Actor training in social work curriculum

Purpose: This study ran a pilot theater workshop for graduate level Master of Social Work students teaching acting training skills to promote accurate empathy engagement skills. Hypothesis: The hypothesis is that participation in the pilot theater workshop is positively associated with increased empathy level scores among social work students. Methods: Researchers conducted three acting training workshops in two field education classes in the Master of Social Work program at California State University, Northridge. Outcomes were measured using King and Holosko's 2012 Empathy Scale for Social Workers, and using semi-structured post-intervention interviews, as well post-intervention written reflections. Results: There was a small increase in total empathy scores after the intervention, however the increase was not statistically significant. There was a statistically significant increase in the score of four items on the survey (item 7 "knowing a client's personal situation is important if I am really going to help them"; item 9 "clients expect me to act a certain way because of my gender"; item 16 "client's perceive me as having more power than they do"; item 25 "I am careless when working with clients"). Qualitative analysis found that participants valued the connection between the workshop exercises and their increased awareness of the importance of perspective-taking skills. Discussion: The acting training workshop can help bring awareness of perspective-taking skills to social work students to further enhance empathy with clients.