nication skill is instrumental-that is, good-to the degree it helps a ('lil'll: persist in the helping process and move on toward problem managemcu' In most of the examples gi\'en so far, the helper has responded I , both affect and content; to both feelings and the experiences and I"

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Since this c

:t d o c s n ot fe e l she h as be en acc used o f bein g a ng r ~' with h er m oth er , she is bette r d ispo sed to talk abo u t h er m o re se ns iti ve

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fe el ings. Fo r so me clients, fe ar of intimacy is p art of th e p robl em situa tio n . T h is ca n includ e th e kind of inti m a c)' inv ol ved in th e helpin g process . S ince e m pa thy is a kin d o f int imacy LOO much e m pa t hy 100 soon ca n inhi bit rathe r th an fa cil itate h elp in g. Warmth , clo sene ss, a nd intim acy a rc not goa ls in th em sel ve s. T h e goa l o f Stage I is 10 h elp clie nts ex p lore them sel ves a n d th eir p r obl em s. If e m p a thy , or LOO mu ch e m pa thy to o soo n, sta n ds in th e \I'a y of th is g oa l, it sh ould be a vo ided . ' Empath y is important for th e movement it brin g s to th e hel pin g p ro ce ss. If it is u sed well b y help ers, clie nts ex p lore their ex pe r ie nces . be h avio rs, a n d fee lings , a nd better und erstan d th e re la tio ns h ips a mo ng a ll thre e . Fi gure 4-1 ind ica tes thi s m ov ement both when h elpers a re on th e mark a nd wh en th cv fail to g ras p wh at th e client has ex p resse d. II' the helper's e m pa th ic respon se is accu ra te. the cli ent o fte n tend s to co n fir m its a c? curacy bv a 110<1 o r so m e o t hc r nonverbal cue o r 1)\' ;1 ph ra se suc h as " tha t's ri gh t" or "ex actly." Thi s is foll()\I'ed bv a fu rt he r. usu allv more s pecific , el a borat ion o f th e problem situ a tio n .
So th e ne ighborh o o d in whi ch YOI! live p us hes Hil i io ward a who le vari ci v or be ha vio rs il uu Gin gel yo u in uoubl? . C l.IE:-\T: Yo u be l it does! Fo r in st an ce. l' I '<.'I "\O I1(,\ se lling d ru gs . You nut o u lv e nd u p usin g them . hut yo u hegin 10 th ink a ho ul p us h ing the-m . li' sj u st 100
H ELI' !:R:

Wh en th e h elper is Jess th an acc u ra te, a ll is n ot lo st. ,,\' sim ila r cycle ca n tak e pl a ce , but this time the cli ent fir st ind icat es in so me ve r ba l or n on verbal way th at the help e r ha s n ot hit th e m ark , m odifi e s o r co r rec ts wh at th e helper h as sa id , a nd fin all y e la bora tes . In the fo llowin g exa m ple , th e cl ie nt is a survivor of a Hash Ho od th at d e st ro yed h is h o m e . So you d on't want to d o a lot of thin gs you used to do befo re the Hood. Fo r instance , yo u don't want 10 socia lize mu ch any mo re . CU E1\T (pa using a lon g time ): Well , I'm not su re th at it'S a question of wantin g to or not, I mean th at it takes m uc h mo re ene rgy to do a lot of thing s. It takes so mu ch e nergy to ph one othe rs to get togeth e r. It takes so mu ch ene rg\' some times being with others th at I just d on 't tr y. It's as if th ere's a weigh t on m y shou ld ers a 101 of the tim e .
HEL PER :

A cli ent says th at it is n ot a questi on o f m otivation but o ne of e ne rgy. Th e di ffe r ence is important. If yo u a re e m pa t h ic in th e wa y yo u p res ent yo u rself to clients, th e y will n ot be put o ff b y occa sio na l in accuracies o n yo u r p art.

