“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” Alfred Adler, Medical Doctor, Psychotherapist & Founder of Individual Psychology.
“So what is empathy exactly, and why does it matter so much? How does it develop – or fail to develop?” (Szalavitz & Perry, 2010, p. 5). This book addresses these crucial questions and aims to teach empathy as a lived skill. The revised edition of Cultivating Empathy: Inspiring Health Professionals to Communicate More Effectively is an essential read for students and practitioners in the health professions. The content is crucially important because empathy is an essential component of the over-all health of human beings. Furthermore, evidence indicates that empathy is essential for establishing trust in any therapeutic relationship, yet it is sometimes misunderstood by healthcare workers and not consistently applied in practice (Palese et al., 2011; Rogers, 1961; Szalavitz & Perry, 2010; Tobin, 1991). The good news is that the therapeutic relationship between health professional and client has been attributed to be the most important aspect of psychological treatment and enhancing practitioner empathy skills is known to improve client outcomes (Bath, 2008; Clark, 2020; Clark et al., 2014; Rogers, 1961).
Methodology, Method & Theoretical Premise
The chosen methodology for this book is Phenomenology which is a form of qualitative research that studies the essence of lived human experience. The method for data collection consists primarily of narratives. Narratives offer us a compelling way to study the construct of care and empathy. Although all of the stories in this book come from real life experiences, the names and details have been altered significantly enough to preserve confidentiality. The underlying theoretical premise for data analysis is the ethic of care, which is highly compatible with Phenomenology. The ethic of care values lived experiences, relationships, considers context, emphasizes the goodness and potential of all humans, and the interconnectedness of all of life (Stephany, 2020; Watson, 2008).
Overview of New Additions to the Chapters
Although the essence of the key message from the first textbook continues, there have been some changes to the content of some of the Chapters. In Chapter One, the section on methodology and theoretical premise is more explicitly explained, and the definition of empathy now incorporates a discussion of Positive Psychology and emotional intelligence. In Chapter Two, analysis of each of the case studies is more comprehensive, and this pattern of increased narrative, thematic analysis continues throughout the rest of the book.
Chapter Three includes both the positive and negative effects of social media on empathic capacity. The content of Chapter Four reviews key factors that foster human connection between physicians and their patients. Even though the experience of empathy through personal accounts remains a key focus in Chapter Four, a new story has been inserted that addresses some of the challenges of caring for a dying patient during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chapter Five continues to emphasize how to be empathetic but also reviews the benefits of positive empathy which includes exciting strategies from Positive Psychology and Positive Psychotherapy. In Chapter Six, treatment for substance use has been incorporated into the original content, emphasizes barriers to treatment and recommends therapeutic modalities that support recovery (MCT) (Vos & Vitali, 2018).
Chapter Seven is completely new and heightens our understanding of the fact that trauma is prevalent and pervasive in society and has significant negative consequences. We are made aware that even though health professionals have the most contact with people who have a history of violence, many of them are not trained or adequately prepared to discuss trauma with their clients (Davies et al., 2017; Green et al., 2011). Therefore, crucial components of a trauma-sensitive practice and trauma-informed approaches are promoted to treat the devasting effects of adversity.
There is a cost to caring for others and being empathetic. That is why Chapter Eight of this book specifically explores the trauma and emotional stress associated with being a caregiver and has significantly expanded upon the content that was covered in the original textbook. For example, the following trauma related conditions have been added: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), secondary traumatic stress (STS) and vicarious traumatization. Specific ways to treat all of the aforementioned forms of caregiver trauma and emotional stress are included. Facilitating caregiver resiliency is determined to be a crucial strategy in preventing caregiver distress and includes these strategies: self-care, cultivating exquisite empathy, fostering compassion satisfaction, and promoting joy in work.
Full Time Nurse Educator in the Faculty of Health Sciences
Bath, H. (2008). The three pillars of trauma-informed care. Reclaiming Child. Youth, 17(3), 17-21. https://
Clark, S. (2020). The importance of the therapeutic relationship in trauma-informed therapy. ACEs Connection.
Clark, C., Classen, C.C., Fourt, A., Shetty, M. (2014). Treating the trauma survivor: An essential guide to
trauma-informed care. Routledge.
Davies, J.A., Todahl, J., Reichard, A.E. (2015). Creating a trauma-sensitive practice: A health care response to
interpersonal violence. Am. J. Lifestyle Med, 11(6), 451-465.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1559827615609546] [PMID: 30202371]
Green, B.L., Kalman, S., Frank, L. (2011). Primary care providers’ experiences with trauma patients: A
qualitative study. Psychol. Trauma, 3(1), 37.
Palese, A., Tomietto, M., Suhonen, R., Efstathiou, G., Tsangari, H., Merkouris, A., Jarosova, D., Leino-Kilpi, H.,
Patiraki, E., Karlou, C., Balogh, Z., Papastavrou, E. (2011). Surgical patient satisfaction as an outcome of nurses’
caring behaviors: a descriptive and correlational study in six European countries. J. Nurs. Scholarsh., 43(4), 341-
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1547-5069.2011.01413.x] [PMID: 21981580]
Rogers, C.R. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Houghton Mifflin Company.
Stephany, K. (2020). The ethic of care: A moral compass for Canadian nursing practice. Bentham Science
Szalavitz, M., Perry, B.D. (2010). Born for love: Why empathy is essential and endangered. Harper.
Tobin, S.A. (1991). A comparison of psychoanalytic Self-Psychology and Carl Rogers’ person-centred therapy. J.
Humanist. Psychol, 31(1), 9-33.
Vos, J., Vitali, D. (2018). The effects of psychological meaning-centered therapies on quality of life and
psychological stress: A metaanalysis. Palliat. Support. Care, 16(5), 608-632.
[http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1478951517000931] [PMID: 30246682]
Watson, J. (2008). Nursing: The Philosophy of caring (Revised edition). University Press of Colorado.