Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-13-2022


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counseling, Psychology, & Special Education


School of Education

Committee Chair

Debra Hyatt-Burkhart

Committee Member

Yihhsing Liu

Committee Member

Jered B. Kolbert


empathy, empathic accuracy, empathic response, telephonic counseling, telephone counseling, telehealth, disaster counseling, COVID-19, pandemic


Dissertation supervised by Dr. Debra Hyatt-Burkhart

This study sought to unearth the lived experience of counselors empathically responding to clients via telephonic counseling during COVID-19. The term empathic response refers to as attending to the emotional and mental state of another person in a way that is attuned with the feelings and meanings of the individual’s experience. There are few studies that have assessed the merits of telephonic counseling, and even fewer that have examined counselors’ empathic response to clients through this medium.

To uncover the lived experience of the target population, the participants of the study were purposefully selected to include only those who had actively conducted telephonic counseling with clients in an outpatient setting during the pandemic. This hermeneutic phenomenological study was informed by Clark’s (2010) integral model of empathy and Peoples’ (2020) general data analysis steps in phenomenological research. The study was conducted with a total of eleven participants who had conducted telephonic counseling during COVID-19. The results of the study identified the master theme of subjective empathy, under which fell the subthemes of identification, imagination, intuition, and felt-level experience. The study also identified the master theme of interpersonal empathy, under which fell the subthemes of understanding barrier to counseling, understanding clients’ SES situations, understanding the clients’ natural environment, environmental barriers to interpersonal empathy, and emotional barriers to interpersonal empathy. Finally, the study identified the master theme of objective empathy, under which fell the subtheme of information from supervision as a source for objective empathy and information from COVID-related media as a source for objective empathy. The limitations, implications of the study, suggestions for future research, and questions for future research were included.