Exploring the relationship between motivation for becoming a therapist and empathy

2017-02-16T03:55:14Z (GMT) by Gillbee, Kim Lorraine
It is increasingly accepted that the self of the therapist influences the process and outcome of therapy. To extend the field, the current study addressed calls in existing literature to (a) increase understanding of what motivates individuals to become therapists, and (b) map the occupational prognoses of those entering the profession, by providing the first empirical study to investigate: What, if any, is the relationship between therapists’ motivation for becoming a therapist, and the process and consequences of their empathy, and how can it be explained? Informed by a grounded theory framework and mixed methods design, findings from thematic analysis (N = 9) supplemented with correlational data and multiple hierarchical regressions (N = 226), generated the model of sharing therapy, you, me, and empathy (tyme-share). This model suggests that increased self-awareness with regards to personal vulnerability and motivation for becoming a therapist was related to the likelihood that an individual therapist would resonate emotionally with clients when empathising. In turn, the willingness to emotionally resonate with clients decreased the likelihood of deleterious therapeutic consequences for therapists such as reduced self-care, unrealistic appraisals of responsibility, and increased violations of professional boundaries. It was concluded that three trajectories can be distinguished with regards to the relationship between therapists’ motivation and the process and consequences of their empathy. It was recommended that institutions responsible for the recruitment, training and supervision of therapists should become aware of the role of therapist motivation in the counselling process, and reinvest in the importance of therapists’ emotional responsivity as conducive to therapy, and that future research into therapeutic correlates of motivation is required to support the tyme-share.