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The Seven Conditions of Helping

December 16, 2017

Carkhuff’s Seven Skills

The theory

The core of Carkhuff’s work is concerned with helping people by means of counselling. His major contribution to this effect is the provision of a means through which one can learn how to help people who are in need of counselling. The cornerstone of his work is that one needs not be a professional, but it may also be a lay person provided that such a person is well-versed in Carkhuff's seven dimensions for effective interpersonal facilitation. The Seven Skills of Carhuff (1969) are described in table 11.3 below.

The application


Carkuff has a broad approach to interpersonal interactions in order to encompass all interpersonal engagements, and not only those intended as a helping interaction (See table 11.3). The model includes three critical helping stages; exploration, understanding and action.

Table 11.3 Carkuff’s Seven Skills (Carkhuff, 1969)


The seven-dimensional model begins with Empathy, viewed by Carkhuff as the most vital of all helping dimensions. He defines empathy as functional, in which the activities of the helper and helped cannot be separated. The level at which one operates in terms of empathy includes “sensitivity” measures ranging from Level 1, the empathic understanding of the listener or helper listener is not indicative of sensitivity to the other’s feelings, to Level 5 where it is clearly visible or even tangible that listener comprehends and acknowledges the feelings of the helped. The middle levels serve as a measure of moderate awareness, but not fully comprehending the helped. This is not for lack of sensitivity, but the key element being experience or togetherness. That is, having experienced the same depths of need, or even

experiencing them together, and as a result, empathizing at an advanced sensitive level. Further differentiation in empathy levels relates to the art of listening, the level which one adopts for enabling an empathetic reaction. These dimensions are derived from, and are consistently validated against, a Scale for the Measurement of Accurate Empathy, designed by Charles Traux, in 1961.



The second aspect, Respect, relates to the verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication where the listener or helper exudes a positive composure towards the helped, and expresses concern for the helper’s emotions, feelings and experiences. Respect also too has levels, both verbal and non-verbal. The first level is indicative of little or no respect for the helped, but grows to Levels 4 and 5 that show deep concern and feeling for the plight of the helped.



The third dimension, Genuineness, refers to a person being "real" during an encounter, not hiding behind a façade and thereby thus avoiding meaningful connection between the helper and helped. Genuineness requires self-awareness, allowing the helped access to the feelings experienced by the helper. It is a direct personal encounter between people, being oneself and allowing one another to see this person. Level 1 of this dimension relates to defensiveness on the helper’s part, not allowing access to the inner mechanisms, feelings and emotions experienced during the encounters. To a degree this interaction is destructive and even hurtful. As the levels increase, so does the ease of communication between the parties, and becomes one of mutual communication and non-exploitative sharing. Negative and positive feelings are constructively expressed by both parties increasing the depth of meaningful interaction.

The first three of Carkhuff's dimensions, Empathy, Respect and Genuineness are necessary for effective communication during an interpersonal relationship to help people. These were initially positioned by Rogers and later expanded on by Carkhuff by providing a further four dimensions that described the skills required for responding appropriately during the interactions (Rorgers, 1967). In essence, the first three dimensions establish the basis of an open an honest dialogue between people, the latter dimensions guide the helper’s responses towards the helped.



Self-disclosure is also described by Carkhuff as spontaneous honesty between the parties involved. As more is shared so is a deeper level of understanding reached. The initial measurement levels of self-disclosure indicate that the helper shares little or nothing of self, interactions are at superficial levels of honesty, and nothing is volunteered. The highest level, Level 5, requires trust so that one may feel at ease and share deep-rooted experiences, shame or embarrassment.



Concreteness is a level where all vague or ambiguous commentary is eliminated; it is about specifics and correctness, and as a result enhanced understanding. The first level of Concreteness involves the helper making no effort to guide the interaction toward relevant or specific communication. By its highest level, Level 5, the helper proactively facilitates direct expression of all feelings and information that are relevant in concrete terms.



The dimension Confrontation encourages the exploration of seemingly incongruent elements. It involves the ideation of concepts that relate to self, behaviors, insights, resources and even perception. During the initial stages these themes seem disconnected to the interaction, help evaluating the behavior or perception of both parties in response to these incongruent elements. The initial levels of this dimension involve the helper be ing disengaged from the helped. They include judgment, even stereotyping, and although negative the importance is that this dimensional level is activated. At the highest levels, the discrepancies and incongruences are identified in each other, and are immediately discussed to a point where the involved people are in tune with one another, and discussing or even confronting the tensions is done calmly and without prejudice.



Immediacy is the dimension that deals with the real-time nuances sensed during an interaction, and dealing with them in the “here and now”. It describes sensing subtle changes in the communication line and internally questioning why it is occurring. It involves asking why the helped is changing the line of communication, and asking why the helped has had to do so. At Level 1, the helper disregards or even dismisses these nuances. The intermediate levels describe a tentative approach to discussing the changes, but not necessarily getting into

specifics or pushing for a response. At its highest levels, any changes in the nuances of the interaction are discussed openly and honestly.

Carkhuff’s model was designed to maintain the integrity of interpersonal interactions. It describes the interactions in two phases, namely, the initial engagement and the responses appropriate for facilitating the interaction. The dimensions of the model are based on empathy, and more specifically empathic understanding. The dimensional model represents a practical and theoretically sound perspective that can be combined with other theories that involve interpersonal interaction with people in a different state of being that are influenced by their state.

Beck integrated the Carhuff Seven Skills into his Spiral Dynamics practice. Some of the cases are described below. 

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