Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy: Their Relation to Multi-Cultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy: Their Relation to Multi-Cultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness

Article excerpt

The construct of emotional intelligence has received increasing attention in a variety of literature bases (e.g., education, business, and organizational psychology) over the past several decades (e.g., Coleman, 1995; Greenspan, 1989; Leuner, 1966; Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Payne, 1986; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to process emotional information as it pertains to the perception, assimilation, expression, regulation, and management of emotion (Mayer & Cobb, 2000; Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000). Emotional intelligence is believed to encompass a variety of social and cognitive functions related to the expression of emotion (Schutte et al., 1998). Emotionally intelligent individuals are often described as welladjusted, warm, genuine, persistent, and optimistic (Mayer, DiPaolo, & Salovey, 1990; Salovey & Mayer, 1990).

Among school counselors, however, the construct of emotional intelligence has not been explored in relation to dimensions of their professional functioning, particularly in connection with salient counseling-related skills such as empathy and multicultural counseling competence. Empathy has been defined as counselors' ability to communicate a sense of caring and understanding regarding their clients' experiences (Egan, 1994; Nystul, 1999). Moreover, multicultural counseling competence refers to counselors' attitudes/beliefs, knowledge, and skills in working with culturally diverse persons (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue et al., 1998). There is a need for information that identifies how school counselors' emotional intelligence and empathy may relate to their self-perceived competence in counseling students from diverse cultural backgrounds. Such competence undoubtedly affects school counselors' ability to provide comprehensive, developmental, and systematic services to all students (Campbell & Dahir, 2000).

In the professional literature, emotional intelligence is typically viewed as a somewhat enduring trait-like characteristic (Coleman, 1995; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Emotional intelligence involves a set of mental abilities in which individuals employ higher-level processes regarding their attention to feelings, clarity of feelings, discriminability of feelings, and mood-regulating strategies (Mayer & Salovey, 1993). Emotional intelligence has been found to be positively correlated with variables such as empathy, verbal intelligence, extraversion, openness to feelings, self-esteem, and life satisfaction (Ciarrochi, Chan, & Caputi, 2000; Mayer, Caruso, & Salovey, 1999; Schutte et al., 1998). It is also believed to be related to other types of intelligences such as cognitive ability and social intelligence (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Schutte et al., 1998). Coleman (1995) suggested that although cognitive intelligence may provide some individuals with entry into a particular setting, emotional intelligence may serve a vital role in determining how successful they will be after entering the setting. With regard to school counselors, the presence of high levels of emotional intelligence may be crucial in helping them work with students from a range of cultural backgrounds. In particular, school counselors' emotional intelligence could play an important role in their ability to empathize with and address the mental health concerns of culturally diverse students.

Empathy requires the accurate identification of emotional responses in others (Mayer et al., 1990), and it is believed to involve well-defined abilities rather than solely attitudes (Mayer & Salovey, 1993). Thus, school counselors who encounter difficulties in empathizing with students may experience skill deficits in working with these individuals (Mayer et al., 1990). In the context of cross-cultural relationships, school counselors' ability to understand the culturally based experiences of students of color may be crucial to the alleviation of these students' presenting issues (Constantine, 2000; Fischer, Jome, & Atkinson, 1998). …

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