Friday, April 25, 2014

What is empathy? (1)

Being able to empathize with the client is an essential ability for a therapist. It is not limited in clinical psychiatric setting. Even if you can understand the story told by the speaker, you would never gain the reliance of him unless you were empathetic with him. In other words, can you trust the adviser who seems not to be sincerely concerned about you?

Thus, theory of empathy has been paid great attention in clinical psychiatry. Learning how to empathize with the client is a great challenge for all therapists. There are lots of articles explaining this matter.

My boss told us that empathy was repeating what the client said. It sounds a little rough, but makes a point. Actually, it is not the only thing you should do is to empathize with the client. More important is to report your empathy to the client. So how to do? The answer is that you say what you heard from the client.

This theory is sometimes jeered, named "parrot method". But mirroring the words of the client has some advantages. First, you can avoid criticizing the client using repeating what you hear. Critical attitude easily breaks therapeutic alliance. The second reason is more scientific. When you mimic the expression of your client, your brain evokes an emotion in accordance with the words you say. It helps you to understand the thought of your client more deeply.

(To be continued)

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