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An evaluation of the impact of a large group psycho-education programme (Stress Control) on patient outcome: does empathy make a difference?

  • Anne Joice (a1) and Stewart W. Mercer (a2)


Large psycho-education groups are being increasingly used in mental-health promotion and the treatment of common mental-health problems. In individual therapy there is a well-established link between therapist empathy, therapeutic relationship and patient outcome but the role of empathy within large psycho-educational groups is unknown. This service evaluation investigated the impact of a 6-week large psycho-education group on patient outcome and the role of perceived therapist empathy on outcome. Within a before–after experimental design, 66 participants completed baseline and endpoint measures; Clinical Outcome Routine Evaluation (CORE), Patient Enablement Instrument (PEI), and the modified Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) measure. The results showed that the intervention had a positive impact on patient outcome; the CORE score reduced significantly over the 6 weeks by 0.63 (95% CI 0.82–1.14) (t = 9.18, d.f. = 55, p = <0.001) and attendees felt highly enabled. Attendees perceived the course leader as highly empathetic. However, the relationship between perceived empathy and attendee outcome was less clear; no significant relationship was found with the main outcome measure (the change in CORE score). Factors that influenced the main outcome included age, symptom severity at baseline, having a long-term illness or disability, and whether attendees tried the techniques at home (homework). These findings suggest that large group psycho-education is an effective treatment for mild to moderate mental-health problems, at least in the short term. The role of therapist empathy remains ambiguous but may be important for some patient outcomes.


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Mrs A. Joice, School of Health & Social Care, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK. (email:


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An evaluation of the impact of a large group psycho-education programme (Stress Control) on patient outcome: does empathy make a difference?

  • Anne Joice (a1) and Stewart W. Mercer (a2)


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An evaluation of the impact of a large group psycho-education programme (Stress Control) on patient outcome: does empathy make a difference?

  • Anne Joice (a1) and Stewart W. Mercer (a2)
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