Empathy refers to understanding what another person is experiencing or trying to express. The chapter begins by discussing definitional issues and presenting an integrative definition. It then reviews measures of therapist empathy, including the conceptual problem of separating empathy from other relationship variables. Clinical examples illustrating different forms of therapist empathy and empathic response modes are then presented. The core of the review is a meta-analysis of research on the relation between therapist empathy and client outcome. Results indicated that empathy is a moderately strong predictor of therapy outcome: mean weighted r = .28 (equivalent of d = .58) for 82 independent samples and 6,138 clients. In general, the empathy–outcome relation held for different theoretical orientations and client presenting problems. The chapter considers the limitations of the current data and concludes with diversity considerations and practice recommendations, including endorsing the different forms that empathy may take in therapy.
Keywords: empathy; psychotherapy relationship; psychotherapy process-outcome research; therapist factors; meta-analysis
Chapter. 19061 words. Illustrated.
Subjects: Clinical Adult Psychology
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