The role of religious commitment on the development of professional counselling empathy
: An investigation of student counsellors in Barbados

  • Antoinette Rock

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


This study sought a better understanding of the role played by student counsellors’ religious commitment as they develop the empathic competencies necessary to become effective counsellors. This phenomenon was explored within a counselling course at the Open Campus, University of the West Indies, Barbados. The literature shows there has been no such study carried out within this locality, and that there is a dearth of empirical research that explores the complex interplay between counsellor empathy and their religious commitment. The theoretical orientation was grounded in the counselling literature with emphasis on the integrative approach to counselling used within the class.Three highly religiously committed students and three low committed students were selected based on their religious commitment scores using the Worthington et al Religious Commitment Inventory. The data for these six respondents were analysed using a thematic approach, from which the main findings were obtained. A further sample of three moderate religiously committed students was also selected and their data analysed to see if the categories held up with a different sample.Methods used to gather data were qualitative personal narratives and responses from an open-ended questionnaire. The Thwaites & Bennett-Levy empathy typology was used to analyse and interpret students’ professional empathy. These findings were then compared with the students’ opinions of how they thought their religion would impact on their counselling practice. Because theory suggests the potential for positive and negative functions of religion, I was open to the possibility of both influences impacting on students’ empathy.The findings suggest that students’ religious commitment is not as great a determinant of effective professional empathy, as is the maturity of the students and how they process and manage their religion. The findings are significant in that they would serve to inform counselling trainers who work in similar situations.
Date of Award16 Apr 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorSeth Chaiklin (Supervisor)

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