Can deficits in empathy after head injury be improved by compassionate imagery?
D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Objective: Head injury (HI) can result in problems in the ability to empathise however it is unclear whether these changes are permanent or if it is an ability which has been damaged and could be repaired. There has been a recent focus on the use of compassionate imagery to increase feelings of compassion. Images can have powerful emotional effects and may alter how an individual relates to themselves and others. This pilot study aimed to investigate whether compassionate imagery could increase empathy in individuals with HI compared to a control group receiving relaxation. Design: The study employed a between-group repeated measures design. 24 participants with severe head injury and low empathy were recruited and randomly allocated to a single treatment session of compassionate imagery or a control condition of relaxation. Methods: Empathy, self-compassion and relaxation were measured pre- and post-intervention and a measure of fear of compassion was included as a potential co-variate. Results: There was no significant effect of compassionate imagery on empathy following severe head injury. An increase in self-compassion overall approached significance. Fear of compassion did not correlate with change in self-compassion or empathy. Conclusions: Further research with this population is warranted to determine if an intervention that takes into account HI factors or is of greater duration would be beneficial.
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