Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Counseling Psychology & Community Services
The purpose of this study was to measure personality characteristics and empathic ability of masters level counseling students and then to determine the relationship of these dimensions to independent ratings of their counseling effectiveness. Relationships between personality characteristics and empathic ability were also examined as were differences in personality and empathy between more effective and less effective counselor groups.
The subjects were 34 masters level counseling students enrolled in their first counseling practicum. They completed Form A and Form B of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF), the measure of personality, and the Affective Sensitivity Scale, the measure of empathic ability. At the end of their practicum they submitted an audio tape recording of what they considered to be one of their better counseling efforts of the practicum experience.
From each tape submitted three segments of three minutes each were transcribed and placed in random order on a master tape. The three segments were taken from the first third, middle third, and last third of each tape. The segments were rated by three qualified judges trained in the use of an adapted form of Blocher’s (1968) scale, yielding five ratings for each segment including Role Adaptation, Cognitive Flexibility, Perceptual Sensitivity, Involvement with Client, and an Overall Rating.
Correlation coefficients were found among the 16PF scores, the Affective Sensitivity Scale scores, and the counselor effectiveness ratings. A stepwise backward multiple linear regression was computed to identify predictors of counselor effectiveness. Finally, t tests were applied to determine the significance of differences between the more effective and less effective counselor groups on the personality and empathy variables.
1. Fourteen significant correlations were found between personality characteristics and counselor effectiveness. Specifically, Factor A (Reserved vs Outgoing) correlated -.35 with Role Adaptation and -.34 with Involvement with Client. Factor G (Expedient vs Conscientious) correlated -.33 with Perceptual Sensitivity. Factor L (Trusting vs Suspicious) correlated .30 with Cognitive Flexibility, .35 with Perceptual Sensitivity, and .36 with Overall Rating of counselor effectiveness. Factor O (Placid vs Apprehensive) correlated .32 with Cognitive Flexibility, .36 with Perceptual Sensitivity, .37 with Involvement with Client, and .32 with Overall Rating of counselor effectiveness. Factor Q3 (Undisciplined Self-conflict vs Controlled) correlated -.36 with Perceptual Sensitiyity and -.32 with Involvement with Client and .29 with Overall Rating of counselor effectiveness.
2. Three significant correlations were found between empathic ability and counselor effectiveness. Empathic ability correlated .29 with Cognitive Flexibility, .36 with Perceptual Sensitivity and .30 with Overall Rating.
3. None of the correlations between personality and empathic ability was significant.
4. Three of the t values between the more effective and less effective counselor groups were found to be significant. The more effective counselors scored lower on Factor A (Reserved vs Outgoing), and higher on Factor L (Trusting vs Suspicious) and Factor O (Placid vs Apprehensive).
5. The stepwise backward elimination procedures identified several variables as significant predictors of counselor effectiveness. The best predictors were Factor A (Reserved vs Outgoing) and Factor L (Trusting vs Suspicious) of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, and empathic ability as measured by the Affective Sensitivity Scale.
The results were discussed in terms of their relationship to other research and in terms of their implications for counselor selection. In particular, the research findings of the present study on the 16PF were found to be in direct contrast to those of Myrick, Kelly and Wittmer (1972). The differences were attributed to the different methods of rating counselor effectiveness; the present study used independent judges whereas the Myrick study employed supervisors' ratings. The literature has suggested that independent ratings may be superior to supervisors' ratings.
The results also Indicated that the less effective counselors were more outgoing, more trusting, and more placid than those in the norms group for the 16PF and those classified as more effective counselors. It was suggested that individuals in counseling programs who are less effective counselors may deviate from the normal population in unrealistic and naive ways.
Finally, the Affective Sensitivity Scale showed promise as a predictor of counselor effectiveness and as a discriminator between more and less effective counselor groups. Most noteworthy, however, was the finding that empathic ability as measured by the Affective Sensitivity Scale was unrelated to personality as measured by the 16PF. In view of this finding, it was suggested that personality and empathic ability may be independent factors related to counselor effectiveness. The implications of this finding for counselor selection were drawn.
Brewer, Brian R., "Relationships among personality, empathic ability and counselor effectiveness" (1974). Theses and Dissertations. 453.