This study examined the difference between counselor empathic responding with and without a therapy dog in their counseling sessions was examined in a within-subjects design. Counseling consisted of animal-assisted therapy, play therapy, and other psychotherapeutic activities with elementary aged clients. Seven female school psychology graduate student clinicians were rated on their empathic responding using the Carkhuff (1969) Empathic Understanding in Interpersonal Processes Scale. A 2 (Dog Presence) X 4 (Empathy Level) analysis of variance was used to evaluate the difference between counselors’ empathic responding. The hypothesis that the therapy dog would have a beneficial impact on the counselors’ empathic responding was not supported by the results. The findings indicate that the therapist talks more when the dog is present, mainly due to an increase in Level 1, low empathic responses, and that higher level empathic responding did not vary between conditions as measured in utterances per minute. Further research is needed to determine how to incorporate an animal into therapy while maintaining the core facilitative condition of empathic understanding.
Mason N McLary
|Location of Publication||Alfred, New York|
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