Understanding the link between emotional recognition and awareness, therapy, and training : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Therapy is an emotionally laden event, both for individuals seeking therapeutic intervention and the therapists who provide it. While the recognition of emotions in the general population has been a popular topic of research, very little research has been conducted into the emotional competencies, or more specifically, emotion recognition and awareness of therapists. In addition, there are few studies on the effectiveness of emotion recognition training for therapists’ emotional competencies, which is surprising given the innately emotional moments that clients and therapists experience during therapeutic work. This study aimed to address these gaps by investigating the association between emotional recognition, awareness, practice, and training. Fifty five therapists made up of clinical psychologists, counsellors, and a psychotherapist completed an online task that involved completion of a social-emotional orientated questionnaire and an emotion recognition task. Of these 55 participants, 26 completed an emotion recognition training before completing the same task again, two weeks later, while the remainder 29 participants were instructed to participate in no emotion recognition training. The results revealed that, compared to the no treatment condition, those who received emotion recognition training were more accurate in their recognition of emotions and also reported higher use of therapeutic emotional practice. Unexpectedly, participants who completed emotion recognition training reported less emotional awareness than the control group. Related to this, an inverse relationship was found between emotion recognition ability and self-reported emotional awareness, as well as the finding for some support for an inverse relationship between emotion recognition ability and self-reported use of emotional practice. There are two implications of this research; first, emotion recognition training increases therapists’ accuracy in emotion recognition, and second, therapists may need to be provided emotional practice feedback by an alternative form rather than through supervision or client outcome. This is due to an inverse relationship being found between participants’ actual and perceived emotional awareness. Therefore, future research into social-emotional practices and client outcomes will be advised to be considered. The limitations of the study and areas for future research are also discussed.