The game of I am: enhancing empathy and improving attitudes toward older adults in first-year master’s students training to become counselors and student support professionals

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sara W. Bailey (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
L. DiAnne Borders

Abstract: In the United States, adults 65 and older represent a significant and growing cultural minority (Cohn & Taylor, 2011). Ageist stereotypes, whether directed at older adults or internalized by elders themselves, can cause real harm to elders’ mental and physical health (Nelson, 2016a). Mezirow’s transformative learning theory (TLT; 1991) directly addresses the essential nature of challenging personal prejudices and cultivating empathy as critical to development within the adult learner, and transformative empathy-enhancing interventions have been used successfully to improve attitudes toward older adults in helping professionals and professionals-in training (e.g., Friedman & Goldbaum, 2016; Henry & Ozier, 2011). Even though older adults receive mental health services at a lower rate than any other age demographic (Karel, Gatz, & Smyer, 2012), and greater numbers of older adults are entering postsecondary education (Chen, 2017; DiSilvestro, 2013; Kasworm, 2010), there has been limited focus in counseling and higher education research on meeting the needs of this expanding demographic. Intervening early in students’ training to address age-related biases and to foster empathetic awareness (Andersson, King, & Lalande, 2010) aligns with the counseling profession’s commitment to purposeful counselor preparation (Kaplan, Tarvydas, & Gladding, 2014) and professional competency standards for student support professionals (ACPA & NCPA, 2015). Using Bartholomew’s (1998) Intervention Mapping model (IM), I developed a three-part empathy-enhancing transformative learning intervention, “The Game of I am” (Bailey, 2016c). Using a pre-post quasi experimental design, the purpose of the current feasibility study was to test the preliminary effectiveness of the intervention at enhancing self-reported empathy and improving self-reported attitudes toward older adults with first-year master’s students training to be counselors (N = 14) and student support professionals (N = 13). Although preliminary qualitative themes emerged that supported its utility, quantitatively there were no statistically significant changes in mean empathy and attitude scores for the participants following participation in “The Game of I am (Bailey, 2016c). Additional plans for the analysis of collected qualitative data are described and implications for integrating “The Game of I am” (Bailey, 2016c) into existing master’s level coursework are discussed.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Ageism, Counselor education, Empathy, Gerontology, Higher education, Transformative learning
Older people $x Counseling of
Counselors $x Training of
Transformative learning

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