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(Myers 1999)

DOI or Website Link:  
Publication: The Person-Centered Journal, Volume 6, Issue 2, 1999 
Authors:   Sharon Myers 
Affiliation(s):  University of New Brunswick 

  •    paper looks at the relational aspects of empathy.

    "Empathy is an aspect of relationship which is lived out by the participants in that relationship. Understanding empathy as an interactional variable calls on those who strive to educate counselors and therapists to emphasize the therapeutic relationship as a joint enterprise and to develop ways to research "the between" which exists in each and every therapeutic encounter. Empathy does not "reside" within the therapist. Empathy is not "contained" within the therapist's communications. Empathy is not "what I hear you saying."

    Empathy might best be thought of as a way of being that emerges in a relationship. As the participants in a therapeutic relationship interact, empathy evolves out of their mutual experiences of "who I experience you to be" and "how I experience myself in relationship to you." In this sense, both participants--client and counselor--have a perspective which informs the other. Accessing and exploring this intimate ground will prove fruitful for understanding empathy and for unraveling the complexities of therapeutic process."
    (Sharon Myers 1999)

This paper reviews the client-centered approach to empathy with a view toward uncovering reletional themes in Rogers' original conceptualization. Challenging traditional versions of empathy which reduced the concept to a special quality of the therapist or to a precise communication skill, this paper argues that empathy is an interactional variqble, not well suited to theoretical definition. A model emerges for understanding empathy as on aspect of the interactional relationship which develops between counselor and client.

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Topic Area: (In which field / sector / perspective was this study conducted?)

Definition(How was empathy defined?)
"Despite the plethora of empathy research that has emerged in the fifty years since Reik's comments, there continues to exist much confusion about the empathic process and how it operates in the therapeutic encounter (Duan & Hill, 1996; Gladstein, 1983; Moore, 1990; Sexton Cg Whiston, 1994). Indeed, Sharma (1992) suggests that the confusions surrounding the meaning of empathy "are due in large measure to the inherent difficulties in defining the  term" (p. 377) and certainly a range of definitions exist in the literature (Duam & Hill, 1996; Gelso & Carter, 1985; Sharma, 1992). 

Since there is little consensus as to exactly what constitutes empathy, research attempting to explain its role in therapeutic process often misses the mark. Duan and Hill(1996) claim that this very "lack of specification and organization of different views of empathy has led to theoretical confusion, methodological difficulties, inconsistent findings, and neglected areas ofresearch in the field" (p. 269). lndeed, "the study of empathy has a long and checkered history in psychology," (Moore, 1990, p. 75) and that history continues to evolve. Echoing the comments of Jacobs and Williarns (1983), one wonders, "why is it that we cannot study clinical concepts in a meaningful way?" (p. 80).  

Benefits(Were any benefits of empathy mentioned?)

Criticisms  (Were any criticisms, negative effects or risks of empathy mentioned?)

Methods(What were the methods used to train empathy?)

Target Group:  (Who participated in this study / training?)

Measurements(About the assessment: How was the change in empathy measured before/after the intervention/method?) 

Result: (What was the result?)

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