Some Hints for Improving the Quality of Empathy
Give yourself time to think. Be ginners so me tim es jump in 100 qu ickl, wit h an e m pa t hic res po ns e wh en th e client p au ses . "Too qu ickl y" m e a ns that th e y d o n ot g ive th e ms el ve s en ou gh tim e to r e flec t o n wh at th e cl ient ha s ju st sa id in order to ideru ifv th e core message bein g co m m u nic a te d , As m enti on ed e a rl ie r . Ca r l Rogers (Roge rs, Perl s. & Ellis. 1965), who pi on e ered th e u se o f acc u ra te e m pathy in th e h elpin g pro ce ss, u s~ s ba sic e m pa thy m a st erfull y in o n e of hi s tra inin g film s. In hi s interacti on s with the cli ent , h e alwavs g ives him self time to assim ila te a n d refl e ct o n wh at the cli ent says before r espon d in g . S ince he a tte n ds a n d listen s care fu llv and th en gi \'es himsel f time 10 formulate a re sponse , h is r espon ses a re most th ou ghtful. Yo u may n o t find it easy to p ause a n d refl ect befo re res pon d ing , Durin g th e p ause , \ OU ca n as k yo u rs e lf, " W ha t feelin g s is thi s p erson ex p ressing?" " W ha t is the core m e ssage ?" Th is d o e s n ot m e an lo sin g yo u r s po nta neity . You sho u ld sp e a k u p a n y tim e yo u think yo u ca n h el p , eve n if it m e an s " int erruptin g " th e cli en t. In th e film , Ro gers g ive s th e client so me sig n, e ither verbal o r n onverbal. th at h e would lik e to re ? sp o n d . For in stan ce , h e sa vs " Le t m e se e if I'v e go t wh at yo u' r e say ing ." Use short respon ses. I find th at th e h elp in g p roce ss goes be st whe n I e n gage th e clie n t in a dialog ue, n ot wh en I m ake s peeches o r all ow th e client to ramble . I n a d ial ogu e th e h elper's re sp onses a rc r el ativel y fr e ? quent but th e y sho u ld a lso be le an and t r im . In tr yin g to be a ccurate . th e be ginn er m a y be come lon gw ind e cl, so me times s pea king longe r th an th e cli ent in tryin g to e la bora te a n a de q ua te r e s p on se. Thi s 01't en h appen s whe n th e h elper trie s to res pon d too quickl y.

ca sv.

Wh en th e helper agai n r e sponds with e m pa i hv. thi s lead s 10 th e ne xt cycle. T he p ro blem situa tio n becomes in lTe asin gl y clea r in lerm s of s pe ? cific ex pe r iences. beha viors. a n d feeli ngs.

!
Accurate Some Verbal or Nonverbal Co nfirma tion of Accuracy Further Clarifi cation and Elaboration

Helper's Empa thic Response

_

1

~

In accurate Som e Verb al or Nonverbal Indication of Inaccura cy , Restatement. Modification, or Correction ?; ' Furt her Empathi c Resp onse

~

t

t

I

.

I

Figure 4-1. T he

1ll<l\ '(, 1l1C Il I

ca u se d h y ac(' ura te a nd inaccu rat e e lll pa lll\'

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\

CLIEST: I have never been very spontaneous in social situations. Since I'm shy, I kind of stand off to th e side and wait LO see how I ca n get into the conver? sation. As a result, the conversation often passes me by when I'm read y to say something. Then I'm not even at the same place in the conversation as the others . I've been inside myself and don't know what's been going on . C:on;SELOI{ Uumping in right away): You're really shy and that cuts down on your spontaneity . It sh ows up especially when a group is standing around lalking. You are listening all right : yo u know what people are saying, BUI then you begin LO ask you self. "What should I say? I shouldn't stand around here dumb." But by the time you think of what to say, it's jusl LOO late, No, it's worse than that. N ow you 've lost the thread of the conversalion and it's twice as hard trying to get back in. Your shyness backfires on YOU in more than one way .
CLIEST: Uh, yeah .. . . I guess that's it. . . .


COU:-':SELOR : You 're mad because she seems unfair in the wav

Sl.~'

picks on you,

The helper's choice of 1"OrdS reflects his or her ability to assume the client's frame of reference. However, use caution : helpers should not adopt language far from their own just to be on the client's wavelength. Imagine a middle-class probation officer responding in the following manner to a client who is tempted to steal in order to payoff a debt to someone he fears .
HELPER: Unless you find some bread, man, that eat 's going
to

get you wasted,

Helpers can use informal language without adoping dialects that are simply not their own .

