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Empathy, Challenge, and Psychophysiological Activation in Therapist–Client Interaction

Liisa Voutilainen ; Pentti Henttonen ; Mikko Kahri ; Niklas Ravaja ; Mikko Sams ; Anssi Peräkylä

Frontiers in psychology, 01 April 2018, Vol.9 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    Empathy, Challenge, and Psychophysiological Activation in Therapist–Client Interaction
  • Author/Creator: Liisa Voutilainen ; Pentti Henttonen ; Mikko Kahri ; Niklas Ravaja ; Mikko Sams ; Anssi Peräkylä
  • Language: English
  • Subjects: Empathy ; Challenge ; Psychotherapy ; Psychophysiology ; Social Interaction ; Autonomic Nervous System Activation ; Psychology
  • Is Part Of: Frontiers in psychology, 01 April 2018, Vol.9
  • Description: Two central dimensions in psychotherapeutic work are a therapist’s empathy with clients and challenging their judgments. We investigated how they influence psychophysiological responses in the participants. Data were from psychodynamic therapy sessions, 24 sessions from 5 dyads, from which 694 therapist’s interventions were coded. Heart rate and electrodermal activity (EDA) of the participants were used to index emotional arousal. Facial muscle activity (electromyography) was used to index positive and negative emotional facial expressions. Electrophysiological data were analyzed in two time frames: (a) during the therapists’ interventions and (b) across the whole psychotherapy session. Both empathy and challenge had an effect on psychophysiological responses in the participants. Therapists’ empathy decreased clients’ and increased their own EDA across the session. Therapists’ challenge increased their own EDA in response to the interventions, but not across the sessions. Clients,...
  • Identifier: E-ISSN: 1664-1078 ; DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00530