Department of Counselling Psychology

The effects of counselling methods on process and outcome

CounsellingResearchIndividual randomized controlled trials with big samples (n>30)English
Thesis - Open access


The differential effects of counselling methods applied to a conflict split were examined in an analogue study using forty two subjects, students in a graduate counselling programme, and seven therapists. The methods included Two Chair Role Playing; a therapeutic intervention drawn from Gestalt therapy, Focusing instructions followed by Empathic responses; and a Control, involving no therapy. Depth of Experiencing (Klein et al., I969) was the process dependent variable used to compare the differential effects of the two therapy conditions. Outcome measures, given to all subjects, included the Target Complaints Box Scale (Battle et al., 1966), awareness questions, a modified goal attainment scale, and subjective client reports. Fourteen subjects were randomly assigned to each of the three treatment conditions; subjects who received counselling sessions were randomly assigned to therapists with whom they engaged in a therapy session. The seven therapists each saw four clients. Two clients received Two Chair Role Playing sessions and two received sessions involving Focusing. The order of treatment presentation was counter balanced in order to eliminate any bias or practice effect. Because the Control subjects were not assigned to therapists, it was not possible to employ a fully crossed 7 x 3 (therapist-by-treatment) design. Two of the dependent variables were measured on more than one occasion, yielding a third repeated measures factor. Preliminary analysis using a 7 x 2 x r (therapist-by-treatment-by-occasion) fixed effects analysis of variance was performed. Results showed that sources of variance associated with therapists could be pooled at a level of significance of .25. Therefore, a 3 x r (treatment-by-occasion) design was employed. A fixed effects repeated measures analysis of variance was used where the trial factor was greater than one, and a one factor analysis of variance was performed when the dependent variable was measured on one occasion. The level of significance used was .05.

Results showed Two Chair Role Playing to be more effective than Focusing in producing a greater number of peak, depth of experiencing scores, but there was no significant difference between the two groups on frequency of mode scores and on proportion mode and peak scores. There was no significant difference between Two Chair Role Playing and Focusing on any of the outcome measures. These two treatment groups did not differ from the Control on the Target Complaints Box Scale, or on the modified goal attainment scale. There was, however, a significant difference between each of these two groups and the Control on awareness questions and subjective client reports concerning the non-specific effects of counselling. These non-specific effects of counselling may be valuable indicators of what ingredients are necessary and effective in therapy. If clients deepen experiencing and achieve new awareness and self understanding, they may be then freed to put their energies into more creative living.

APA citation

Higgins, H. (1979). The effects of counselling methods on process and outcome. Department of Counselling Psychology. University of British Columbia.