Shobin M Z: An investigation of the effects of verbal pacing on initial therapeutic rapport.
Dissertation Abstracts International 41(5), A Boston University School of Education (Order = 8024158): 101, 1980.
Abstract: This research study examined the effect of verbal pacing on the development of initial therapeutic rapport. Verbal pacing was defined as the matching or "mirroring" by a therapist of a client's sentence predicates and syntax, voice tone and tempo, and was postulated to be a highly effective behavior in both establishing and maintaining rapport over the course of therapeutic treatment. This study limited itself to an examination of the effect of verbal pacing behaviors on initial therapeutic rapport. To test the relationship of verbal pacing to initial therapeutic rapport, the design of the study incorporated the use of a semi-structured interview which attempted to simulate an initial psychotherapy consultation, and in which experimental manipulation of interviewer verbal and vocal behavior was conducted. Three experimental manipulations, or conditions, were tested: reflection/interrogation (designed to provide a baseline or "control" rapport rating), verbal pacing, and modified verbal pacing, a condition in which the interviewer matched the subject's voice tone, tempo of speech and sentence syntax, but mismatched the subject's sentence predicate language. Each experimental condition designated a mode of interviewer behavior to be used during the entire interview unit. The interviewer, as well, was hidden from the subject's view by a screen, ensuring that only verbal and vocal elements would be tested. At the conclusion of each interview, subjects completed the Anderson and Anderson Interview Rating Scale. The rating scale provided an operational definition of rapport for the study, and produced a score which measured the degree of subject experienced rapport as an effect of the experimental interview condition. Groups of subject scores for the three interview conditions provided the data for the statistical analysis of the results. Analysis of the scores of the interviews, as measured by t tests, showed significantly higher rapport ratings for the verbal pacing category of interviews than for the reflection/interrogation interviews, and significantly lower rapport ratings for the modified pacing interviews than for either the verbal pacing or reflection/interrogation interviews. The findings of the study, then, support the following conclusions: (1) Verbal pacing effectively induces an initial sense of rapport and fosters an atmosphere conducive to the development of the deeper therapeutic relationship. (2) The key element in verbal pacing is the matching of sentence predicate language. Awareness of a client's sentence predicate language, as well as the effect of verbal pacing on the development of rapport, can be a valuable tool for developing effective communication in psychotherapy and counseling.