Actor training in social work curriculum

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to research the extent to which acting training, when incorporated into masters level social work curriculum, can enhance clinical empathy engagement skills. Hypothesis: The hypothesis is that that acting training will be shown to enhance the clinical empathy engagement skills of social work students. Methods: Researchers held three sessions of actor training workshops in each of two first year field education classes in the Masters of Social Work program at California State University, Northridge. King and Holosko's 2012 Empathy Scale for Social Workers was administered pre and post intervention to measure empathy levels before and after the workshops. Written reflection paragraphs from participants were collected, and focus group and individual interviews were conducted with both participants and their class instructors to identify major themes relating to the workshop experience. Results: Overall empathy scores, as measured by the Empathy Scale for Social Workers, increased slightly, though not statistically significantly, post-intervention. Four survey items did increase with statistical significance. In their qualitative responses to the workshops, participants and instructors endorsed themes of empathy, body language, a positive experience, and timing. Discussion: Results indicate that theater training workshops may enhance clinical engagement skills among social work students,though some limitations to the study indicate the need for further research.