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Relationship & Communication Skills

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on 9 October 2012

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Transcript of Relationship & Communication Skills

Empathy Notes Hyun-a Song, MSW
Shaun M. Eack, Ph.D
October 1, 2012 5 Levels of Empathic Communication Learning Objectives:

The purpose of this lecture will be to:

Discuss the significance of helping relationship and social work communication skills.

Recognize and apply the facilitative conditions necessary for the development of positive rapport (or helping relationship).

Compare and contrast the concepts of empathy and sympathy.

Identify five levels of empathic communication.

Achieve a beginning level of skill in communicating empathy. Relationship & Communication Skills Level 2: Attempt is made to respond to client feelings, but responses are inaccurate Level 5: Full understanding of the range and intensity of feelings, and connection of such feelings to experiences, goals, and interpretations Level 3: Surface-level acknowledgment of client feelings is presented to reciprocate client expressions Level 4: Communicates understanding about client feelings and moves beyond surface interpretations Level 1:Little to no awareness of client feelings is communicated Working together toward goals "Rapport"

A harmonious working relationship (Barker, 1995)

The rapport is sometimes called the helping relationship, working relationship, professional relationship, or the therapeutic relationship.
Krill (1986) suggested that the relationship between a social worker and a client is more likely to be productive when:

Client is clearly told what to expect and how to contribute to the helping process.
Worker and client engage in goal-directed activities such as practice, in­ session tasks, or between-session action steps.
Worker and client like and respect each other.
Worker is warm, genuine, and sincere and regularly expresses empathy about the client's experience (McNeill et al, 2005) Definitions

Empathy is essentially the emotional and cognitive reactions that an individual has to the observed experiences of another (Davis, 1980).

Empathy is “accurate understanding of the [patient’s] world as seen from the inside. To sense the [patient’s] private world as if it were your own, but without losing the “as if” quality – this is empathy” (Carl Rogers, 1961).

Empathy is the social worker’s “ability to perceive and communicate, accurately and with sensitivity, the feelings of the client and the meaning of those feelings” as the client shares and describes their situation and concerns (Fischer, 1973). Empathic communication involves the accurate perception of and the ability to clearly communicate with the client about his or her inner feelings and emotional state at the moment with respect and without judgment. How Empathic Communication is Useful:

Empathy facilitates the development of positive rapport and a supportive therapeutic alliance with the client;

Empathy facilitates bridging ethnic and cultural differences, by communicating the desire to understand and appreciate clients unique views and perceptions;

Empathic communication helps in gathering assessment data therapeutically and assessing clients’ strengths and problem areas more accurately;

Empathy enables the social worker to accurately perceive and respond to clients’ non-verbal messages as conveyed by their body language, tone of voice, etc. Perceive and understand the client’s;
Immediate surface feelings related to their situation and concerns;
Underlying deeper feelings and emotions;
Verbal and non-verbal communications. Empathy vs. Sympathy

Sympathy connotes “I would feel and do the same as you have in the same situation” and, thus provides no guidance for the client.
(e.g., I’d feel the same way if I were in your position! I agree with you!)

Empathy means genuinely understanding the other persons feelings and situation without taking that person's position, thus retaining one's separateness and objectivity, but also without becoming cold or distant. Empathy also “throws out a rope” to the client and provides support.
(e.g., I sense you’re feeling...; It seems that you feel...) Social workers’ responses fail to match even the most conspicuous of the clients’ feelings and are usually characterized by the ineffective communication styles I don’t trust you people. You do everything you can to keep me from getting back my son. I have done everything I am supposed to do, and you people always come up with something else. “Just carry out the case plan and you are likely to succeed.”

“How did you get along with your last social worker?”

“I don’t think you have a very positive attitude” I don’t trust you people. You do everything you can to keep me from getting back my son. I have done everything I am supposed to do, and you people always come up with something else. Social worker responds to the surface message of the client but erroneously omits feelings or factual aspects of the message. The social worker may inappropriately interpret feelings (e.g., angry for hurt; tense for scared). “You’ll just have to be patient. I can see you’re upset.” “You are not pleased with your progress so far? I don’t trust you people. You do everything you can to keep me from getting back my son. I have done everything I am supposed to do, and you people always come up with something else. Social workers’ responses essentially match the affect of their clients’ surface feelings, expressions, and situations. This level is considered the minimally facilitate level at which an effective and viable process of helping can take place. “You’re really angry about the slow progress in your case and are wondering whether your efforts are likely to succeed.” Responses at level 4 are somewhat touch deeper feelings and unexplored meanings and purposes of behavior. I don’t trust you people. You do everything you can to keep me from getting back my son. I have done everything I am supposed to do, and you people always come up with something else. “You feel very frustrated with the lack of progress in getting your son back. You wonder whether there is any hope in working with a new worker and this system, which you feel hasn’t been helping you." Conveying this level of empathy occurs rarely with inexperienced interviewers and only somewhat more often with highly experienced interviewers. Also, the opportunity to respond at such depth is more likely to occur near the end of an interview and with clients who have become more voluntary. Authenticity Constructing Reciprocal Responses

You feel_____ about/when_____because______
(Identify or describe surface feelings) I can’t talk to my father without feeling scared and crying. I’d like to be able to express myself and to disagree with him, but I just can’t. It sounds as though you just feel panicky when you try to talk to your father. I gather you’re discouraged because you’d like to feel comfortable with your dad and able to talk openly with him without falling apart. Authenticity (or genuineness)

Defined as the sharing of self by relating in a natural, sincere, spontaneous, open, and genuine manner.

It’s related to self-disclosure that refers to the sharing with the client of opinions, thoughts, feelings, reactions to the client, and personal experiences of the practitioner (Deal, 1999). A framework for responding authentically

I ---------------- about (when)-----------------because------------

(Ex) I get frustrated when you keep reading the paper while I’m speaking because I feel discounted and very unimportant to you. Authentic response or Self-disclosure : CAUTION

Keep in mind that the purpose of relating authentically is to facilitate growth of clients, not to demonstrate one’s own honesty or authenticity.

When social workers share their feelings or experiences for a therapeutic purpose, they should immediately shift the focus back on the clients.

It should occur when they have established rapport and trust with their clients. Empathetic Response:
CAUTION Some clients feel quite uneasy when the worker is frequently and intensively empathic. Use language that your clients will readily understand Relationship Factors A systemic helping process

Phase I: Engagement, Assessment, and Planing
Phase II: Implementation and Goal Attainment
Phase III: Termination Client: “what you’re doing to help me with my problems doesn’t seem to be doing me any good. I don’t know why I keep coming.” SW: “You’re very disappointed that things aren’t better and are irritated with me, feeling that I should have been more helpful to you."

“I’d like to explore more fully with you which parts of our work have not felt worthwhile to you.” Developing Empathy and Rapport


Utilizing empathic communication to establish rapport


1. Divide into pairs
2. Case #1: Keep role playing back and forth
3. Reverse roles of client and practitioner
4. Case #5 & Case #7
5. Answer the questions posed at the end of the exercise


1. You feel-----------about (or when)--------because
a. What are your client's surface feelings?
b. What are factual situations or concerns?
(c. What are your client's underlying deeper feelings or emotions?)
2. Using the lists of affective words and phrases Experiential Learning Activity Client (female, age23): Some of my problems are related to my church's stand on birth control. Tell me, are you a Catholic? SW: I gather you're wondering what my stand is and whether I can understand and accept your feelings. I've worked with many Catholics and have been able to understand their problems. Would it trouble you if I weren't Catholic?
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