The following information comes from Direct Social Work Practice: Theory and Skills by Hepworth, Rooney and Rooney (2009); it provides a roadmap to judge your responses based on a 5-point scale similar to the one used by Truax and Carkhuff (1967).
Empathic Responding Scale
Level 1: Low Level of Empathic Responding
- Communicating little or no awareness or understanding of the caller’s feelings
- Responses are irrelevant or abrasive
- Changing the subject, giving advice, etc.
Level 2: Moderately Low Level of Empathic Responding
- Responding to the surface message of the caller but omitting feelings or factual aspects of the message.
- Inappropriately qualifying feelings (e.g.,“somewhat,” “a little bit,”“kind of”)
- Inaccurately interpreting feelings (e.g., “angry”for “hurt,”“tense”for “scared”).
Level 2 responses are only partially accurate, but they show an effort to understand
Level 3: Interchangeable or Reciprocal Level of Empathic Responding
- Verbal and nonverbal responses at level 3 show understanding and are essentially interchangeable with the client’s obvious expressions, accurately reflecting the client’s story and surface feelings or state of being
Level 4: Moderately High Level of Empathic Responding
- Somewhat additive, accurately identifying the client’s implicit underlying feelings and/or aspects of the problem.
- Volunteer’s response illuminates subtle or veiled facets of the client’s message, enabling the client to get in touch with somewhat deeper feelings and unexplored meanings and purposes of behavior.
- Level 4 responses thus are aimed at enhancing self-awareness.
Level 5: High Level of Empathic Responding
- Reflecting each emotional nuance, and using voice and intensity of expressions finely attuned to the client’s moment-by-moment experiencing, the volunteer accurately responds to the full range and intensity of both surface and underlying feelings and meanings
- Volunteer may connect current feelings and experiencing to previously expressed experiences or feelings, or may accurately identify implicit patterns, themes, or purposes.
- Responses may also identify implicit goals embodied in the client’s message, which point out a promising direction for personal growth and pave the way for action.
- Responding empathically at this high level facilitates the client’s exploration of feelings and problems in much greater breadth and depth than responding at lower level
Hepworth, D., & Larsen, J. (1993). Direct social work practice: Theory and skills (4th ed.). Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole.
Truax, C., & Carkhuff, R. (1967). Toward effective counseling and psychotherapy: Training and practice