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In Therapy/Counseling

Understanding Empathy: What is it and Why is it Important in Counseling
08 AUG 2017
"Empathy is an emotion similar to understanding that people have varying levels of. In this piece, we will discuss the benefits of showing empathy as a therapist, as well as how to show empathy as a therapist"

  • " clients “viewed empathy as integral to the personal and professional relationship they had with their psychotherapist”, and believed that empathy from their psychotherapist benefited their psychotherapy sessions (Macfarlane et al., 2017"
  • "benefits of empathy listed by clients included greater levels of trust between the client and therapist, a greater level of self-understanding for the client, and higher levels of feeling happy and secure."
  • "beneficial for therapists. Consider the fact that general care practitioners who empathize with their patients are more likely to have higher job satisfactionand lower levels of burnout than those who do not empathize with their patients (Halpern, 2003)."

Therapist empathy and client outcome : an updated metaanalysis. Elliott, Robert and Bohart, Arthur C. and Watson, Jeanne C. and Murphy, David (2018)
  • Question: Does therapist empathy predict success in psychotherapy? 
  • Findings: In general, clients have moderately better outcomes in psychotherapy when clients, therapists and observers perceive therapists as understanding them. 
  • Meaning: Empathy is an important element of any therapeutic relationship, and worth the investment of time and effort required to do it well and consistently. " (Elliott + 2018)

Carl Rogers talks about benefits of empathy in Therapy

Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being -

"Here then are some of the general statements which can be made with assurance.

* The ideal therapist is first of all empathic.

When psychotherapists of many different orientations describe their concept of the ideal therapist, the therapist they would like to become, they are in high agreement in giving empathy the highest ranking out of twelve variables. This statement is based on a study by Raskin (1974) of 83 practicing therapists of at least eight different therapeutic approaches.

The definition of the empathic quality was very similar to that used in this paper. This study corroborates and strengthens an earlier research by Fiedler (1950b). So we may conclude that therapists recognize that the most important factor in being a therapist is "trying, as sensitively and as accurately as he can, to understand the client, from the latter's own point of view"  (Raskin, 1974)."

(MOYERS + 2012)
Is low therapist empathy toxic?
Moyers TB
Miller WR
One of the largest determinants of client outcomes is the counselor who provides treatment. Therapists often vary widely in effectiveness, even when delivering standardized manual-guided treatment. In particular, the therapeutic skill of accurate empathy originally described by Carl Rogers has been found to account for a meaningful proportion of variance in therapeutic alliance and in addiction treatment outcomes. 

High-empathy counselors appear to have higher success rates regardless of theoretical orientation. Low-empathy and confrontational counseling, in contrast, has been associated with higher drop-out and relapse rates, weaker therapeutic alliance, and less client change. The authors propose emphasis on empathic listening skills as an evidence-based practice in the hiring and training of counselors to improve outcomes and prevent harm in addiction treatment. 

"A requirement for being an effective counsellor is being able to practice and impart the skill of empathy in the client-counsellor interaction. Being empathetic ensures you are listening and dealing with the clients concerns as they present them. You are not judging them. In this post we’ll look at how empathy can assist counsellors when dealing with challenging clients. Here are some issues for you to consider:"

"By using empathy in our interactions with clients will:

  1. Build the relationship
  2. Stimulate self-exploration
  3. Check understanding
  4. Provide support
  5. Assist communication
  6. Focus attention on the client"

(Hanna, 2001)