This response might be accurate, but it is probably not very facilitative . It places the focus on the counselor's attempts to understand rather than on the client 's self-exploration . The result is that the client is smothered by all that the helper has to say, becomes lost and confused , and finds it difficult to move forward. The client can even end up trving to un? derstand the helper. Again, the question "What is the core of what this person is saying to me?" can help you make your responses short. con? crete, and accurate . i\;ote, however, that since you cannot respond t(J everything the client says and since yOU are making a judgment as to what the central messages are, you are providing direction in the helpinc process. That is, even in your empathic responses you are providin g social influence. This underscores how important it is to listen carefull: and stay close to the experience of the client. Gear your response to the client. If a client speaks animatedly witl: the helper . telling her of his elation over various successes it; his life . and she replies accurately, but in a flat, dull voice, her response is 1101 fully empathic. This does not mean that helpers should mimic then clients. It means that part of being with the client is sharing in a r('<I ' son a ble I,'ay in his or her emotional tone. Helpers are also more empathi' when their language is in tune with the language of the client. Consicl c: the following somewhat extreme example,
TE t'-\'EAI{-Ol.!J CLIfST: M\' teacher started picking on me from the first day ..: class. I don't fo ol around any more th an anyone else in class, but she gets In, anvtime I do. I think she's picking on me because she doesn't like me . SII ' doesn't yell at Bill Smith and he act s funnier than I do, COL ';-;SELOI{ : You 're perplexed , You wonder \,'hy she singles you out for so mil' J discipline ,

Some Common Problems in Communicating
Basic Accurate Empathy

Though man~' of the following problems affect the beginning helper, they are not restricted to beginners .
USING POOR SUBSTITUTES FOR EMPATHY

There are a number of poor substitutes for empathy. Peter. the client in the next example. is a college freshman . This is his second visit to a counselor in the student services center. After talking about a number of concerns, he says
PETER (speaking in halting voice as he looks at the floor and clasps his hands tightly between his knees) : What seems to be reall y bothering me is a problem with sex . I don 't even know whether I'm a man or not and I'm in college. I don't go out with women my age. I don't even think I wan! to , I may . . , well, I may even be gay. . , , Uh , I don 't know,

The following are examples of poor responses.
.\'0 response , First of all. the counselor might say nothing. Cenerally. if the client says something significant, respond to it, however briefly .

The counselor's response is accurate in a sense, but it is not the kind, .: language that commun icates understanding to a 10-year-old. The (" lowing response would have have much more meaning for the child
<'

Otherwise the client might think that what he or she hasjust said doesn 't merit any kind of response . :\ question. The counselor might ask something like , "How long has this been bothering you, Peter?" This response ignores the emotion Peter is experiencing. Since a question elicits further information , it implies that Peter has not said anything worth responding to. Probing is in order only after significant messages have been understood . .-\ cliche. The counselor might say, "Many people struggle with sexual identity throughout their lives." This is a cliche. It completely misses the feelings of the client and deals only with the content of his state? ment, and even then onlv in the vaguest way. The impact of such a

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109

response is _.~ don 't really have a problem at all-at least not a serious one." An interpretation. A counselor might say something like, "This sexual thing is probably really just a symptom , Peter. I've got a hunch that you're not really accepting yourself." This is a poor and misplaced attempt to offer advanced empathy. The counselor fails to respond to the client's feelings and also distorts the content of the communication. The response implies that what is really important is hidden from the client. Moving to action. Another counselor might say. "There are a fe\\ ' vi? deotapes on sexuality during the college years that I'd like to have you take a look at." This counselor also ignores Peter's feelings and jumps to an action program in sex education . It well may be that Peter could use some good input on sexual development , but this is neither the time nor way to do it. All of these responses are poor substitutes for empathy. A more skilled counselor might have said something like this:
COUr-:SELOR :

\

Pretending to understand. Sometimes helpers find it \cult to un? derstand what their clients are saying even when they are attending fully and listening intently. Clients are sometimes confused, distracted, and in a highly emotional state; all those conditions affect the clarity of what they are saying about themselves. On the other hand, counselors them? selves might become distracted and fail to follow the client. If that hap? pens, it is best not to feign understanding; that's phony , Genuineness demands that the)' admit they are lost and then work to get back on the track again. "I think I've lost you. Could we go over that once more?" If the counselor is confused, it is all right to admit his or her confusion. "I'm sorry. I don 't think I got what you just said . Could we go through it a bit more slowly>" Such statements are signs that the counselor thinks it is important to stav with the client. They indicate respect and caring, Admitting that one is lost is infinitely preferable to such cliches as " u h? huh," "urnmmm." and "I understand." Ifhelpers feel that they do not quite understand what clients are trying to express. they should be tentative in their responses a nd give their clients room to move. In the following example, the helper is tentative and so the client, a teacher haYing trouble in the classroom. feels free to correct her and give her a clearer pi cture of what he means, YOII seem to be sa\'ing thai vour students don't trust \OU beCIUSl' your emot ionx change so much lrom cl.rv !o day . Is it somcthing like Ihat~ CI.lE!\'T: Well. Ihat's p<lrlly it. But I also t hink (hat the mood of the CLISS change, from da\" 10 day. so there are Illany davs when my emoi ionx and theirs just don ' I seem !O mix.
COUr-.:SEI.OR:

You've got a lot of misgivings about JUS! where you stand with yourself sexu ally, but it's not easy 10 talk about it. PETER: I'm ha\ 'ing a terrible time talking about it. I'm even shaking right now.

