Psychological Science 2018, (2) 491-497 DOI:     ISSN: 0412-1961 CN: 21-1139/TG

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mutual empathy
social relations model
group counseling
group outcome
FAN Fu-Min
LV Xiao-Hua
XU Yo-Guang
Article by Shao,j
Article by Fan,F.M
Article by Lv,X.H
Article by Xu,Y.G

Mutual Empathy of Group Members and Its Relations with Group Outcome: the Application of Social Relations Model in Group Counseling Research


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether group members could empathize with each other and the relationship between mutual empathy and group outcome, using the Social Relations Model, which can analyze data across various levels in a group. Mutual empathy in this study includes three aspects. First is empathic level, to the extent a group member can understand other members’ thoughts and share their emotions. Second is the level of being empathized, to the extent a group member felt being understood. Third is empathic accuracy, the congruence of emotion valence between self-rating and other-rating. Fifty-three members of ten groups completed self-ratings of their own emotional status, Session Evaluation Scale, Group Therapeutic Scale and Group Anti-therapeutic Scale, and also rated other members’ emotions and how they empathize and being empathized by other group members after a group session. The data was analyzed by Triple R, a new developed software package for social relations model. The social relations model analysis on group members’ mutual empathy showed that group members’ self reports on empathic level and the level of being empathized were rather high. But there were no match between empathizing and being empathized in dyads, which suggest that group members may not empathize with each other. The correlation between significant perceiver/target effects and group outcome scales showed (1) the more one thought he or she could empathize with others, the better outcome he or she reported, and less impeded by anti-therapeutic factors (negative emotions, absence and distrust); (2) the more one felt being empathized, the less impeded by anti-therapeutic factor(distrust);(3)the more accurate others could estimate one’s emotion valence, the more he or she could benefit from therapeutic factors. The results suggest group members’ perceptions of their empathic level were important for group effectiveness, which was a unique therapeutic factor in group counseling. However, different from individual counseling, the feeling of being empathized didn’t result in better outcome and more benefits. Besides, if one’s emotion valence could be more correctly perceived by other members, he or she could also benefit more from the group. The limitations of this study were (1) the measurements of mutual empathy in this study were number-limited due to the difficulty of round-robin design, which may not reflect the variable comprehensively and further research may focus on more specific variables. (2) The group stages and group style were important variables in group counseling, but only controlled statistically in this study, future research could restrict particular group stage and style to reduce the effects of these two variables. The strengths of this study were that (1) focusing on group members’ mutual empathy, an important but ignorant factor comparing to group leaders’ empathy. (2) One of the few studies using the Social Relations Model in group counseling research.

Keywords empathy   mutual empathy   social relations model   group counseling   group outcome  
Received 2017-05-14 Revised 2018-03-01 Online: 2018-03-20 
Corresponding Authors: Fan Fumin
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