Is Empathic Accuracy Enough? The Role of Therapists’ Interventions in the Associations Between Empathic Accuracy and Session Outcome

Dana Stolowicz-Melman*, Gal Lazarus, Dana Atzil-Slonim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Therapists’ ability to accurately assess their clients’ emotions is a critical clinical skill across various therapeutic approaches. However, little is understood about the contexts that facilitate or interfere with the effects of this accuracy on therapeutic outcomes. This study investigated the relationship between therapists’ empathic accuracy (EA) concerning their clients’ emotions and session outcomes, and whether this relationship is moderated by the therapists’ use of different intervention types. A sample of 81 clients treated by 50 therapists in a university setting was used for the study. Following each session, clients rated the emotions they experienced during the session, as well as the quality of the session, while therapists rated their perception of their clients’ emotions. Findings revealed that therapists’ EA for negative emotions (but not positive ones) positively correlated with higher client evaluations of the session. Furthermore, the frequency of exploratory interventions (but not directive ones) moderated this relationship. The results highlight that merely being empathically accurate in assessing clients’ negative emotions may not be sufficient; therapists who employ an exploratory approach while being empathically accurate can better facilitate emotional processing, potentially leading to improved outcomes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)682-690
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Volume70
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • empathic accuracy
  • empathy
  • exploratory interventions
  • psychotherapy interventions
  • psychotherapy outcome

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