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"Hold my hand and walk with me": Empathy in the therapeutic relationship
presentationposted on 2020-01-29, 00:00 authored by Adam GeraceAdam Gerace
Empathy is central to communication and understanding in healthcare settings. Sometimes, health professionals see the value of empathy when things do not go so well, and there is a difficulty in connecting with a client. In this presentation, I want to examine what empathy is and how it uniquely plays out in the health professional-client therapeutic relationship. In particular, I will discuss some of the unique challenges mental health nurses encounter when working with clients in inpatient psychiatric settings. I will draw on a qualitative study that examined how empathy is built and maintained when there is conflict between nurses (n = 13) and clients (n = 7) regarding treatment, client behaviour, or nurse communication. In this study, nurses and consumers differed in how they conceptualised the role of the nurse in client treatment and recovery, although they identified many similar empathic processes (e.g., taking the client’s perspective, being there, experiencing compassion, trust) as important to resolving problematic situations. From this discussion, I will examine ways in which professional empathic responses can be strengthened, and ways clinicians can engage in self-care when entering into the sometimes-distressing worlds of their clients.