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(Dexter 2012)*

 Title:  Research synthesis with meta-analysis of empathy training studies in helping professions
DOI or Website Link:  
Authors: Victoria  Dexter, 
Date:   2012
Affiliation(s):  New York University,

"Research synthesis and meta-analysis were implemented to determine if training can increase empathy in helping professionals and to identify variables that influence outcome. Studies conducted with adult professionals or students were included from helping professions that viewed empathy as an essential relationship variable associated with positive client outcomes.

Eighty of the 94 studies in the research synthesis provided data for inclusion in the meta-analysis.

Didactic with experiential training produced a large effect (1.933, p =0.011). Empathy measures produced large effects when empathy was conceptualized behaviorally or cognitively. Further analysis of moderators is needed to inform the inclusion of empathy training in social work curricula, but this study provides evidence that didactic and experiential training can increase the empathic ability of social work students."

Topic Area: (In which field / sector / perspective was this study conducted?)
  • helping professionals 
  •  social work

Definition(How was empathy defined?)
She gives a review of the different definitions..
"A frequently cited challenge in conducting traditional narrative literature reviews of empathy research is the lack of agreement regarding the conceptualization of the construct of empathy (Bohart et al, 2002; Duan & Hill, 1996, Miller & Eisenberg, 1988). Kunyk and Olson (2001)"

She identifies 10 constructs of empathy.
Empathy Constructs  14
  1. Accurate empathy  16
  2. Affective Sensitivity 17
  3. Empathic Communication  17
  4. Empathic Understanding 18
  5. Empathic Response  19 
  6. Multidimensional Empathy 19
  7. Perspective Taking 19
  8. Predictive Empathy 20
  9. Role Taking   20
  10. Vicarious Emotional Response 20

Benefits(Were any benefits of empathy mentioned?)

Methods(What were the methods used to train empathy?)

Target Group:   (Who participated in this study / training?)

Measurements:  (About the assessment: How was the change in empathy measured before/after the intervention/method?) 

"This narrative review of the empathy training literature identified 29 studies that implemented 15 different scales to measure empathy."

Result: (What was the result?)

"A large overall effect of 0.999 was found ( p =0.000, n =76) with significant heterogeneity Q =972.06, p =0.000, I2 =91.400). Further analysis identified significant moderators and evidence of publication bias. Empathy measures produced large effects when empathy was conceptualized behaviorally or cognitively. Further analysis of moderators is needed to inform the inclusion of empathy training in social work curricula, but this study provides evidence that didactic and experiential training can increase the empathic ability of social work students."

Posted By:  Edwin Rutsch
(Any other relevant information)

check with author
Victoria J. Dexter, PhD, Vice President of Mental Health Treatment, Safe Horizon, Brooklyn, NY
Robert Moore Award for Excellence in Scholarship

Victoria Dexter, PhD ’12, for her dissertation, Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis of Empathy Training Studies with Helping Professionals, which focuses on whether or not empathy can be taught.

Funding Period: [2012 - 2016, 2005 - 2009 and 2001 - 2005]
Description: The Center for Child Traumatic Stress (CCTS) will adapt, disseminate, implement, and sustain culturally competent, trauma-focused, evidence-based treatment services for children at multiple points in the posttraumatic trajectory. A range of treatments will be provided at Safe Horizon's diverse child service settings throughout New York City including acute and early interventions, and longer-term treatments for more chronic PTSD. During the four years of this project, CCTS expects to serve approximately 28,200 youth.
City, State: Brooklyn, NY
Contact: Victoria Dexter
Phone: (347) 328-8031


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