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 Empathy is particularly important to social work practice

  • improved outcomes
  • Empathic social work practitioners are more effective and can balance their roles better.



Importance of empathy for social work practice: integrating new science.

Gerdes KE, Segal E.

Abstract
Empathy is more important than ever to a national population worried about difficult political and socioeconomic situations. During the last 10 years, an enormous amount of research has been carried out to elucidate the nature, mechanism, and function of empathy. New research from social-cognitive neuroscience and related fields indicates that, like language or eye-hand coordination, empathy is an innate human capability that can be greatly enhanced by purposeful and informed guidance. Empathy is particularly important to social work practice. 

Clients experiencing empathy through treatment have improved outcomes. Empathic social work practitioners are more effective and can balance their roles better. Social work practitioners can and should learn about emerging research on empathy and use that information to better serve their client populations. This article, emphasizing research of the past decade, focuses on empathy and its benefits as an asset to social work practitioners.


Design Thinking for Social Work? Is there a Connection?

Design Thinking for Social Work? Is there a Connection?
Developing empathy – Developing empathy for the client, user, or human at the center of our work is vital to both social work practice and design thinking processes. In order to meet the needs of a particular human, we must strive to understand their unique perspectives, recognize their strengths and capabilities, and learn what they value and care about. Building deep empathy for clients is an essential social work skill, as recent research has shown: “Empathic social work practitioners are more effective and can balance their roles bette.” 

Empathy has long been considered foundational to social work practice, as additional researchers highlight: “empathy as a means to interpersonal understanding seems essential to know how to begin practical work with clients.” Empathy is also a vital mode of design thinking. According to the d.school, the empathize mode is “the centerpiece of the human-centered design process,” for in order to design for someone, you must make an effort to “understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about world, and what is meaningful to them.” In design thinking, empathy is essential to re-framing issues from a user perspective. The Taylor Center’s Rough Guide to the Fast48 reminds us that design thinking is about building “empathy muscles – the ability to understand and share users’ feelings and employ these insights appropriately.”

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