How clients perceive helper behaviors

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Two studies tested a set of assumptions about the behavioral cues that clients use to infer what helpers intend by particular utterances. A method of tape-assisted recall provided descriptions of client's perceptions of specific helper responses. Independently rated types of helper behavior (advisement, acknowledgment, reflection, interpretation, question, self-disclosure) were used to predict corresponding client-perceived helper intentions (guiding, reassuring, communicating understanding of the client's message, explaining client, gathering information, using self to help). The results of a near-counseling analog study using 12 helpers and 24 clients (all university students) and a counseling study (16 clients and 16 helpers in ongoing treatment) were quite comparable and generally produced significant but modest support for predictions. Questions and acknowledgments (“Uh-huhs”) were the best predictors of client perceptions. Guiding was perceived 3 times more often than the corresponding behavior of advisement actually occurred. The intention of communicating understanding of message shifted from reflection in the analog study to acknowledgment in the counseling study. The studies demonstrate a new research method, and their results suggest implications for knowledge and future research in the area of help-intended communication. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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