This counselor responds with basic empathy. It gives the client the op? portunity to deal with his immediate anxiety.
COUNTERFEITS OF ACCURATE EMPATHY

Some responses look something like basic empathy but are really dis? tortions of it. Inaccurate empathy. Sometimes helpers' responses are simplv inac? curate because they fail to attend and listen well. Consider the fo)]o\\'ing response to Peter.
COU"'SELOR:

This client reels that he ' has ronm to move. The counselor's tentative response helps him clarifv what he IllcallS. Brammer (I ~17;)) calls this process of checking with the client whene ver you are confused or unsure "perception checking" (p . H6). Parroting. A ccurate empathy is not me re parroting. The mechanical helper corrupts basic emp.uhv 1)\· simpl y restating wh.n the client has said. I feel prcuv lo\\' because all mv children ha ve lcl: honn- and now I'm lon elv. wit h nOlhing to do , COlJr-.:SEl,OR: You feel 10\\' because the children are gone, you 're all alone, and you ha\T nothing 10 do ,
CLJE:\T:

You're eager to stan exploring your sexual preferences and make some decisions ,

Peter is not eager and has said nothing about making decisions . All helpers can be inaccurate at times. If any given response is ina ccurate, the client often lets the counselor know in a variety of ways: he or she may stop dead, fumble around, go off on a new tangent, tell the counselor "That's not exactly what I meant," or even try to provide ernpathv for the counselor and get him or her back on the track . Even the best helpers can miss the mark . What can counselors do about inaccuracy- The y must learn to pick up cues from their clients that indicate that they have been inaccurate and then work to get back "with" the client.

The effective counselor is always looking for the core of what is being ex p r e sse d bv the client; he or she becomes expert in ferreting out that co re and co m m u n ica tin g it to the client. Empathy. then. is not mere repct it ion. The effective counselor tries to communicate understanding rather than simplv mirror what the client has said.

I IU

PA RT TWO

ll A SI C COMM UN ICAT IOr-.: S K I L LS

CHAPTER FO U R E M PAT H Y AN t) PROBING

III
I

Man y pe o F 'se th e terms empath...,. an d reflection or rephrasing inter? c h a ngea bly. Whil e rephrasin g is not the sa m e as parroting, I se e a dis? tinct ion between reph rasing an d em path )'. W h e n I list en to a client a nd :"'eep a sking mysel f su ch qu estion s as " W h a t is this p erson 's point of view ?" and " W ha t a r e th e core mes sa ges in what thi s person is sa ying ?" I am enga ged in a p roce ss th at is m ore th an m ere r efl e ction . Wh en I am e m pa thic, I am sharing a part of myself-that is, m y understandin g o f the o ther person . Th is is n ot to say that re p h rasi n g an d refl ection are not us e fu l fo r ms o f communi catio n . But e m pa th y, in the sense that Roge rs ( 1980) us e s the term , is so m et h in g more. It see ms that th ere are in d ivid u a l d ifferen ces in the rol e-takin g abilit ies that a re cen tral to e m pa t hy (Epste in, 1972 ; Ham , 1980 ; H ogan , 1969 ). T h a t is, all peo p le a r e n ot e q ua l in th e awareness di m e n sio n o f this skill.
[I]t see ms q u ite reaso nable to ex pec t that some counse lo rs' ro le-ta king em? pat hic a bilities a re more "c h ild like" th a n "adu ltlike ." Altho ugh th ey mav have th e intell ectual ca pa city ... th ey a re still en e rgeticall y eg ocentric. In this sense th ey are acting like yo u ng ch ild re n. Ass u mi ng thi s to be tru e, it sho uld no t sur prise us that so me th erapist s a re not easily a ble to learn e m path ic respon ses (G ladstein , 19H3. p . 4 77) .

