Utilizing Improvisation to Teach Empathy Skills in Counselor Education

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KidScape Productions helps students master important life skills that work on and off the stage.Our pedagogical tools offer students a fun and positive approach to self-actualization. Through hands-on engaging applications in professional role play, improvisation and acting techniques; participants learn to build, balance and enhance focus, optimism and cognitive flexibility.  Hear a bit about what Hannah and Awa have to say: “Counselor training programs are tasked with ensuring students meet standards for knowledge and skilled application of various content areas. Professional standards for skills and techniques are based on theoretical frameworks and best practices for establishing rapport, progressing into a working stage, and reaching eventual assessment and termination (Ivey, Normington, Miller, Morrill, & Haase, 1968; Kuntze, van der Molen, & Born, 2009; Ridley, Kelly, & Mollen, 2011). Although counseling techniques are varied, students are taught foundational skills, often called microskills, early in their counseling programs. These foundational skills typically include active listening skills and are seen as a necessary precursor to more advanced techniques of counseling (Kuntze et al., 2009; Ridley et al., 2011). The goal of early skills training is largely based on developing listening and interviewing skills that may help establish rapport, encourage client disclosures, and integrate other techniques based on client needs (Carkhuff & Truax, 1965; Ivey et al., 1968; Ridley et al., 2011).
Empathy has been identified as an important therapeutic objective and skill, yet it is unclear how best to enhance this skill set within counselor training. The microskills approach has provided a model that for many years has proved to be effective in counselor training, although his model focuses on observable skills and less on the spontaneous and genuine connection needed for true empathic expression. T herefore, it is worth pursuing alternative approaches that can be incorporated  within  existing  counselor  training models. We have found that improvisational  theater  techniques can enhance many of the cognitive and  behavioral  qualities associated with  empathic  communication.  We explore this rationale and present training recommendations in the following sections.” -Hannah B. Bayne and Awa Jangha 2016  Utilizing Improvisation to Teach Empathy Skills in Counselor Education 

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