Effects of verbal responses to shame disclosures on state shame and dissociation : an experimental investigation. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Science
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsVerynska, Marynashow all
Shame is pervasive across psychological disorders, particularly those associated with complex trauma (Dorahy et al., 2017; Miller, 1996). Despite evidence suggesting that shame may pose barriers to psychological treatment (Lee, Scragg, & Turner, 2001), scarce empirical literature exists to guide clinicians’ approaches to patients’ acute shame feelings. Thus, the primary goal of the present study was to experimentally evaluate effectiveness of verbal responses to shame disclosures on reducing state shame. Further, a growing body of research points towards a bi- directional relationship between state shame and dissociation. Given the potential for these phenomena to perpetuate one another in therapeutic settings, the second aim of current research was to further examine their relationship. Following the shame induction (i.e., writing about a personal shame experience) and subsequent verbal shame disclosures, 85 university students were randomly assigned to receive one of three verbal response interventions intended to reduce state shame, before completing subjective ratings of state shame and dissociation, as well as ratings of helpfulness of imagined therapist responses. Contrary to Hypotheses 1 and 2, none of the intervention conditions demonstrated a capacity to reduce state shame. Consistent with Hypothesis 3, a positive relationship between state shame and dissociation was evident at post-induction and post-reduction phases. Yet, contrary to Hypothesis 4, verbal response interventions did not appear capable of reducing state dissociation. Consistent with Hypothesis 5, the Withdrawal response, which facilitated avoidance of shame in therapy, was rated as less helpful than all other therapist responses. While utility of specific verbal responses remains inconclusive, the present findings tentatively suggest that therapeutic prompts that encourage exploration of shame material may be more beneficial than those enabling its avoidance. These preliminary insights may be relevant for clinicians across patient groups, and particularly therapists working with trauma patients.