\

? Box 4-1. Suggestions for the Use of Basic Empathy

i

This sq u a res with my o wn e x p erien ce . H ow ever, e ve n those who have m o ve d beyond egoce n trici t y will n o t learn the sk ill well unless it beco m es part o f their day- to-day co m m u n ica tio n styl e . Doing th e e xe rc ise s in the manu al th at a cco m pa n ies thi s boo k a n d pra cticin g in co u nselor-traini ng g ro u ps can h elp , but is not e no u g h to in corporat e empathy in to on e's co m m u n ica tio n style , Empath y that is trotted out , as it we re , fo r hel pin g e nco u n te rs r u n s th e d an ger o f h avin g a h oll ow r ing to it. As important as the co m m u n ica tio n skill o f ernpathv is. it is o nlv o n e a mo ng a number of skills. If ove r used , it ca n cont r ib u te to th e client's revi ewing th e sam e issu es o ve r a n d over aga in. Id eally, h elpers a re people who a p p rec ia te empath y as a "way of being" a nd \\'1 10 in corpo r at e it into thei r pro fe ssion al lives. T h e act u a l u se o f the co m m u n ica tio n sk ill is ge a re d to th e need s of th e client. B ox 4- 1 su m marize s th e ess ential uses of basic em path y.

I. Remember th ai e mpa thy is, idea lly, a "way o f bei ng" and not j ust a p rofessional rol e or co m m u n ica tio n skill. 2, Att end ca refu lly, both ph ysicall y and psych ol o gicall y, a nd listen to th e clie n t's po int of view, 3. Try to se t asid e yo ur biases an d judg ments for th e moment an d walk , as it were , in the shoes o f your client . 4. As the clie nt spea ks, listen fo r the core me ssages, 5. Listen to both ve r bal a nd non verbal messages and their co n te xts. 6. Resp ond fairl y fr equ entl y, but b rie fly, to th e clie n t'score messa ges. 7. Be flexi ble and tentative enou gh so th at th e clie n t d oes not feel pinned d o wn . 8. Be gentl e, but kee p th e client focu sed on important issu es. 9. Respon d 10 th e main features o f co re me ssa ges--experien ces , behav? iors, a nd feelin gs-unless th ere is rea so n for e mphasizing o ne over th e oth e rs. 10. Grad ua lly move toward the exp lo ra tion of se ns it ive iopics and feelings . II. Afte r respondin g with e m pa th y. a ue nd carefu lly 10 cues that ei t he r co nfir m or den )' the accuracv o r you r respo nse . 12. Determine wh e th er vo ur e mpa t h ic res ponses arc helpin g th e clie n t rem ain focused , whil e de ve lo p ing a nd cla rirying im portant issu e s. 13. No te sign s or clie n t stress o r re sistance. T r y to j ud ge wh ether th ese arise becau se yo u are inaccu rat e o r beca use yo u a rc too acc u rate . 14. Keep in m ind th at ih e co m m u n ica tio n skill o f crn p.uhy, ho wever im? porta nt, is a 10 01 to help clien ts sec themselve s a nd their p roblem situat iou s more clcarlv wit h a vic? 10 ma nagin g th e m 1110re etTcni vcly.

skill. Prompts a nd p robes are ve rba l ta cti cs fo r h elpin g clie nt s tal k a bo u t th emsel ve s and defin e th e ir problems m ore co ncre te ly an d sp ec ilicallv. As su c h, they ca n be u sed in all th e sta ges of th e h elping process . Th e y ca n tak e di ff e r ent form s.
STATEMENTS THAT ENCOURAG E CLI ENTS TO T ALK A N D CLARI FY

? Probes
In m ost o f the e xampl es u sed in th e disc ussio n o f e rn pa t hv . clients ha ve dem o nstrat ed willin gness to ex plore th emselves and their behavior rath er free ly. O bvious ly, t his is n o t a lways th e case. Whi le it is esse nt ial that helpe rs respond e m pa th ica lly to th eir client s wh en they do re ve al th em? sel ves, it is a lso n ecessa r y at times to en coura ge o r prompt clients to ex p lore pro blem situ a tions -vhen th ey' fail to do so spo nta n eo us ly. Th ere ? fo r e, the abilit y to use 'p ro m p ts and probes well is an other important

Some pe ople th ink th at all p ro lll p tS and probes a r c qu esti on s, Th is need n ot be th e case a t a ll. T oo m am q uestions can g ive a cl ie nt the fe el ing o f bein g "g r illed. " St atem en ts an d requ ests ca n be u sed to help cl ie n ts talk a n d cla r ify relevant issu es. Fo r e x am ple , a n inv olunuirv cl ien t lIla y com e in a n d th en ju st sit th ere a nd fum e .
H ELPER :

I ca n see th at vo ure a ngl"\'. hu t

1'1l1

nOI en tirely su re \"h a l iis abo ut.

