Empathy

Robert Elliott, Arthur C. Bohart, Jeanne C. Watson, Leslie S. Greenberg

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Abstract

After defining empathy, discussing its measurement, and offering an example of empathy in practice, we present the results of an updated meta-analysis of the relation between empathy and psychotherapy outcome. Results indicated that empathy is a moderately strong predictor of therapy outcome: mean weighted r = .31 ( p < .001; 95% confidence interval: .28 –.34), for 59 independent samples and 3599 clients. Although the empathy-outcome relation held equally for different theoretical orientations, there was considerable nonrandom variability. Client and observer perceptions of therapist empathy predicted outcomes better than therapist perceptions of empathic accuracy measures, and the relation was strongest for less experienced therapists. We conclude with practice recommendations, including endorsing the different forms that empathy may take in therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
JournalPsychotherapy
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • empathy
  • psychotherapy
  • therapy relationship
  • Carl Rogers
  • meta-analysis
  • Empathy

    Elliott, R., Bohart, A. C., Watson, J. C. & Greenberg, L. S., Apr 2011, Psychotherapy relationships that work : evidence-based responsiveness. Norcross, J. C. (ed.). 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 132-152 20 p.

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