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Empathy

Elliott, Robert and Bohart, Arthur C. and Watson, Jeanne C. and Greenberg, Leslie S. (2011) Empathy. Psychotherapy, 48 (1). pp. 43-49. ISSN 0033-3204

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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.