Su ch st at ement s of th eir ve rv nature m a ke some d emand O i l th e client either to talk or to become mo re specific. Th e y ca n r el at e ( 0 till' cl ie n t' s e xperien ces, beh avi ors, fe elin gs . or anv co m b ina tio n o r th e thre e , Aga in, cl ie n ts' experiences a r e w ha t th e y see as happenin g to them ,

II:!

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113

HU,PER:

I re : now that you often get angry when your mother-in-law stays
lor more than a day, but I'm still not sure what she does that makes you
angry,
You feel trapped in the ghetto and want to get out. Mavbe you could
iell me wha: it is about living there thai gets 10 you the most.


\

HFI,PI',R :

I feel certain that we ask too many questions, often meanin ,~ ones , We ask questions that confuse the interviewee. that interrupt him, ''I'e ask questions the interviewee cannot possibly answer. We even ask questions we don 't want the answers to, and , consequently, we do not hear the answers when forth? coming [Benjamin, 19HI. p. 71; the author devotes an entire chapter 10 the question, its uses, and his misgivings about it].

In these examples the helper's statements place a demand on the client

10 clarify tilt' experien ces that give rise to certain behaviors and feelings .


Clients ' behaviors are w hat the y do or nIH/in [rom doing :

H U ,Pf:R: The Sundays your h usband exercises his visiting rights with the children
end in his taking verbal pot shots at yOll and you get these headaches. 1\,<:
got a fuirlv clear picture of what he does when he comes over. but it might
help if vou co u ld describe what you do,

HELPER:

When the diagnosis of cancer came in two weeks ago. IOU said that
\,oUII'Cl'e both relieved , because vou knell' wh.u you had to face , and depressed .
You've me-ntioned that your behavior has been a bit chaotic since then , '1'<:11
me wh.u vouve been doing,


In these instan ces the helper encourages clients to describe their behavior
as a way of bringing greater clarity to t he problem situation .
A/li,(! refers to theJr/'liugl and emotions clients experience .

HELPER :

So h,. got th e job you worked lour tail oil' loi , and I'OU sllspeCi ih.u
vour being a II'om ,1I1 has a 101 10 do with ir. I imagine thai a numbe-r or reelings
have been bouncing around inside )'OU this past week.


HLI.I'LR:

Wh en vou uilk alxnu vou rwilc and what she does , I'OUIISC Iairlv posiliH'
emotions . For instance , \'011 "a p p rc ci.uc '' it when she points out 11'11,11 IOU do
IITong . I haven 't heard , II I \, negalil,(, or fixed reelillgs )( '1 : 11I;II'be it'~ be cause
there are none ,


The helper provides these clients with an oppori unitv to discuss the
feelings that arise iron: t hcir experiences and behaviors .

QUESTIONS THAT HELP CLIENTS TALK MORE FREELY AND CONCRETELY

Turning questions into statements such as those in the previ ous section helps, Statements are gentler forms of probes than questions , but even probing statements should not be overused . Second, remember that the goal of questioning is to help the client get clear information that is related to the step of the helping process involved . Some helpers use questions to amass information , mu ch of which proves to be irrelevant. Helpers who ask too many questions are often meeting their own needs or working under the assumption that information so amassed will lead in and of itself to more effective man? agement of the problem situation. Third, when you feel that a question is called for, generally ask open? ended questions-that is. questions that require more than a simple "yes" or "no" or similar one-word answer, Not , "Now that you 've decided to take earlv retirement, do you have an , plans?" but, "!\OII' that vou'vr? decided to take earlv retirement. what do vou plan to do ?" Counselors who ask closed questions to which clients respond with one-word answer-, find themse!v'es asking more and more questions. This is often a problem for beginners . Of course. if a specific piece of information is needed . then a closed question l1la~' be used: "How nl,lIly jobs have you had in the past two vears- " Such a question could provide essential background information in a career-counseling session. The point here is not ques? tions in and ofthemselves but hOI'\' thev can promote or hinderthe overall helping process . Too manx questions can turn the helping interview into a boring question-and-ansll'er session. One possibility is to h ave clients ask relevant questions of themselves.
CO!Jr\SELOR :

