When Empathy Fails to Eventuate in the Counselling Therapeutic Session: Implications for the Training and Practice of Students

Document Type

Journal Article


Nova Science Publishers Inc


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




Taylor, M., & Goldman, S. (2011). When empathy fails to eventuate in the counselling therapeutic session: Implications for the training and practice of students. International Journal of University Teaching and Faculty Development, 1(3), 171-182. Available here


This paper highlights the importance of forming an empathic relational process by presenting an account of a situation where an empathetic connection failed to eventuate between a student counsellor and a student client in a role play practice session. Three hypothetical reasons for the failure are explored. First, that the client was not communicating an authentic affect (i.e., the narrative lacked authenticity or the client was overly-invested in the role-play narrative performance); second, that there was an empathic failure in the counsellor (i.e., the counsellor had an innate incapacity to empathise or was responding to bio-physiological dictates); and third, that a confounding relationship existed between the client, the counsellor and the study’s observational group (i.e., sub-conscious bias or prejudice). The paper concludes with a discussion of the need for further research in order to ensure the effective training of trainee counsellors and counsellors under supervision.

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