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Keywords:

  • clients’ views;
  • empathy;
  • health professions;
  • helping relationship;
  • learning empathy;
  • nursing;
  • offering empathy

Empathy has not been measured in clients’ terms or effectively taught: a review of the literature

Empathy, the ability to communicate an understanding of a client’s world, is said to be a crucial component of all helping relationships. The first part of this paper focuses on the failure of measures of empathy to reflect clients’ views about the ability to offer empathy. It is argued that, if clients are able to perceive the amount of empathy in helping relationships, they are able to advise professionals about how to offer empathy. The second part of this paper examines the inconclusive research evidence that existing courses have enabled professionals to offer empathy, and the disagreement about how empathy is best taught. The literature reviewed in this paper substantiates these observations.