\\'hal are some of the questions you need to ask yourself if you're to understand II'hal's happening between you and vour husband a lillie
beuer- "
t hin k I'd have 10 ask mvself, "What do you do that makes drink all t hc iimc-" Th.u? a scary question lor m e,

Notice that the stat ements in the previous section could have been put
in the form of questions . For instance, "I imagin ? i h.u a number of
feelings have been bouncing around inside you this P;I~ l week" could
have been , " W h a t kinds of kelings have been !H'lln cin g around inside
you this past week r" The folloll'ing guide-lines can he- us ed when asking
questions ,
First , when client s are asked too manv questions . it c<In interfere with
the rapport between helper and client.


Cl.IfST: Hnuuni . I

him want

10

You can help clients ask relevant, even "impertinent" questions of them selves . Questions are useful when vou are not following what the client is sa Ylllg.
HELPER :

I didn 't follo?: the last part. Could

\'(HI

go o ver

il OIlC,'

more>

114

PART T'N O

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C H A PT E R FO UR

E M I' A T H Y A N D PROBING

I J5

\
" H El.I' ER: Co u la .o u d escri b e how yo u feel o nce more ? I'm not sure th at I understand , w he n I su gge st so me th ing d oing , CLIE!'!': H El.PER CU E:-':T: yea rs
(0

d o , it' s lik e I hav e

10

prov e

to

him th at it's worth

,So me helpers, em ba rrassed by the fact that the y ha ve not understood th e client, pret end that th ey have , Such an approach is neither genu in e nor , practical. Obviousl y a n o ve ru se o f requests for clarification is dis ? tr acting a nd makes the helper lo ok inept. Hackney a nd Cormier ( 19 79) suggest tWO other probe-type helper res po nses that ca n co nt r ib u te to uncovering relevant information : th e "accent" and "m in im al prompts,"
TH E "ACCENT"

I don 't kn ow if I ca n tell yo u thi s, I haven 't rold a nyo ne , maintain s good ere co n tac t a n d lean s fo rward a b it . Well. m y brother had se x ua l rel ati on s with me a few tim es a co u p le o f ago . I think a bo u t it a ll th e time .

"The accent is a one- o r two-w ord re statement that focuses or brin gs attention to a precedin g client response" (p, 52) ,
C LIENT: M}'son a nd I hav e a fairl y go od wo rkin g re la tions h ip now , even th ou gh I'm not ernirelv satisfied . H ELPER: Not entirclx sati sfied ? C LIENT: Well , I sho u ld probabl y say "di ssati sfied, " be cause , , . C LIENT: At th e e nd of th e day with th e kids a n d dinne r a n d cleanin g up I'm bushed, H ELPER: Bu sh ed: C LIENT: Tired . a ng r v, hurt-h e d oes practi call y nothin g to h elp me:

In th e last chapter it was su g gested that as a helper yo u become aw are of th e messag es > 'o ur nonverbal behavi o r communi cat es , Now you are enco ura ged to l/S{' nonverbal forms o f communication to prompt th e di en t to ex plore a nd co nc re tize the probl em situ ati on , Noti ce that minimal int erventions on the pan of co u n se lo rs h elp clients use th eir Ul ll lI in itiative to clarify what th e )' mean .

Some Cautions in the Use of Probes
It is probabl y d e ar that prompts a n d p robes, both ve r ba l a nd non ve rb al. Gin be overu sed to the d etrim ent of both ra p po rt a nd th e ga t h e ring o f relev ant information , As not ed in an earlier ch apter, "s elf- effi cacy" (Ba n? dura , 1~)77a, I ~) H~ ) or clien: sel f-respo ilsibilil>' is an id eal in the helpin g? pro cess, If yo u ex to rt information from client s via a co ns ta n t barrage o f probes and promp ts, i hev a rc unlik el y to take more a nd m ore respou ? sibilit > ' lor th e probl em -so!Y'ing and opport unit y-dc vc lo p me n t process, The y are likelv to see you as a demandin g pa re n t rath er than a collah? orative co ns u lta nt. Keep in mind IWo ge ne ra l prin cipl es : ( I) o nce yo u have used a prompt or p ro be . lei the clic n t i ak e the initiative in ex plo ring th e informati on it vie lds if a t all possibl e ; C~) .ilt e r using a probe , use basic emp.u hv rath e r than a no t he r probe or seri es of p robes a s a way o f e nco u rag ing fu rt he r e x plo ra tio n . Aft er a ll, if a probe is e ff ective , it will yield informati on th at ne ed s to be lisi eu cd to and understo od . Ca r kh u ff. in a workshnp , sllgg estl'c\ that if help ers find them selves a skin g t wo qu esti on s in a I'm,', it Illight just be that th e y have asked two stupid qu esti on s, Box 4 - ~ is a che-cklist for effecti ve probin g,

