Date of Conferral

2019

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Denise Horton

Abstract

Empathy skills are necessary to form therapeutic relationships. Previous research showed that participating in the arts engaged similar neuropathways as those needed to produce empathy. The theoretical framework for this study was art therapy relational neuroscience. The purpose of this pretest, posttest quantitative research study, using the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire, was to examine if a single art session could effectively prime for empathy. Using nonprobability, convenience sampling method, 74 graduate counseling students completed online surveys. Four findings are of note: (a) a t-test showed a significant difference between mean values of pre-post test scores, (b) an independent groups t-test indicated no difference in empathy gain scores as related to gender, (c) a Pearson’s correlation indicated that age and art experience were positively correlated to empathy gain scores, (d) a multiple regression indicated that none of the variables examined moderated each other or empathy. Age, and art experience, independently, were found to be positively correlated with empathy scores. The results suggest that the self-conducted art session could enhance empathy. This research is an important contribution to the existing literature and enhances social change by studying a previously underrepresented population and investigating the possible effectiveness of a single art session prime for empathy. Using art to enhance empathy in graduate counseling students may aid with securing graduation, licensure, and therapeutic alliances with future clients.

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