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Emotional Experience of Psychotherapists

A Latent Profile Analysis

Abstract

Psychotherapists respond to clients’ emotions in their daily work. However, little is known about therapists’ emotional experience and how different patterns of emotional experience are related to therapist empathy. Two samples of therapists, 1 from English-speaking countries (n = 314) and 1 from Mainland China (n = 589), completed measures of emotional reactivity, emotional regulation, expressive flexibility, and empathy. Latent profile analyses identified 3 profiles of emotional experience, namely, Calm Regulators (CR), Moderate Experiencers (ME), and Emotional Feelers (EF), in both samples, although the distribution and indicator levels of profiles differed between samples. In general, CR reported the lowest levels of emotional reactivity and emotional regulation difficulty, followed by ME and EF. CR also reported greater ability to suppress emotional expression as needed compared to ME and EF. In terms of empathy, CR reported greater perspective taking and lower personal distress than ME and EF in both samples. Empathic concern was higher in CR than ME and EF in the English-speaking sample, but did not differ across profiles in the Chinese sample. In addition, CR tended to be older and had more years of clinical experience in both samples. As an exploratory analysis, Chinese therapists with the CR profile reported higher levels of self-efficacy in handling client distress and conflicts in the therapeutic relationship compared to ME and EF. Implications of findings for practice, training, and research are discussed.

Cite This Article

Chui, H., & Liu, F. (2021). Emotional experience of psychotherapists: A latent profile analysis. Psychotherapy, 58(3), 401-413. doi.org/10.1037/pst0000379.supp

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