In these cases the "ac cent " hel ps clie n ts sa y more full y what th ev a re o n ly half sayin g,
MINIMAL PROMPTS

H ackney- and Co rm ier ( 197 9) a lso talk abo u t the "m in ima l ve rbal aciivitv" (p , 68) of th e helper. This includ e s su ch t.hin gs as "uh-huh ," "nlmn;, " "yes," "I see ," "ah .' "oh ," and the like , wh ich o fte n se rve as reinforcers o r prompts a nd lead th e client in to furth er explorati on . Part o f Carl Ro gers' approach to attendin g and listenin g, at least in his film s, is a fairl y ste ad y use o f such p rompts ,
C LIENT: Th ere a re a lot of thin gs I d on 'I like a bo u t thi s sc hoo!. (Pa us e)
H ELPER : LO b -h u h,
C LIENT: Fur in stan ce, th e food in t he ca fe te r ia is lousy ,


? Communication Skills: An Overall Caution
On e o f the rt';\son s 1 have se pa ra ted a di scussion o r the ba sic cornmu ? nic.ui on skills from the steps o f the helping process is that 1 fe el th at hel pers tend to ()\t'l id e l1l ih th e helpin g process with th e co m m u n ica tio n skills th at serv e- it. T hi s is (ru e not onl y or a u endin g. list enin g , ernp athv. and probing, but a lso of th e s kills of cha lle ng ing, whi ch will be treat ed

Minimal prompts can a lso be non verbal.
C LlE!'<T: H e ne ve r lets me hav e rnv way, W e a lway s d o wha t h e wants . (Pa use) H ELPER nod s he r h ead, C l.IENT: Well, I d on 't mean a lways , bUI wh en I want 10 d o so me thing my wav, I have to fighl for it. I go a lo n g with his su g gesti ons m ost o f the lime, bUI

11 6

PART " '''' 0

BASIC C O M MUN ICATI()~ S KI L LS

? Box 4-2. Suggestions For the Use of Probes
I, Keep in mind th e goa ls of pro bi ng: a. To help non assert ive or re luc ta nt clients tell their stories a nd e ngage
in other behavio rs relate d to th e helping process;
b. To help clie nts rema in focu se d o n relevant and important issu es: c. To help clien ts iden tify experie nces, behaviors , and feelin gs th at give
a full er picture of th e issue a t hand;
d . T o hel p clients u nd e rstan d th em selves and their problem situat ions
mo re fully.
2. Use a m ix of probing sta teme nts . o pe n-e nde d qu estio ns. acce nts. and
pr o mp ts.
3. Do nOI e ngage clients in qu est ion -and -an swe r sessio ns . 4. If a pro be hel ps a clie nt revea l rele van t infor ma tio n . fo llow it u p with
basic em pat hy ra ther th an a not he r prob e.
5. Use wha teve r j udicio us mix ture 0 1" e m pa thy a nd probi ng that is ne eded
to help clie nts cla rify proble ms. id eruilv blind spots . d e velo p new seen ?
ari as . sea rch for actio n stra tegies, formulaic pLIII S.a nd re view o utcomes
of action.
6, Remem ber th at pr o bin g is a co m m u n icat io n 1001 th at is effective to the
degree th at it serves th e helping process.


later on , H a vin g good co m m u n ica tio n skills is no t th e sa me as bei ng a good hel pe r. An overe mp hasis o n co mm u n ica tion skills can ma ke he lp in g lot s o f tal k a nd \'ery littl e act ion : techni que ca n repl ace subs ta nce . Co m? muni cati on ski lls are esse n tia l. of co u rse. bu t 111e\' Il1 US t a lways sene th e o u tco mes o f th e hel pin g process. Ea ch o f th e chap ters d escr ibin g the steps of th e he lping process will be g in with a review o f th e o u tco mes or acco m plishme n ts loo ked for in th at ste p . Th en \\'a ys of using con un u? nicati on skills to p roduce th ose o u tco mes will be illus tra te d .


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