Contribution of personal characteristics and interview training to the effectiveness of college student mental health workers

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Peer ratings made during a structured small group interaction (using the Group Assessment of Interpersonal Traits) were used to select participants from a pool of 103 female undergraduates who had volunteered for a human service practicum. Participants with the 32 highest and 30 lowest scores on behavioral measures of empathy, warmth, and openness (therapeutic talent) were randomly assigned to 3 training conditions: problem-solving interviewing, diagnostic interviewing, or no training. Each participant then served as an understanding listener in a problem-focused dyadic interview. Ratings made by interviewees and by 2 independent, objective raters were higher for those initially selected as having high therapeutic talent. Those noted as high in therapeutic talent also performed better as measured by objective behavioral ratings of the content of their interview statements. There were no systematic training effects. The implications of these results for the selection and training of nonprofessional mental health workers are discussed. (33 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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